This is Part Two of a series on our 2017 birth family visit. Read Part One here.

Everyone is/was so excited about our birth family visit, except for us. In a way, I wonder if the whole trip was a self-fulfilling prophecy because every fear and dread we had leading up to the visit came true.

My family insisted on “making the most” of their visit to the US, as Omma (especially post-visit) didn’t intend to come back. That meant they were stateside for under two weeks, but traveled to five different cities across the US – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas (and Grand Canyon), Nashville (and Kentucky), and New York City. Most Americans would not undertake that itinerary, absent a language barrier, culture shock, and jet lag. Don’t worry, we tried to warn Omma, but our protests were all waved off. She knew what she was doing (spoiler alert: she definitely did not).

7851B2EC-C57E-4755-B5C0-61A713409B7CBy the time they landed in our city (Nashville), they’d been on four flights for over 20 combined hours and traveled well over 10,000 miles. They had never been to our home before so they were utterly curious. Omma followed us around like a puppy, and it got to be a lot. We could not wash a dish or take out the trash without her following so close, she would literally bump into us. In hindsight, we realized we never have so much concentrated time together. When we go to Korea, they go about their daily routines and work. We text throughout the day about what we are doing and where we will meet for dinner, but really we are together just a few hours a day for a meal, if we’re lucky. Here, Omma had no job to go to, no house to clean, and she was completely losing her mind. There was no place to focus her attention except solely on us.

After a couple days of her stepping on our heels (like when a kid runs over their mom’s shoe with the shopping cart one too many times), Lee and I were both so run down. I firmly but kindly told Omma she could sit down and take a rest, because we had everything covered. She flipped out. She screamed at me like she never has before. She said she was just curious how Americans do things and why couldn’t she follow our every step if she wanted to? (Because you are exhausting us, woman!) She was furious because I told her she was stressing me out. She also said a lot of other things I won’t repeat here.

About an hour after the outburst (and after some awkward silence), it was lunchtime and we had already planned out where we were headed. I was still fuming and honestly did not feel much like sitting across from Omma for an hour to eat. She was also still pouting. While everyone got on their shoes, I announced I wouldn’t be joining them. My younger brother Hyunbae’s English is more than sufficient for interpreting; they didn’t need me, so I was staying home to have an hour to myself. (In hindsight, I realize this was incredibly selfish of me to put on poor Lee, but I was not in the right mindset to consider that.) They were stunned. “Why?” They couldn’t believe I would draw a line in the sand and stand up to Omma for the way she was continually stepping on me. I said I was sick of being treated poorly and I was mad at Omma and I didn’t want to see her. She got mad and left the room. Hyunbae approached me: “Trust me, I know how you feel. I’ve been with her this whole trip and she has yelled at me a lot. Can you please come, even just for me? We don’t have that much time together and I don’t want to regret anything.” It was the only thing that could have gotten me in that car with her.

I told Omma to sit up front with Lee (even though they can’t communicate – sorry Lee!) and begrudgingly dragged my butt into the backseat with Hyunbae. Once we got on the highway, I crawled over to him and put my head on his lap and cried. I don’t think anyone else knew; I certainly didn’t want her to know that she’d finally gotten to me. As the hot tears rolled down my face, my baby brother rubbed my back reassuringly. He was communicating, “I know it’s hard, please hang on.” I knew he was right. I had to hang on, if for nobody else but him and Lee. Issues obviously hung heavy between Omma and I, but I just had to get through the visit, and I’d sort the other stuff out (with my therapist!) later.

Stay tuned…this series will continue in a yet-unknown number of blog entries.

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