I feel a lot of guilt today. I brought my mother to Korea as a bucket list item, to show her Korea, to be with our family. Yet, the past three days, I have packed with appointments with friends, squeezing my mother in during the morning, and me coming home at night. I feel ashamed for being selfish.
Last night, after a beautiful day with HyeonJin and her mother, I went to a cafe to revisit my conversation with Darrell. I wanted to write about it at length to understand what Darrell’s words meant. (In fact, my mind was playing tricks on me, and at the time, I saw what I wanted to see. I realized yesterday, a day later, that Darrell was soothing his guilty or sad heart and perhaps wanted me as a safety.)
In any case, I came home at 2230hrs to find my mother out. She didn’t answer her phone. My heart started racing, and my mind tracked back to my cousin’s wedding three years ago when she got shit-faced drunk and belligerent and had to be escorted out only to throw up in and soil my uncle’s car and home. At the time, I felt responsible. Why didn’t I keep tabs on how much she was drinking.
Last night, I felt responsible too. Why did I leave my mother alone? I know my mother has a deep well of sadness and hurt in her and a fear of abandonment. Why would I leave her alone? I know what she is capable of doing to herself.
And I felt ashamed too. It was 2230, and I was emotionally exhausted. I was caught in a loop of obsessive thinking, my latest search involving “why do I pursue unrequited love?” I am not proud to admit I went to sleep at 2230 and again at 0030 after calling my mother several times. I prayed she was ok, but I went to sleep. I am ashamed. I thought of that scene in Get Out where the son blames himself for not contacting the police as his mother was dying in the street. I thought about the book I read Please Take Care of Mom where the mother is lost in the Seoul Station subway depot. And I went to sleep.
I really have become so self-centered.
At 0300, I called the US embassy overseas citizens’ services line and gave them my mother’s information and then called 119 for the Korean police. They said they would send someone to the apartment who spoke English, but when the police arrived, they did not speak English. One officer asked if this image on his mobile phone was of my mother. It was. Thank God. I asked if she was ok. Nothing. Just get into the back of the squad car. I didn’t know if she was hurt, or if there would be a fine, or how my mother was found. But I thanked God for answering my prayer.
My mom was asleep on a mat in the police station. No one there spoke English. They nudged her over and over to wake up, and she asked if she could sleep there. No. She was lucid enough to apologize but also drunk enough to start to cry and ask herself why she was crying so suddenly.
“Why am I crying all of a sudden like this?
(To me) You never cry. I have never seen you cry not even once.”
If she only knew. Is that what my own mother thinks of me, that I have no feelings?
She blamed me here and there at the police office for the situation she was in. I am responsible for her feelings and her actions. Has it always been this way?
We finally got her up, and I expected to be driven home, but the officers pointed out the door saying we could get a taxi. The taxi driver outside the police station refused to take us home, as he was sleeping, he said.
We got a taxi at the corner, a nice driver, and made the short trip home. My mom, even in her post-drunken state, was trying to engage the taxi driver in a friendly conversation. Such is her need to be noticed and loved.
Thank God, we could make it up the stairs, and my mother was not nauseous from drinking. She would not go to sleep right away, wanting to call the police station to thank them (like I wanted to thank Darrell–symptoms of low self-esteem). She wanted to call the “nice man she met” that night to let him know she was ok. She wanted to call her tenant. She wanted to know what time I got home and what time I called the police.
She finally went to sleep and is sleeping now.
I am grateful my mother is home and safe. I am grateful she was not so drunk she threw up or worse all over the place. I am ashamed that going to sleep and obsessing was more important to me than finding my mother. I am determined to make the rest of this trip meaningful and happy for my mother and me both.