It’s been well over a year since Omma visited us and we have not yet written about it. I’m not exactly sure, but I think her visit imposed a complete writing block; not only about the visit, but really in our ability to talk about anything of consequence. It was something we needed time and space to come back from. It’s been the elephant in the room for awhile. But now, as we are just a few months out from our next visit to Korea and we face some of those realities head-on, it only seems appropriate, as well, to face them in this space.
The visit was hard. There’s no other way to put it. For a number of very complex reasons. First, our guests were not invited. That may sound harsh, but it is a fact. 2017 was hopefully the busiest travel year we will face in our lifetimes. We were just never home and always running on fumes. It was the worst time for a first birth family visit (to the USA). Omma just called one day late April and said she was coming in June. “WHAT?!,” was basically our response. She said she’d call back. After a few days, she did. “I’m coming to your house in May.” Yep, about 3 weeks after the phone call.
Not only was it a bad time for us, it was a bad time for them. Our nephew was due to arrive into the world the same time as the visit. Our brother Seongbae works with Appa at the locksmith shop. He’d be busy with his new baby, meaning Appa would be alone at the store, meaning he couldn’t come to the US to visit. So basically, it was bad for Seongbae, bad for Appa, bad for us, but Omma felt it was good, so it was good.
This will be hard to explain if you have not spent an extended period of time in Korea, but…Omma is as Korean as they come. She basically dislikes anything that is not Korean. We knew she would hate America. Nearly everything about it. The food, the people, the culture. We were not wrong. We begged her to please not come. Honestly. It was a huge waste of money and we knew it from the start. She insisted. And once an ahjumma has made up her mind and dug in, there’s no changing course.
Along with being as Korean as they come, Omma has absolutely no filter. She just lets any inane thought fly out of her mouth with zero consideration of whether or not that is appropriate. It’s hard to take in Korea, but we are at least prepared for that in a culture outside of our ‘home culture.’ It somehow felt so much more personal here. It was very aggravating to the point of really wanting to shout, “How dare you enter our home uninvited and criticize everything about it? Is it lost on you that the only reason this is ‘home’ to us is because of your decision 30+ years ago to send your baby away?” Fortunately, those words never did come out, but the angst and emotion was certainly there.
Jetlag and culture shock were very unkind to Omma, as we knew would happen. She was a bear, and that is saying a lot, as she is not on an average day a particularly pleasant person. Her internal clock was all out of wack, the food wreaked havoc on her system, the temperature never suited her, and on and on. She was exhausted and miserable and that made everything that much more complicated.
On a call after the visit with a trusted mentor, I gained some perspective. It was much needed as I couldn’t wait to kick our guests to the curb and reclaim my personal space. That sentiment about sending your baby away all those years ago? Maybe it was not so lost on my Omma. Perhaps she was so insistent on coming because she needed to make that journey. To see the long road her baby traveled at just six months of age. To experience every bit of shock and misery and havoc that baby had to.
Even if it meant that baby-now-adult had to bear the full brunt of the fallout.
Stay tuned…this series will continue in a yet-unknown number of blog entries.
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