Potential titles of this post were, "No, gout is not fatal...dammit" and "Googling gout and hoping for terrible results." Maybe you can now understand why I selected the title I did. Buckle up, Skippy, you're going to get a guided tour of my descent to imaginary hell.
Many adoptees develop a need to discover their roots and find out more about their birth families. I was definitely not one of those individuals. I was quite content accepting my circumstances and living as normal of a life as possible. All that got turned upside down not too long ago. I was chillin' out maxin', relaxin' all cool... shooting some b-ball outside of the school, when a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood. Fine, that isn't what happened, although I would have much preferred that to what actually did occur.
Getting a letter stating someone is about to take their final breath is not the most pleasant experience. The fact that it's about your biological father makes it even more interesting. Upon receiving that letter from Eastern Social Welfare Society, I was literally on a plane to Seoul less than 24 hours later. My wife jinxed me as she was joking on the way to DFW of the possibility that he wasn't dying. I immediately said, “Knowing my luck, that's probably true.” The timeline is as follows:
10:00 AM - Derek gets letter from ESWS - Dude, your biological father wants to see you before he takes his last breath.
10:01 AM - Derek begins his new tradition of drinking scotch at work.
10:30 AM - Derek yells at his boss.
10:32 AM - Derek begins filling out paperwork for unemployment benefits. Ok, maybe that didn't happen or the drinking, but it's my fucking story, so I'll explain it how I feel, thank you very much.
10:49 AM - Derek arrives at The Normal One's, aka his wife's, place of work.
11:36 AM - Decision is made to go to Korea.
11:37 AM - Decision is reconsidered after discovering cheapest flight require me to leave the very next day at 5:00 AM and not returning for 14 days.
12:18 PM - Email sent to ESWS that I am on my way.
5:38 PM - Depart for Dallas.
7:42 PM - Take the 8th wrong turn on the expressway system.
8:14 PM - Have dinner with Korean work associate who arranges a driver to
meet me at the airport the next day. That's how I roll, baby!
9:26 PM - FIRST comment from my wife about what if he's not really dying
10:08 PM - What is the exact opposite of a phone call of enthusiastic support from your parents about going to Korea? That.
10:54 PM - Wife makes second comment of “better to see this schmo at the hospital than the funeral home.” I think I joked that if he was perfectly healthy and wanted a way to go see the Olympics, faking his death was a good way for me to be his travel buddy. “Well, since you're here, we might as well..”
03:30 AM - No one has any legal reason to be up this goddamn early. Seriously.
04:51 AM - Checked into Air Canada Flight # Please Tell Me This Is A Bad Dream.
05:26 AM - Boarded and checking last minute stuff before phone has to be shut
off. Get email from ESWS: Yeah, you might not need to rush, he says he's dying all the time. Our bad.
05:27 AM - Got sternly warned not to punch the seat in front of me. But it was Air
Canada, so it went something like this: "I'm sooooory, could you please refrain
from disrupting our flight, you hoser?"
05:28 AM - Text sent to wife: MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!! He might not be really
05:29 AM - Text reply from wife: In a Sylvia Plath sort of way, we're all dying.
05:30 AM - Text sent to wife: You are so not helping! But the fact you used Sylvia
Plath is hella hot. And disturbing.
05:31 AM - Confirmation from Air Canada that 1) No, I cannot get off the plane and 2) No, I cannot keep the drink cart next to me for the entire flight and 3) Sorry.
So the entire flight I'm stewing. It amplifies by sitting on the tarmac de-icing the plane for over 90 minutes. 90 minutes I could be undoing my flight! Mind you, I have exactly a 2 hour layover in Toronto before the next flight to Seoul. I spent that 90 minutes imagining ways how I could pull off punching the guy who's responsible for my creation and it be okay. Getting excited about some potential options. Short story long, plane finally takes off. We land. I run like hell to the next gate. Actually make the flight. Plane sits on the tarmac for 180 minutes getting de-iced. SERIOUSLY CANADA?!?!?! YOU HAVE ICE 321 DAYS OUT OF THE YEAR AND IT'S FEBRUARY! WHAT THE HELL! Frantic texts and emails to Koreans about delayed flight status for whomever is meeting me at the airport. Plane takes off. 18 hours of not even trying to sleep because, hello? I'm going to literally the last place I ever wanted to go.
It actually was good that I couldn't meet this guy until Monday. I spent the weekend getting acclimated and trying to figure out how to flush a toilet. Don't judge me until you go over there, jerk! It's a lot harder than it sounds! So Monday arrives and the big moment eventually happens and in strolls the healthiest dying man I've ever seen. Shortly after our reunion, I start inquiring about his health. I probably should have been more focused on what was going on, but the word gout was repeatedly mentioned. Since the only medical experience I have is 4 years at John Hopkins and a 2 year residency, I wasn't that familiar with gout. I didn't remember it from my class, “Shit! That's Pretty Fatal!”, but I did skip a lot of classes, so you never know. Google and Wikipedia to the rescue! Well, it turns out that NOT ONE person has EVER in the history of mankind died of gout. I'm looking up at Han Mu and back down at my phone repeatedly, reinforcing the stereotype that Americans are addicted to their phones. I also explained that glaring and giving dirty looks to your elders is a sign of respect in the United States.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he wasn't in the hospital, and I'm glad he wasn't getting embalmed. But, I had allocated this 2 week time for bereavement leave at work. Now I can't produce a death certificate, so it's officially the World's Shittiest Vacation. I wish I was joking, but that thought actually did cross my mind about 4 hours into meeting Han Mu. I hope to unlearn what I've unnecessarily discovered about gout. It's not even that big of a deal. Suck up the pain, you pansies. Life is supposed to hurt!
P.S. In Han Mu's defense, he did try to kill himself in December, and he unsuccessfully tries suicide every quarter. Q1 2018 was ending soon, so he might not have been lying.
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