Archive for February 23rd, 2011

The Silence

23 Feb

When I was little there were times that I was forbidden to speak about various topic with just a glare or just a few words.

The first time I was forbidden was when I wanted to ask my Aunt about her son–the one she gave up for adoption. I wanted to ask her about adoption and what it was like to give birth. Because I couldn’t remember anything before I was adopted at the time. My mom pulled me aside and said that I shouldn’t ask those questions. When I asked why she fell silent and didn’t explain. I think in retrospect, my mom minded more than my aunt did, since my Aunt answered my innocent question.

The second matter that was not to be discussed was race. Anything to do with teasing, being singled out was not to be talked about. It was fine when we were talking about equal rights for *other* people, but if I brought up the fact that I could only see Asian people on television and count them with one hand, my mom would frown at me. Then she would tell me that Asians simply didn’t want to be on TV because that was the culture and if I decided to be an actress, not only would I get prejudice from whites, but also Asians too. I don’t know how conscious she was about those words and their impact on me. In those words she said she would not support artistic endeavors I would have. The only reason she liked me going to acting classes was because she got free tickets to that theater, which is why I think she made it as hard as possible on me not to get into another acting class that was more advanced. Eventually I quit and went into the more selfish hobby of writing.

The third matter was the true nature of adoption–which was the loss for me and my Korean parents.

All through this, my mom would say I had a right to meet my Korean parents. I really thought that she really wanted that for me. I really thought she could handle it, so when I was old enough, she sent a letter to find out about Eomma, though I was far more interested in Appa, since he was a man I had held onto all those years. My Dad stayed out of all the adoption issues and the culture. But as I and my brother got deeper into Korea, my Mom showed signs of being able to handle it less and less. I learned Korean, which compelled my brother to also learn Korean and then try to one up me. We both learned Japanese–though for different reasons. And then my mom would call me up compulsively, it seemed like to remind me that it was Hannukah today.

So when I met Appa through Skype, she started to flip out. She called me every five minutes. When I didn’t answer, she got my Dad to call me every five minutes–not realizing how unhealthy this was. Then the phone calls would stop for a month as if she were punishing me for not answering her phone calls, then they would resume every five minutes for weeks until it drove me literally nuts. My therapist worked hard with me to try to deal with this behavior. I sent my mom e-mails which me and the therapist would work on for the entire time we were together, trying to tweak the language to get my mom to understand.

I couldn’t understand how when I asked permission to find Appa and Eomma and my extended Korean family that my mom said yes, happily. But now it was falling apart before my eyes. I really couldn’t handle it, so I sought therapy, because I was beginning to hallucinate from the stress of trying to deal with my Mom’s issues, Appa’s issues and my brother’s issues. It was falling apart.

I worked super hard for a year before the trip to try to iron out some of my codependence and some of my inability to let go of the control I was trying to exhibit towards my family because it was falling apart. And because I thought I should really, really give a chance to my mom to show her there was a way out. That calling me obsessively was not helping the situation. I needed tools to cope and probably because I knew in some ways that the relationship was falling apart–not because of the adoption so much, but because my mom took exception to the adoption and never faced any of the issues that our adoption exacerbated.

And because we never talked about adoption, I tried to get the ball rolling with it because my therapist said that it was a good idea. I really tried, to the point of breaking. I tried and tried, but by the time I left the GOA’L building, I knew she would never really face the fact that my brother and I were adopted in her hearts of hearts and what that really meant–because inside of herself the issues she never dealt with–her infertility, the prejudice, the teasing, being left alone with a depressed mother were too great and our adoption just reminded her just that little bit more about those hurts. Beneath all those hurts, she had still not defined herself without them.

And next, we could not talk about her infertility and how that influenced our adoption–if my mom didn’t forbid it, my Dad did because he was there to always rescue her and take her side against us.

Thus, when we went to building 63, it was a compound of her fear of Korea, adoption, me, my brother, and loss of control. I got that, but I couldn’t stop hurting as she pushed the very identity I worked hard to regain away. And maybe this is the point where the relationship between us went beyond repair.

The forbidden words killed our communication and eventually our relationship. Because the silence permeated all in its wake leaving hurt behind instead of healing.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Parenting, Parents

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