It’s times like these that I just have to take a step back from any critical thinking regarding adoption and let myself feel. My lovely grandma passed away this week. She was 96 years old. The last time I saw her was about two weeks ago. So much of her mind had grown dark from Alzheimer’s. She could not articulate names or how we were connected, but there was still the dimmest light of recognition. I knew this because when I leaned in close to talk to her, she said, “Hello darling”. She has always reserved the word ‘darling’ for me, her only granddaughter. Her passing did not come as a shock because her decline was so rapid over the last month. In a situation that would be stressful for anyone, our family has handled everything with incredible grace. As much as it saddens us to not have her here with us anymore, we knew we couldn’t hold on forever. Her condition worsened so that eating and breathing would no longer come easily. The most loving thing we could do was let her go and be at peace.
In this moment, I can only think about my love for her and the tremendous relationship we shared. At 25, I know there are many out there who did not get to keep their grandmas as long or who never had them in their lives in the first place. It is for those reasons that I am grateful. When my parents first shared that they would be adopting a Korean baby, my grandma was not thrilled. Or, at the very least, a little confused. But if you ever saw us together, you would never know that. I have felt nothing but pure love and affection from her for as long as I can remember. In retrospect, one thing that touches me most is how she used to sleep over every Christmas Eve at my house with my mom and I. She could have stayed with her daughter, but she always stayed with us, her son’s wife and child. Somehow, as all grandmas know, she knew we needed her. She was a mother to my mom and the ultimate grandparent to me as all the others had passed long before. She could share in the loss of my father in a way that no one else could truly share. She was our protector who kept us close to her heart always.
Sometimes people like to ask if I “regret” being adopted. Well, regret might just be the wrong sentiment. I am sad that I’ve never had a relationship with my Korean family. I am sad that my connections to my Korean heritage have been tenuous most of my life. I am sad for the missed opportunities. But I am not sad to be a part of my American family. They are my world and they have brought me so much joy and love. I’ve realized how much I despise the notion of birth and adoptive families somehow being pitted against one another. I do not wish for one over the other. Even though I don’t know my birth family, at the end of the day, I cannot hate them. I cannot call them inferior. Who am I to even make those judgments? If I were to have any regret at all, it would be over the fact that I have been unable to have both families in my life. If I had the power to choose, I would choose both.
Adoptees haven’t had the power to choose in many ways and I lament that. But, right now, I can also say that having the privilege of being my grandma’s darling was one of the greatest choices I never got to make.