In some respects I've been very lucky in the just over eight years that I've been overseas. (I added that "in some respects" because I don't think that I've personally been particularily lucky. If you've been around here awhile, you'll know what I mean.) Back at home my family has stayed relatively safe and sound. Sure, my mom got a robot arm last winter, but she's all better now. I'm sure that I share a common fear with a lot of expats here, though - and that's getting "the call."
It could come at any time of the day, but generally one would probably imagine it coming in the middle of the night. I've gotten over that fear, as most of my calls do come in the middle of the night. My family and friends know I'm a night owl, so they're not at all afraid to give me a shout at three in the morning. It's only one in the afternoon where they are, afterall - so that's reasonable. But the call that so many of us fear is the one with Bad News. It's a call that's going to change your life. Well - my luck, as it were, ran out yesterday - and I didn't even get "the call." I got an e-mail, simple enough - from my brother: "Hey Jenn, can you call my cell."
Turns out my brother had been trying to call me but I'd stupidly turned off the ringer instead of lowering it from the ear shattering volume my boyfriend had set it at. So I called my brother yesterday morning and we started off chitty chatty the way we always do. And then he said, "Listen. I got an e-mail and I've been on and off the phone all day with Uncle Mike. Our father's father is in the ICU in the hospital."
This was bad news, but it wasn't entirely surprising. My grandfather had had a stroke just about four weeks ago. (What happened afterwards was my brother gave them a call and my grandmother was lucid and my grandfather cheery as if nothing had happened. So I got word that things were okay. Apparently, though - they're weren't.) My brother went on to tell me some details but he kept saying "father." Why had he described our gradfather as "our father's father" anyway? That was weird. "Wait," I said. "Whose father? MY father?"
"Well, we have the same father."
"Is in the hospital?"
"Dad. OUR dad?"
"Yes. What's wrong with you?"
"Sorry! I just couldn't understand who you were talking about. I thought you said father's father. I thought you were talking about grandpa."
I didn't know it, but my father has been sick for the last three or four months. The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong, and they were concentrating on testing his heart and lungs, which weren't revealing anything. But finally they found out what was wrong this week sometime. A tumor. On (in?) his liver.
I don't know much more than that. They'll do a biopsy on,... well I suppose they've done a biopsy by now. It happened Wedenday morning in Ottawa. My uncle was flying in from Vancouver as my brother and I spoke, and my brother was going to travel to Ottawa Wednesday morning as well. I'm waiting to hear what's going on, but I imagine I'm going to be getting on a plane fairly soon.
I've known for a long time that I don't have a proper support system in Korea. I went in to work yesterday with red ringed eyes above dark black circles and told them what was happening. They must have asked me ten times when I'm going and how long I'll be gone. I don't know, though. My boss seems to also be leaning toward me not coming back. My manager told him I wasn't renewing my contract, even though I haven't told them on way or the other yet. As a matter of fact, after I told her my father is gravely ill, she went to the boss and told him I'd be leaving as soon as possible. She came back to me to tell me they'd start looking for a new foreigm teacher right away, and I didn't understand what the hell SHE was talking about. I don't understand why, but she seems to be screwing with me. I walked out of the office thinking that I'm working for and with a bunch of heartless pricks.
Eveything is up in the air, and I'm still carrying around a solid headache that developed with ferocious intensity when I was talking to my brother. He said the same thing had happened to him while he was speaking with my uncle.
And in the meanwhile I'm waiting to see what happens.