Friday, February 06, 2009

يرحمك الله جدي

يرحمك الله جدي

'Nonno', Rest in Peace

(literally: " 'Nonno', May God Have Mercy on You")

A Memory…

I remember the time growing up when I found out that my grandfather, whose roots lay in the town of Vicari, just south of Palermo in Sicily, was also adopted. Our situations were not the same, but for me, there were strong parallels. His parents, newly arrived immigrants from Sicily were very poor. Through no fault of their own, they simply could not afford to properly care for all of their dozen-plus children. So, my grandfather was adopted and raised by his aunt and uncle. Later, I was told that he was very emotional and sensitive about this, and that he was initially angry when he heard that my parents were adopting their first child, me. He never spoke about this to me.

On my twenty-first birthday, he and my grandmother, with I was living while an undergraduate student, took me out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Kings Park. After dinner, we returned home and sat in the living room of their house, which is such an integral part of my childhood memories, for tea and cake. Unexpectedly, my grandfather began speaking about being adopted, and we talked about our experiences for at least one hour, maybe two. I lost track of time.

When I was five, a kindergartener, I was asked by my classmates why I didn’t look like my “mommy and daddy.” As a curious five-year-old, I went home and asked my parents. They told me that I was adopted, which of course I was unable to fully comprehend as I can now as an adult. Although I don’t remember this well, I became very upset when I found out that my biological father was still alive. I felt that he did not want me, not understanding that widowers don’t raise children in Korean culture by themselves, and that it had nothing to do with me personally. I also thought that my parents were trying to keep my biological father from me. They had to write a letter stating that if he ever came looking for me and wanted to see me, they were okay with that. Apparently, I had to read the letter and watch them hand it over to the adoption agency.

Until that evening almost seven years ago, I had never felt that anyone else knew what it was like to have felt that way about being adopted. I've been thinking about that evening a lot this past week, since hearing that my grandfather was in the hospital, and it's probably something I won't soon forget.

Goodbye, Nonno. Rest in peace.

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