As the last post of 2011, it is befitting that it be about the last days with my Umma in America. So, here goes:
I have begun to tell the boys of the imminent departure of their grandma and uncle and I am overwhelmed with P’s reaction. He has been very sad and tearful and today he saw my Umma packing one of her bags. In the process of unwrapping things out of their boxes to make them fit into the suitcase, there was a lone paper star that fell off a holiday bag. To digress for a moment, there is a tradition at our church that during the Christmas Eve service, we sing carols and during each song, people go up and bring a paper ornament to decorate the naked tree up at the altar. An angel for “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, a bell for “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” – you get the point. My favorite is the star to be sung with “Oh Holy Night”, it is the sweetest song and the music fills me to tears every time. My Umma took a star and then told me that when she was pregnant with me, her conception dream was of stars, milliions that shown in the sky and she grabbed one for herself and put it in her pocket. She loves stars and it seems to be a sign for me in her heart. I have been thinking about this moment for a while now, it is beautiful and sad and lovely all at the same time. Perhaps she was always meant to gaze at me from afar.
So, P picked up the paper star and stuck it on the window and said, “when I look at the star I will think of grandma and uncle…I wish I had more to put on the window.” I translated that for my Umma and she smiled and told him she loved him and gave him a kiss (which he did not wipe off his face). A beautiful quiet moment for the three of us. He does not want them to go but assurances that we will see them again, seemed to prevent him from crying.
The aftershocks of this visit has been most profound in my relationship with my Korean Mother-In-Law. It would be an understatement to say that she and I have had a rough road. Getting to accept her form of mothering has been hard. These recent months she has seen me more vulnerable and has been generous with her compliments on my diligence. High praise indeed. My MIL has been amazing. Of all the “mothers” I have, I am struck by how much she has shown compassion, understanding and love toward me. Like her tiger sign, she has been protective of me and has offered some really nice perspective. She has been somewhat bemused at the many misunderstandings I have had with Umma, but this time she was insistent that I listen in a different way. She said that I need to tell her how I feel. I insisted that I have tried to which she persisted, “do it again. She needs to hear your heart.” She said I have not really said how I FEEL about HER, how I feel about her being in my life. Instead, I kept saying how grateful I SHOULD feel knowing other adoptees would kill for a chance like mine. She then said that my Umma needs forgiveness from me. I need to say those words out loud, in English, it doesn’t matter how. It needs to be said for her but mostly for me. Food for thought.
It occurred to me that I have not really told her that she was forgiven. I have told her to not worry about me, that I have a good life now, that I am ok and that there is nothing to forgive. But indeed I do need to forgive her as clearly as there is anger prominently perched on my chest. I do need to say “I forgive you”. I have never said it. I am finding it hard to do it in English or Korean. Perhaps that is the sticking point then through all of this and I am not sure if I can. I asked my MIL to say it for me, to translate it so that Umma can understand, and she said she would not, it has to come from me directly. She is right. I have a task to do and I need to muster up the courage to do it. It is a whole lot harder than I thought. Forgive her.
I bought a Korean-English dictionary prior to their visit and it has served me well if only to show my Umma the word “forgive.” She said it outloud and quietly hung her head. This small gesture seemed to be just the thing to thaw my heart. Is this what healing looks like? I am not sure she was ready to be forgiven, or perhaps like her daughter, she didn’t feel that this needed to be said? She commented on how hard this has been and I didn’t disagree as a polite Korean would have done, I just said, “yes it was, but I want you to go home with happy thoughts and peacefulness.” And that was that. It wasn’t done with a whole lot of grace standing there in my kitchen in my pajamas but it’s done. I meant what I said in my head and someday I will mean it in my heart.
I helped my Umma pack and George laughed and remarked that this has been the longest stretch of time and conversation I have had with her since she got here. I know! It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. My heart was a bit heavy.
The day of their departure came and for a few scary hours I thought it would not happen. A huge snowstorm swept China, Korea and Japan. No matter, they are on their way and I am home. It was not hard to say goodbye to my Umma, honestly it wasn’t. We seem to have been getting along nicer as this time drew near, so I am at peace with how it all went down. My brother on the other hand, I didn’t want to let him go. He gave me the biggest hug and I wanted time to stand still. I am so grateful for him and so happy we got to spend time together.
I am free now. I did it! My tiny home feels suddenly huge! The boxes of toys have been shifted around and the extra blankets and pillows stowed away and I feel grand. I felt like taking jetes around the room! It was all bittersweet though as my children ran around saying, “goodnight haemi (grandma) and samcheon (uncle)!” as they have for the last 90 days of their lives. It felt like always for them and so my P was teary. BUT, my G, little stinker stayed true to his feelings. I asked him if he was sad that they were gone and he looked me dead in the eyes and shook his head. Brutal but so true….I just had to smile. I am guessing they will like Mommy a whole lot more now that she may be less crabby.
The End…for now.
I wanted to write this blog for the sole purpose of getting this part of my life out there for others who may be in my shoes. I am grateful to those who have continued to read. The thought of living with birth family was never a fantasy of mine, it was never a wish. Now that it has happened, I feel stronger for it. As adults, we choose the people we want to share our love with, and our birthmothers are no different. I could so easily just step away and barely stay in touch. I could live my busy life without a thought to her and her well-being. But every time I look in the mirror, I see her. Seeing her has allowed me to see me. She remains in my consciousness and I find myself still tethered to the idea that we could be more.
I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season and send you best wishes for the New Year. For my fellow adoptees, I wish for you a beautiful 2012 filled with many chosen memories.