Korea to Here

Inspired by yesterday’s “10 x 10 =” post, I’ve decided to give you readers a little more insight into this whole adoption thing. Some of you may be asking for photos for the portfolio but you will have to wait until…

1) I decide to scan them
2) I decide to post them
3) I actually feel like carrying it out

Sorry. It’s not as though I’m 100% gung-ho about throwing out pictures from my youth when I had considerably more hair and a considerably larger overbite (which was why the braces were in play) which might have been considered “cute” since I was a child. So instead you all get the adoption story.

But, I-66, why all semi-serious all of the sudden?

I do (sometimes rarely hardly) have a serious side. You don’t know you betta ax somebody…

Ready… begin! – caution, it’s a long one

It’s the summer before junior year of high school. My father was in Canada on some business and would not be returning for a few days. My mother and I were at lunch on a Saturday afternoon when she told me she was leaving my father, taking the kids, and moving to an apartment in McLean. Oh, and the movers were coming in short order.

A couple of days later the movers came as promised. I’d packed up my things in boxes and prepared mentally to leave. I didn’t really know what to say or think as, while somewhat floored by the divorce news, I wasn’t too terribly surprised as the marriage had been a bit rocky of late. As the movers were carrying my boxes and furniture out of my room and into their truck, the phone rang. Yup, you guessed it…

“Hello?”
“Heyyyy buddy, how’s it goin?”
“Hi Dad. Good, how’s your trip going?”
“Good, good… What are you up to?”
[looking around, watching movers take my things away] “Not much, just sitting around.”

I’d always been close to my father. Well, as close as I could be. He was a Marine. He spent a year away on a ship in Okinawa, Japan. He got up and left before I got up, and was home after I got home. He still made time for me – going to Bullets (yes, Bullets) games, Redskins games, taking me where I needed to go, watching football together in the basement on Sundays. I hated not being able to blurt out “Mom’s leaving you and taking half the house!” but I was told to keep it to myself. We left the house with little left and Mom left a Dear John on the foyer table.

Time passed. I saw my father now and again, staying with him when my mother had to go out of town, having dinner or brunch on birthdays and Father’s Days and other holidays. As I grew up, we grew apart. Court battles between my mother and father were ugly. Our stay in the apartment ended and, in the middle of junior year, my mother bought a townhouse near Tyson’s Corner. This put me squarely in the Marshall High School district but there was no way I was changing schools. One night, some weeks after moving in, my mother asks me to scan some lawyer docs (OCR, for editing) – being the only technically savvy one in the house, I was often asked to do stuff like this – and handed me a stack of sheets face down. I flipped them over to make sure they were right-side up before scanning and saw briefly the words “Of the three children, two adopted and one natural” as the first line of a paragraph and then quickly moved to start scanning, answering “no” to my mother’s inquiry as to whether I saw any of it.

I stewed over this internally for a few days. I knew instantly what it meant – I remembered my mother being pregnant with my younger sister. I was angry for not having been told. I felt betrayed, like I had been lied to all along. Stories about “when you were born” felt like fabrications. Some time later I was asked to put some files away in the cabinets in the loft. I took a box of files up and, in an effort to find an empty drawer, I began opening and closing drawers along the row of cabinets. While closing a drawer I saw a file with my name on it. Curious, I pulled it out and opened it. Inside was a wealth of information regarding my adoption. There was information about the agency from which I was adopted, information about my biological parents – including pictures of my mother, etc. What I learned:

- My biological father was a black US Marine, my biological mother was Korean civilian
- They met while she was working in a bar he frequented, and they dated for a short while
- She got pregnant, he was shipped back to the States
- She was unable to keep me (monetarily, I believe) so I was put up for adoption

At the time, the term “Amerasian” was one used to describe someone such as me. Supposedly, at the time, it was alright to be one or the other, but Amerasians were not well looked upon in Korea, so my parents adopted two of them – my older sister and me – to give them a brighter future away from what might befall them in Korea. Also included was an interview, my father had after seeking out my biological mother to ask her questions about herself and me – translated from Korean to English (my father spoke Korean). Little was known about my biological father. I probably could not find him if I tried (or wanted to – more on that later). I also found a written agreement between my adoptive parents that they would tell me of my adoption together. “Oh,” I thought, “that explains it.” But the more I thought, the less it made sense. I was 16 years old at the time. My parents had split less than a year before. Was there no time during the 15 years I was alive before that that seemed appropriate to tell me? I finished reading and replaced the file and filed what was in the box. For weeks I said nothing of it to my mother, but told my friends about what I’d learned. A couple of months later I was in a fight with my mother over something I can’t recall. She’s a lawyer, so you might surmise that I often lost these fights for inferior arguing skills. I was swimming upstream and, in an effort to turn the tide, I went for it:

“What are you talking about? You don’t even know what you’re saying! And when were you going to tell me about being adopted?!”

Oh yeah. 16 years old.

“I said,” she began to counter, before realizing what I knew “…what?”

We sat down and talked it out. She answered what few questions I had (I was well read by now) and told me about my older sister’s situation, and how at the time she was living with her biological mother in New York. She asked whether I desired to meet my bio-parents. I said no then and still do to this day. They play no part in my life now and played little in my youth before, aside from conception and birthing. My older sister was adopted around the same time as I but is more than 4 years older. She remembered her mother all along but I had no recollection at all. Eventually we told the rest of the family that I’d found out. I still have no true explanation as to why I was never told. Would I have gone to this day without knowing had I not found out on my own? Did my mother mean for me to find out on my own?

When I moved out I was given the information pertaining to my adoption in the event that I decided to pursue locating my bio-parents. It may not do me any good, as that pursuit is very unlikely. The only real regret (not the word I was looking for, but it seems to work for now) I have is that not knowing anything about my lineage leads me to have questions about various health-related issues I might encounter in the future. I may have been adopted, but the family I have now is all that matters.

Leave a Reply