I just want to state for the record that I am not trying to compete with anyone about having the worst childhood. My experiences are quite enough for me. If your childhood was worse than mine and you’ve found your peace, please don’t be angry at me for still being hurt, angry and bitter. I haven’t got that far yet, and I’m not ready to forgive and forget. Please read my post Shades of Grey about this.
It’s no good dwelling on the past, some say. But much as I would like to forget, if I did then I would not be true to myself. To let go I will have to face my horrors, and it takes time to admit and accept that this was a huge part of my life.
A room thick with layers upon layers of smoke. This is one of the first images that strike me when I think back, and probably the reason why I have asthma today. I remember seeing the blurry shadow of my adoptive mother through the cloud of cigarette smog, sitting in a chair by the TV, often with no clothes on, drunk and stuffed full of pills, face expressionless. Occasionally the chair doubled as a toilet if she was too drunk to lift herself out of it and go to the bathroom. She didn’t care, her mind wasn’t in this world. Inside her heart she was grieving over a little boy who died a long, long time before they brought me to Norway.
Alcohol, tears, loneliness, a hurtful mix of feelings that sting inside all the memories that my heart has been burdened with for a long time. It’s not easy to shake off the gloom. Just because I smile doesn’t mean that I’m happy. I’ve seen wine, beer and drugs set the tune of a home. How can they love the drinks more than they love their children? It’s still haunting me, like the hands of a ghost around my throat.
As a little girl I knew when it was time to be silent and invisible, sometimes hiding in the cupboard in my room, or under the bed. In summertime I would often hide in the garage behind the car. I could sit there and cry silently so no-one could hear me and find me.
How could it possibly be fair that a little girl slowly began to think about taking her own life? She didn’t see any solution, she was thinking like a child, how it might gain her and her adoptive parents if she was dead. She didn’t wish to be a burden, and then she would no longer have to be afraid of being beaten. She could sit there and think about how the little white coffin had to have wings on both sides for the long journey up to God in Heaven, followed by a group of angels to lead the way. Would it hurt to die? And how would the Angels find her if she couldn’t pray anymore?
First there’d be a glass of wine with dinner. Later the whole box of wine would be brought to the table, or my adoptive dad went with the decanter to get more, and when after a while my adoptive parents started to argue with each other, then I knew that it was time to slip quietly away. I remember my adoptive parents drunk and angry, shouting, my father calling my mother ugly names.
A typical week would go like this: Sunday they would sober up for work on Monday. Wednesday they would celebrate the upcoming weekend. Friday they started celebrating that the weekend was here, and it did not end until Sunday morning.
This went on for years, until their economy got better so that they could drink every day, all year round. Occasionally they’d go off to Spain for two weeks of heavy celebration, so heavy in fact that sometimes my mother had to return earlier by emergency flight and spend a few days in hospital, getting nursed back to life from the land of the half dead.
How could a little girl not be affected for life by this? The yelling, the ugly words, towards me too, the screaming and shouting, the slamming of doors, the tense atmosphere in the house, my adoptive mum crying, and I lay there as a little girl, frightened in my bed and wished I could run away forever. The only thing I could do was to hide under the duvet and pray that one day it would be better.
Any child growing up in a home like that would be scarred for life. For my part, this came in addition to adoption-related issues, as if one or the other wasn’t enough. Some days it just hurts too much. I have no energy, only tears, and all I want to do is to sleep forever. Which is worst? My upbringing in that home, or knowing that my father in Korea searched for me for years, not even knowing how far away I really was?
Had I stayed with my family in Korea, I could have spent my childhood being loved for who I was, instead of being told every day by my adoptive parents how stupid and useless I was. I would have felt love instead of hate, happiness instead of sorrow, and escaped many of the problems that I am left with today, as a grown-up adoptee. There are many could-have-beens and might-have-beens, but one thing is for certain: The liquid in my tears come from the greatest trials in my life, from pain and grief, not from an expensive vintage wine bottle on the top shelf at the liquor store, but from the well of my soul.