I'm back in Korea and going to head into work in a few hours. Sorry for the silence. It feels like the last couple weeks was just an awful dream. My father died on March 19th, just over a week ago. These days if I can eat something and sleep a little while then it is a triumph. Thank you for the kind comments on the previous post. I feel so strange these days, so for now - that's about it.
That last post was from the airport in Incheon. I'd just gotten the news about having to be on a plane on Sunday or being fired. I was very upset and very tired. Not too much has changed in that regard. I wish it didn't bother me at all, what my boss has threatened - and the fact that now I know what type of person he is - but it does. I'm thinking about it all the time. What I really wanted to hear from him and my co-worker is "Go. Don't worry about us. Everything here will be okay" - and it will be! I went on an almost four week vacation to Canada in the summer of 2008. If I could get away with that, I'm sure students and parents would understand my going home to be with my family at a time like this. I don't want to be fired. After SIX YEARS at the same place - this is the thanks,...don't they say losing ones job can be as stressful as losing a loved one? Something like that. I don't want the double whamification, but I seriously don't think I'm going to be able to make that flight next Sunday.
I saw my father today. It took me a good hour or two to work up the courage to go inside his hospital room. When I finally did, I found him looking small under his blanket. He's so yellow, the effects of jaundice, and swollen - perhaps from the medication he's on. His breathing is slow and deep and I waited in between breaths, hoping there would be another one coming. I actually asked if he was on a ventilator because it's that kind of measured breathing. He has stomach and liver cancer, which are both secondary cancers. They still haven't figured out the primary source of the disease. At this point, the medical staff are just trying to make him comfortable. He's in a lot of pain. We all are.
I walked in the room and to the side of his bed. He looked right at me without changing the serious expression on his face. "Dad! Hi!" I said, and there it was - a big smile. He turned his head away and even laughed before turning it straight ahead facing the ceiling once more. "Just a minute" he whispered in a hoarse voice, and so I waited. Nothing happened. He didn't wake enough again to join in conversation, and he didn't acknowledge me once more. He opened his eyes from time to time, but didn't seem to be paying any attention to what was going on around him. On the wall at the end of the bed is a corkboard with a big white-faced clock in the middle of it. The second-hand moves around in a circle ticking off time as it creeps by. I wished he had something better to look at. My brother suggested a poster that kitten gripping onto a tree branch with the caption "Hang in there, Baby." "Yah, like that." I agreed. The clock blurred through the tears that filled my eyes. That bloody clock, ticking off time - which just reminds me of how little more of it we have with my dad. Just last week the doctors were predicting it could be "days, weeks, perhaps months," but they've updated that list and and have struck the last two options off. Days. I really don't think he's going to make it through the week. I can't believe a week ago I was in Korea, completely oblivious, and this week my world has uprooted itself and turned over on it's head.
I'm walking around feeling like I'm a hundred years old. I'm slow and twisted up, partially from the 26 hours of traveling yesterday and moreso due to stress. I had to stop in the ER with my brother today who was close to having a panic attack. He threw up loudly and violently in one of the examining room sinks before the doctor came and prescribed him some atavan. Tomorrow morning I should meet my grandparents at the hospital who have said they want to see their son one more time. My uncle cried when he hugged me hello, and then asked me "how do you say "this is a big pile of shit" in Korean.
I have a bad habit of saying too much. I'm honest, and that doesn't tend to get one ahead in Korea. I'm just calling it like I see it, and I have seen my fair share of liars and cheaters over here. What sealed the deal in me hating my manager was that she lied about my students, straight up - putting me in the position of either believing one of her or seven students who had no reason to lie. I instantly knew who was telling the truth.
When my brother called and said it was time to get on a plane I didn't even think to call my boss - the guy who doesn't speak English - to let him know I would be leaving. It didn't occur to me to ask permission, which I think is what he wanted. I'd already told him last week that there was a good possibility I'd need to go to Canada, but I was hoping that wouldn't be the case. He really pressured me to tell him when and for how long I'd be going - but I didn't know, and I wasn't going to pull an answer out of the air just to make him happy.
So after the tickets were booked, my friend called him to tell him what was up. As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a return ticket for a week from today. I'm not sure I'll be coming back then. I have to see what's happening in Ottawa. I should have just shut up and left it at the return ticket's in a week idea, but nooooo,... I was honest.
Long story short, I've been delivered the news that if I don't get on the plane come next Sunday I will be fired. Swell guy, my boss. He musn't REALLY want me to re-sign for another year, even though he says he does. Does he think I'm going to forget his lack of compassion?
I've got a plane to catch, but let me say I can't believe he's making me choose. Hmmmm - work or family? Seems like a total no-brainer to me. I only wish I'd told him to go ahead - start looking for another teacher, then - and jam my job up your ass.
I got a call from my brother Saturday afternoon. He'd been to visit my father and stayed for a couple days. He went back home to Toronto because my dad seemed to be getting better, but the following day my father took another turn for the worse.
He had a heart attack while he was in the ICU. He's also jaundiced and his liver is failing. The cancer is metastatic, but they don't know the primary source, yet. The results of the biopsy and a couple other tests haven't arrived yet, but my family has been told that when they do come back the news will not be good. They will show the caner is spreading into the lymph nodes. My father has been ill for quite awhile, but was misdiagnosed as having cardiac trouble - and was given medication to slow an erratic heartbeat, and blood thinners for god knows what. They missed the cancer. He will be accepted by the cancer treatment centre, but in his weakened state and with the pervasiveness of the cancer, treatment options are likely to be limited.
I was told if I want to see him, I really need to get on a plane as soon as possible. So, that's what I'm doing. I'm flying in about an hour and a half, and by the time I reach Ottawa I'll have been traveling about 26 hours. I have a return ticket for a week from today, but we'll see how that goes. There's a very good chance I'm going to push the return back by an additional week.
Meanwhile, things are probably going to be pretty quiet around here, but I'll update if I'm able. Thank you very very very much for the well wishes. This whole experience is an huge unexpected pile of horseshit, and life doesn't seem real anymore.
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." "OUR father?!" "Yes" "Is in the hospital?" "Yes." "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."
No. He wasn't.
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.
Ha! In my last post I vowed that I would try to do a post a night this week. Seeing as it's technically Thursday, I think I've pretty much sucked so far, hey? Well, I haven't been to bed yet so I'm counting this as Wednesday night's entry. So I'm going to try to keep half my promise, and will write something Thursday and Friday (technically Friday and Saturday surely. Whatevs.) I didn't post on Monday because I was still in Seoul. I was supposed to come back Monday afternoon but the weather was windy and rainy and pretty miserable, but more importantly I was really enjoying myself at John's place. He graciously allowed me to stay another night and we watched a fantastic movie that I hope to write about soon. I also snooped around his nice DVD collection and borrowed 5 seasons worth of "The Office!" Score! I've seen every episode of the British version numerous times, but have never even one full show of the American one, so I am verrrrryyy happy. I'm already halfway into the 2d season after watching for the past couple nights. Love it! Thank you very much, John. I intend to write a little more about my trip to Seoul as well, but for now my bed's a callin'.
In the meantime, here's another look at the rarely seen mole cricket. Another one showed up at my school awhile back. I first posted about these strange looking things at the end of last July. Time has passed, and they look as weird as ever don't'cha think?
Oh, and I wonder what the hell is up with my subconscious D.J. I've been waking up with the grossest tunes running through my head. I don't know why my dreams are tuned into Q104.3 E-Z Rock for the Granny set, but I woke up Sunday with the Beach Boys' "Kokomo" running through my head, and yesterday morning it was Michael Bolton's "Said I Loved You, But I Lied." Why am I being punished? If I promise to blog more, you think it'll stop?