28 February 2012

FAMILY – Part 1: The quest to find my mother

Tony Kruesopon - my hero!  The man that made it all happen!

Alright, let’s get to the heart of this trip.

As many of you may know, a big part of the reason why I came to Thailand was to find and meet my mother whom I’ve had little to no contact with in over 30 years.  When I first got here, I had no idea how I was going to find her and with only an idea that Tony, my friend’s brother, who lives here in Thailand would be able to help assist in this process especially since her ID card is written in Thai characters and the phone number that I last had was no longer in service.  Some of you may know that Thai names are like 25 letters long and all I knew were the first nine, but I didn’t even know if she still had the last name that I once knew or if she was even alive.  So basically, I got here with no plan and barely a first name. 

I can’t even begin to tell you that just being here has been a pretty intense experience.  All my life, I’ve always wondered about her.  I wondered if she was alive, how she was, what she was like, what she looked like after all this time, what did her voice sound like, how tall was she, why would she leave me, why she didn’t keep in touch, why had she not tried to see me, did she forget about me, and why was there nothing from her in 30 years.  I felt hurt, sad, angry, confused, sense of abandonment, and yet curiosity.   All these questions and feelings have been bottled up in me for 30 years.  While I’m sure there’s a part of me that is angry, I’m honestly not feeling angry, maybe when I was a child and I didn’t understand the complexities of relationships and cultural differences, but not since I’ve been an adult and have experienced more life.  After I arrived here, my feelings started to change to hope that she was here, that I was going to see her, and would have some sense of resolution after 30 years. 

Please understand that in looking for my mother and the rest of my Thai family that I’m not looking to replace or supplement my family and the all the people in my life that have raised me, nor am I discounting what they’ve done for me.  But somewhere deep down inside, I couldn’t help but think about her.   She’s a part of me and it’s been missing.  Perhaps I didn’t and don’t speak of her often because of the pain of rejection and abandonment that has been inescapable and difficult to talk about without wanting to break down.  And perhaps I didn’t speak of her with my family because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings of still wanting to know more from what wasn’t there.  Over the years, I’ve developed a great defense mechanism for not showing too much emotion about it and quickly divert the subject of conversation to something else so as as it’s difficult to talk about and to not want to break down in front of the person I’m speaking with.  And now being here, so close to the source, my cultural heritage and just so many people that remind me of her, I’ve been going through some pretty intense emotions here.

What’s kind of crazy is that from the conception to actually being here on this trip, there have been nothing but coincidences and the universe giving me a big helping hand along the way.  Too many to list here, but it's been too many to ignore too and that's how I knew I was on the right path.  A friend of mine had a few nights stay for free at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok that he gave to me.  What I didn’t know was that at the corner of it, there is the Erawan shrine of Phra Phrom, who is the Hindu god of creation.   For days, I watched people from all over the world, come up and offer marigolds with jasmine, burn incense, light candles, offer coconut water, bananas, wooden elephants, and such to help protect them, give them blessings, and answer their prayers.  Apparently, the Erawan Shrine has a high percentage rate of answering prayers.  If your prayer is answered, you go back and pay to have a Thai dance troupe sing and dance for Phra Phrom.  I figured since I was here looking for the woman who created me who better than to ask than the god of creation to help me out a little. 

Erawan Shrine

Prayer and offerings to Phra Phrom 

Let’s face it, I’m not a religious person, somewhat spiritual perhaps, but I was absolutely drawn to this place.  For four days and for at least 30 minutes each day, I sat there watching people pray and give their offerings.  While I’m not converting to Hinduism any time soon, that shrine is a pretty powerful place. When I finally worked up the courage to pray to Phro Phram, I got my marigolds, my incense and my candle.  I figured if I’m going to ask for something, I should at least give something in return and I heard he likes marigolds and so do I, we have something in common!  I went to light the incense which I’m pretty sure took twice as long as everyone else (I’m a beginner, there’s a lot of sticks, give me a break!)l then I got up there, and got down on my knees like everyone else, and had a frank conversation with Phro (I’d like to call him that like we’re old friends).  I figured he knew what was on my mind (he is a god after all), so I kept it short and sweet but with all heart.  After I was done praying and being the rookie that I am to praying, while sticking the incense where everyone else put it, of course I burned myself on some other incense (what’s a little more pain?), and lit the candle but then couldn’t get it to stick where everyone else put it so I just stuck it with the incense (though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to do that).  Clearly, I’m not good at this prayer stuff so I fumbled through it.  I like to think that all that matters is what’s in your heart and I had good intentions.

I go back to my room and check my emails and I see an email from Tony that was sent at nearly the exact same time I was praying saying that he had found out that my mom was alive and has a new address.  On Monday, we’re supposed to go and see her along with the three siblings I have though I always thought that I had two… so it looks like I have a very big, emotional reunion in front of me.  Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the email and prayer occurred at nearly the same time as it was inevitable that Tony was going to get back to me at some point with some sort of news, or perhaps the universe liked that I threw a little of myself out there.  It had been sending me signs all this time and it was time to send one back.


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