"Mom, I have an unknown grandma, don't I?"
"Yes. . .you do."
"And an unknown grandpa, too?"
"Yes. And maybe unknown uncles, aunts and cousins as well."
"Will I ever get to meet them?"
"I don't know, sweetie. I honestly don't know."
This conversation I had with my nearly 8 year-old daughter earlier today came about after she remarked aloud how much she looked like both of her parents and how I didn't look at all like either of mine. She of course knows that I am adopted and knows that I do not have any contact with or information about my Korean family. It got me thinking back to January 2007, when I first made a decision to start my search.
I starting combing the internet for sites that sought to reunite Korean adoptees and their families. If memory serves, I think I almost registered with one site in particular, but after scrolling down the hundreds and hundreds of baby referral pictures hoping to be recognized, I felt too overwhelmed, too discouraged that my picture would ever be noticed and just too filled with sorrow from reading the pleas of adult adoptees who were seeking leads that might result in any kind of personal information.
I contacted the post-adoption branch of the agency that my parents used and got no where fast. Options such as spending an undetermined amount of time in Korea in hopes to successfully connect with media outlets like KBS (a Korean TV station) to be on their show which spotlights adopted Korean who are searching was well, unfortunately, not an option at that time. (According to G.O.A.'L, adoptees living outside Korea now may have the opportunity to use KBS to aid their family search efforts by participating live via webcam.) I communicated with other Korean adoptees and was both flummoxed and appalled by their stories of their own respective adoptive agencies unwillingness to help. If you don't feel that your adoption agency - the one and only place that holds any and all information pertaining to your history - isn't on your side, just exactly how is one to obtain any kind of information? The proverbial needle in the haystack started to sound like good odds. It began to feel more like finding a specific grain of sand along the Jersey Shore. Could it be done? Technically yes. Would it ever actually happen in my lifetime? Probably not.
I will be the first to admit that I have harbored many a different fantasy about my Korean parents and the circumstances in which I was relinquished. I've had visions of reunion being marked with open, welcoming arms; where happy tears are shed uncontrollably and long embraces between us all never seem to end. Images of immediate connections, obstacles of all sorts overcome with the greatest of ease and happily ever afters for everyone around. Of course I know this to be purely fiction, but I will confess that my mind has indulged these very dreams.
And then I think of the other extreme, where the knowledge of my very existence brings forth nothing but heavy dosages of shame, anger and resentment upon my Korean family. Where pride, status and even lives would literally be destroyed, all because of me. After hearing a Korean first mother speak a few years ago at a seminar sponsored by the agency we used to adopt our son, I remember thinking "My God. What if I actually found my parents and it caused so much disruption, so much grief and angst that my Korean mom ended up killing herself?" As selfish as it is/was to think, I couldn't help but ask myself if that was something that I could live with for the rest of my life. Was searching and ultimately finding my Korean parents too much of a risk for them? Was it something that I could handle, regardless of the outcome? I didn't know then and I still don't know now.
All this to say, I have not actively searched for my Korean family for quite some time. I have dug deep within myself to find the answers as to why that is and well, the answers are complex. My feelings toward resuming a search and the potential (however small) for reunion are fearful, reluctant, optimistic, painful, hopeful, scared, validating and more - so many, many more.
Some may argue that if I really felt strongly about it one way or the other, that I would have done something by now. Others may sense cowardice. And yet others may say I just enjoy a good drama every now and again.
All I know is that when it comes to the decision to search, I must be true to myself and honor what it is that I truly want to do. Without that to guide me, any choice that I make with regards to searching isn't really worthy of being called a choice at all.