29 May 2014

The Lengths of Loyalty

At this moment, my father is intubated and riding in an ambulance to Knoxville, Tennessee. This is the man who I highlighted in this tweet.

This tweet came about after my last conversation with my father about my adoption search. As always, he reassured me and punctuated my right to know about my original country and family.

Loyalty is a legacy. While I had discussed my search with my father many times, my husband wanted me to discuss my open search with my father one more time. My husband feared that such actions would hurt my father.

I knew this to be untrue. Too many times, my father and I had discussed the possibility of my search. Books on Korea, his Korean dictionary, his affinity for Korean food were shared with me. I have never felt that I was not his or he mine. But loyalty works its way into my entire family.

Earlier this year, as my daughter was lamenting how far we are from family, she sighed and said, “Mom, I wish I had cousins.” I, of course, began rattling off the names of my sister’s daughter and my sister-in-law’s children. My daughter said, “No, I meant genetic cousins, like in Korea.”

And yet, after our visit to Puerto Rico, my daughter’s loyalty began to show.

“I want to know the heritage (Korean), but I don’t want to know my genetic family. I have cousins already. You can’t neglect the family you have. I don’t need to be blood-related to have family,” she told me.

I asked her how she felt in Puerto Rico.

“I felt out of place at first … as a different race. But then, I realized they (the Puerto Rican family) are enough. What if they (my original family) don’t want to find you? What if they don’t like you or are bad? I don’t want to see you hurt,” She continued.

Obviously, the media, adoption agencies and some adoptive parents reinforce this idea of “being loyal.” Adoptees are asked why we can’t be “grateful.” We are told that our adoptions are “gifts.” Perhaps it is a level of guilt that all families have. Guilt, loyalty and love are all wound up in the fabric of family.

Take for example, the movie, August: Osage County.  I saw the pervasiveness of guilt and loyalty spill out in these quotes:
“Mama was a mean nasty lady. That’s where I get it from.”
“Smug little ingrate … ”
“Your father was homeless for six years!”
“Stick that knife of judgement in me. You don’t choose your family!”
I am realizing that we all have this level of loyalty. My father’s loyalty to me is that he wants to shield me from hurt too. Just before my mother and my grandmother died, both my mother and my father withheld their medical conditions from me. They wanted me to enjoy my life and not stress about things they felt were out of our control. But in the end, the white lies hurt more. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t tell me. 

Now, I realize so much more. I have that loyalty. The loyalty to lie. The loyalty to protect. The loyalty to love.

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