I began this video in 2021 and just couldn’t finish it. Since starting it, we have lost two other cats here in the US.
With each death, I have seen the differences in how death is handled. In Korea, the vet would not allow me to comfort this sweet boy to the beyond. But there was much respect in seeing him cremated.
When my Obi fell sick suddenly, the emergency clinic allowed us time with him as he rubbed against the glass door of his cage. As they lay his body on the stainless steel table, I whispered my love for him. He wanted to be home, but the emergency vet quickly administered the drugs. After Puck’s, I felt thankful to at least have Obi know I was with him. But when I asked to witness the cremation, I was told I would only be able to sit in my car on the grounds of the crematorium. That closure wouldn’t happen.
I suppose everything is relative. When Jilly Boo became ill, our clinic was very mindful of how painful these moments are. We scheduled time, they administered drugs to relax her in a cozy kitty bed. Once they knew she was relaxed, I spoke with her and could see her respond to me. The vet positioned that they would administer the drug as I stroked her. I slowly saw her third lid close and her spirit left. That was the most peaceful ending.
As I left, I knew that if I had to do this again, I finally knew how the final moments should play out. I hope that when my time comes, the world will be just as kind to my soul.
In July of this year, I was invited to present at the Third BTS Global Interdisciplinary Conference at Hankuk University in Seoul.
While I was unable to get a video of the original presentation, I wanted to give it a chance to be seen by others … transracial adoptees, ARMYs, first generation Asian Americans. It’s important to love ourselves and to find others who understand our experiences.
I realize that I have been absent for some time. They say, “time heals,” but I rather believe time just allows us to reflect and learn. Recently, I have participated in two events, the Korean American Story Slam in Chicago and the Third BTS Global Interdisciplinary Conference in Seoul. The video of the story slam is below. (Thank goodness for good editing. What you won’t see is my breakdown a la Cindy Brady at the beginning.)
Sadly, the video also misspells my last name, while everything else shows the correct spelling. I know that seems petty, but that is who I am. If someone misspells my name, it shows me that it wasn’t important enough to the editor to double check.
Thus is the curse of living this fractured life as a Korean, a Puerto Rican, and reluctantly, an American.
My presentation in Seoul went very well. I recovered from the anxiety that the story slam had planted. Honestly, the participants at this conference were the healing power I needed. Eventually, my presentation will be up on YouTube. For now, you can enjoy this lovely interview the conference organizers had with Sir Paulo Coelho.
In light of the recent rehoming, I will be hosting a live on my new YouTube Channel …
Text says … Planning a live Video Chat over YouTube tomorrow. I hope you can join. I had hoped it would be comedic, but the recent rehoming reared its head. (This is why we cannot have nice things.) Tune in at 4 p.m. (CST) or 6 a.m. (KST).
More than two years ago, I fell off the webverse … a self-preservation measure. During this time, I was able to push my pain deep within my soul. I concentrated on creating things with my hands.
The ceramics studio is closed, non-essential. Normally sitting at home quietly is a luxury. Most often, I go into a mindful nap. It’s the fourth week now.
Watching the numbers of deaths rise, brings me so much sorrow. I take comfort in knowing my adoptive parents are not here to weather this horrific scene. Both would have been at high risk, my mother with her heart disease and my father with his respiratory issues. While I can rest in this fact, the death toll reminds me that no one is exempt from loss.
Someday, my children will need to face their parents’ passing. I began this blog as a record of my life where many essential details had been erased. I wanted my children to know as much as I knew about myself.
With the current pandemic, I find myself thinking about how my life might close and where that might occur. As an unsolved mystery, my beginnings were erased, and I find myself wanting to close my life where it began.
While most would say, “Do it!” It is far more complicated. As an American citizen with no dual citizenship and no known relatives in Korea, I do not have the birthright to be buried or have my remains left in Korea. I hope that in my lifetime, I might either be able to find my Korean relatives or that the laws will change to allow me to die in Seoul.
When my thoughts attempted to drown me in sorrow, my fellow adoptees recommended I watch “Itaewon Class” on Netflix. What a ride … to see the streets of Seoul as I remember them! It’s bittersweet; I want to be in Seoul, but for now, my place is here where my husband and children are.
Sadly, I discovered this show has a character who was also abandoned by her mother (Episode 6, the first 5 minutes). Each time a scene like that plays, I am reminded of the loss that I have ignored but still sits in the pit of my stomach.
When I want a few laughs, I watch my nighttime comedy shows. It was here that I met the boys of BTS through Jimmy Fallon and James Corden. I found their performance in Grand Central to be incredibly breathtaking.
Their antics as they play water games made me laugh until I cried. The older boys, Jin and Yoongi, remind me of myself when they are walking around the water obstacle course (that Old Man wide, cautious walk).
Today, I found a fictional story about the seven boys of BTS that spoke to the 80s teen in me who fell in love with the boys of the book and film, “The Outsiders.” The BTS storyline is based on their song, “Save Me.” In it, Ho-seok plays a character who’s abandoned by his mother at a fair. Again, the imagery brought back the pain in the center of my soul.
All this brings not only sorrow but hope … hope that someday, it will be a person’s right to know the details of their beginnings. I guess I will just wait …
This year, I invited you all on my journey via my facebook page. I posted live videos that show my raw emotions as I walked the streets that I now want to call home.
My trips to Seoul, always include a visit to my agency, Holt Korea. Every time, they reiterate that they only have my two sheets of paper. They tell me over and over that they have no record of my foster mother, and yet they send this to donors …
They boast 4,481 foster mothers since 1966, yet no record of mine. These donors are funding not only Holt Korea’s shiny multilevel building, but also the cost of placing their name on subway stop signs (at a cost of around $186,584 over three years). Enter our hotel, the Somerset Palace, one could find a collection box for my agency.
Now, I can no longer enjoy even a short visit. The reminders of the secrets that surround my beginnings are everywhere … hotels and Hapjeong Station. In all this time searching, the main emotion I have felt has been utter sorrow … perhaps the closest thing to Korean Han.
But my sadness is turning into something very destructive. The injustice of being denied my identity … well, it consumes me right now.
So, if you read my last post, you know I chose to stay in Seoul, baptizing myself in all that is Korean … the food, the drink and sparkling contact lenses.
After a little blooming jasmine tea and a massive waffle at The Nature Cafe (sheep cafe) near Hongik University, my friend and I walked up toward the university campus. Just up the hill, we found Cutie Eyes, a contact store.
Once inside, I chose a few sets and as the owner accepted my credit card, he said, “Rosita Gonzalez?”
In the US, this is always followed by so much explanation. I did not anticipate this in Korea as I am often anonymous, safely blending in. I looked to my friend and asked, “Should I?” In a split second decision, I blurted out, “I am adopted.”
His face lit up. He said, “My older brother is adopted!” The other side of the fairytale unfolded … in Grimm style.
When his brother was four, his mother lost him in a train station; she was traveling with four small children. By the time they tracked him down, he had been sent to Belgium as a Holt adoptee.
Since that time, the family has queried Holt Korea for information. His mother is still stricken with grief of the loss of her son. He said his mother is getting older and would love the closure of seeing her lost son. Holt told the family that the adoptee was contacted and refused contact.
The shopkeeper, Bo Gyeol Kim, still searches via Facebook and other means to find his brother. He wants him to know that he has two older brothers and an older sister who also miss him and want to see him.
Bo Gyeol then asked me what I knew of my past. I showed him my photographs of my foster mother and me.
His words would change my fairytale …
“This is not your foster mother; this is your mother. You look just like her.”
All these years, I have stared at her photograph. Never did I see my own face looking back. How could I know? I was surrounded by faces they did not reflect mine. Now, I look at my past pictures, and I see her. This would also lend some truth to Holt Korea’s claim that they have no record of my foster mother.
Bo Gyeol has offered his help to try and garner attention to my search in South Korea. I am so thankful for this time and connection with him. He told me more … based on the photographs and the time (1968), my mother was well-off. She wore a ring and a watch. Photographs were hanging on the walls of the home.
So, on this the US Seollol, I hold my hanbok, and I know she chose it for me. She wore hers to help me celebrate that very important birthday, the last we would spend together. Our happily ever after will be her touching this hanbok once more and allowing me to hold her as she so tenderly held me once.
Perfection. I spent my childhood building it. I built it shiny and covetable. I built it in my marriage and in my parenting skills … until I realized that when it encompassed others, I couldn’t control them. My perfection began to erode my relationships.
From day one, I expected perfection from others because I had attained it through adversity as an adoptee. I wasn’t exactly calculated in my demands … it was just my normal.
As I began to learn more about myself, that ceramic, happy adoptee façade cracked and all my demons came spilling forth. After my first trip back to Seoul, I regressed. I slept in a deep depression. I came out the other side a very different person. The perfectionist died. But she still expected those around her to perform.
Often, I hear, “Why does everything come back to adoption? Do we have to talk about ‘adoption’ again?”
Honestly, I wish I could live a fairytale life in which I was born of a mother and father, and we lived out our lives as such, without questions about my past culture, the shame of not knowing my native language and the peace of just being me. But I was not dealt such a fate.
Loving me is very hard. I expect a lot. After 25 years, a couple is not the same two young hearts they once were. In my case, I am not the person my husband married, not even close. I am cheating on him, and Korea is my concubine. When she is absent, I still imagine her lying next to me, feeding me the fruits of her landscape. My thoughts of her interrupt my life and fill me with loneliness and sorrow.
A couple of months ago, my husband excitedly planned a trip to Thailand (A country that is top on my bucket list.) with a Seoul weekend prelude. Initially, I was thrilled at the prospect of spending time alone with him in my home country and in Thailand. We haven’t had time to ourselves like that since having our first child in 2000.
When I land on South Korean soil, I find my feet firmly planted. I can feel the roots, once pulled, trying to re-root in the cracks of Korean pavement. My weedy self took hold this time and couldn’t be uprooted after my first full day back in Seoul. The thought of leaving without a thorough examination of my search … well … I just couldn’t leave. I broke down sobbing our second night. I begged to stay with my concubine. She was demanding that I not leave, not just yet.
I cannot deny my guilt of having neglected her for more than 40 years. She gave me life, and I was ripped from her grasp. I am trying to make up for our lost time … at the expense of my marriage.
I carelessly changed my travel plans and took root at KoRoot, the adoptee guesthouse. This move was selfish. It was. I could only think of her … my concubine. She flooded my mind.
My decision hurt my husband. He has taken a lot from me in the last 25 years. He is my true love, but I abused his love. He wanted time with me, and I chose Korea.
The question of family comes up not only for National Adoption Month, but also at this time of year when turkeys are basted.
Before my adoptive parents passed away, the Thanksgiving Holiday was my favorite. It meant we would gather in the homes of my East Tennessee relatives. We would feast and gossip, sleep and eat again.
The womenfolk would gather in the kitchen, as the men gathered in front of the tube to watch the game. The house was warm and alive.
Today, my heart is filled with sorrow at the sweetness of those days. I am very thankful for those moments, but not because my Tennerican family “saved” me from a “life of poverty” as the adoption agencies and lawyers would have you believe during their month of November.
I own these memories of home and love, but that does not diminish the importance of my life before them. It only enriches my lived experience.
The connection with my home country has granted me a grace I never consciously knew until my feet landed there. I have reclaimed the Korean BBQ feast, the Korean Spa experience and Noreabang. Those beloved experiences were shared with my closest friends for my fiftieth this year. Those from my pre-Korea days were able to embrace the life I so long for now.
I cherish the quiet November table where my home is filled with the smells of roast parsnips and a chargrilled turkey. There is gratitude for the table set for four and the four cats that stalk the table. Our family tradition is what it is … our tiny family in the midwest. That’s perfect for now.
This year has been marked by losses. As a community, we are reminded that we are fragile. In the month of May we lost Jane, Gabe and Phillip.
You see, adoptees die both figuratively and literally.
We die when we are separated from our original families. We die when we are taken from our home countries. We die when the smells of our cultures are snuffed out by hamburgers and fried potatoes.
We die when we realize that we are not truly a part of those we resemble. We are outliers. We never chose this for ourselves.
And yet, in the month of November, this institution that brought us to our new “homes” is celebrated and revered. In this celebration, our voices have died. In 2014, we tried to revive with the #FliptheScript on #NAM. We were successful to a certain degree.