From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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The Surgery

For those who are wondering why I haven’t updated my blog in ages, I haven’t retired from blogging. I was away for nine months, trying to start a new life in the Philippines with my husband.

Our plan was to stay in my home country for a year and focus on expanding our small business, but sometimes life has its own course. No matter how hard you plan, you can never be certain of what the future holds. We did not push through with our second business venture, but we chose to stay a bit longer to make the most out of our long vacation.

During our stay in the Philippines, many unexpected things happened, both good and bad, but none as terrifying as that day when my brother-in-law and I rushed my husband to the emergency room because of severe stomach pain. Three days after he was admitted to the hospital, he was being prepped for surgery, while I was making a long-distance phone call to Korea to inform my husband’s twin brother of his condition, and explaining to my furious father-in-law why his son was having a major surgery in the Philippines.

His family wanted him to go back to Korea as soon as possible and have the surgery done in Korea, but he could not travel because of his condition. He could barely walk, sit or stand, because he was in agonizing pain. As days went on, he said the pain was getting worse and the painkillers didn’t seem to work. The series of tests came back normal, except for the CT scan, so when the doctor brought up surgery again, my husband and I decided that we could not waste more time. The day he had the surgery was when the real ordeal began.

1The four-hour wait outside the operating room was the longest and scariest moment of my life. I was called twice by the doctor, and each time, I felt like dying. The doctor said that there was a bigger problem. It wasn’t just appendicitis. It was more serious than that. The procedure wasn’t going to be just like any other appendectomy. With my permission, he needed to make a longer incision to get rid of the bile that spread in my husband’s abdomen. I saw my husband while he was lying on the operating table, and all I wanted to do then was to take his place. I saw the bile, the culprit that caused him so much pain, to the point that he was screaming and jumping out of bed in the emergency room. I have never seen my husband so helpless. I have never seen him at his weakest. I didn’t know what to do or how to help him, and that was the worst part of seeing him like that. I held out my hand to him, and he kept squeezing it so hard that it felt like my fingers would break. That hurt, a lot, but I didn’t let go… just like those times he didn’t let go of me when I was the one who was sick.

“Do what you need to do… just save him, please,” I remember telling the doctor before my tears began to well up. I couldn’t stop crying. I appreciate the nurse who tried to console me as she was leading me out of the OR, and one of the maintenance staff who gave me a chair to sit on when she saw me sobbing in the hallway. Soon, my sister arrived with her husband. She pulled me close in an embrace and cried with me. I was grateful for their presence, for the comfort and encouragement, but deep inside, it felt as if my husband and I were alone, nobody there but the two of us, just us… facing another uphill battle.

My husband would often joke about being “Superman”. He said nothing and no one can break him, because he is strong. I would laugh at him and even tease him, but while I was waiting for him to come out of surgery, I kept telling myself, “My husband is a ‘Superman’. He will make it through.”

The second time I was called to go to the OR, I didn’t know what to think anymore. As I was being instructed by the nurse to wear a hospital gown and a mask, I remember praying, just praying that nothing went wrong with the surgery, and that my husband will wake up in the morning, smiling, feeling better. I was trembling as I was making my way to the operating room. I must have asked the nurse a hundred times how my husband was, but now that I think about it, I can’t recall how she responded. I was relieved when the doctor said that my husband was stable, but the relief lasted only a little while. He explained that my husband was not out of danger yet, because the bile had spread into his lower back and it would be too risky to try to surgically remove them, too. The only way to remove the remaining bile would be through surgical drains. My husband had two surgical drains inserted into his body. When we went back to Korea, those surgical drains were still attached to him. We needed special permission for him to board the plane with those grenade-looking surgical drains.

When the surgery was over, family and friends came and waited with me. They filled the room with love and hope, and I thank them for that. When my husband was brought back to his room, it was as if a ton of bricks has been lifted off of my shoulders. I have never been so happy to see him.

I didn’t sleep until morning. I spent most of the night at his bedside, watching my husband’s favorite cartoons on Cable TV or reading verses from the Bible, something that I stopped doing since I came to the Philippines. I realized that I had been too busy doing less important things than opening my Bible. I read Psalms 23 to him. He opened his eyes and lifted his hand to touch my face.

Not seeing my husband smile for days was like not seeing him smile for years, so when he woke up in the morning after surgery and smiled at me, I was jubilant. After asking how he was feeling, I told him about the surgery and what the doctors said; about family and friends who visited, and the phone calls I made to Korea. He warned me not to tell his parents that he was going to have a surgery, but I felt that they needed to know. My husband listened to every word I said, and many times he held my hand or my face without saying a word. I asked him if I was talking too much. Maybe he wanted to go back to sleep. “Keep talking,” he said, “I like to hear your voice.”

For two days, my husband could not do anything by himself. That must be quite frustrating for a man who loves his independence. Helping him sit up or walk to the bathroom was never a task for me. It was done out of affection and dedication that I have vowed to give him “for better or for worse” when I walked down the aisle to be his wife. I know that if I had been in the same position, he would do the same thing for me… tirelessly, lovingly… because that is what people who deeply love each other do. They stand by each other. They cry for each other. They get through everything together, and when it’s all over, they become stronger, better.

The doctors advised my husband to stay in the hospital until he has fully recovered or wait until the surgical drains could be pulled out, but he was in a hurry to be back home. We told the doctors that the flight to Korea was going to take only four hours, and he didn’t have to stand or walk at the airport. He could stay in a wheelchair. The airlines could give him a priority seat and provide us assistance from Clark to Incheon Airport . The doctors agreed to release him as long as he could move without much pain from the surgery, sit comfortably and walk with little assistance, which he all managed to do in three days. He had such determination that I have never seen before.

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There was a joke among the female nurses. They said they realized how handsome my husband is only after the surgery, because finally they saw him smile. The doctors were moved by the love and concern they have witnessed between a Korean and his Filipino family: “You are very lucky. Many people here love you,” one of the doctors told my husband on his last day at the hospital, “Your wife cried a lot. Everyone was worried about you .” How I wish my husband’s parents had seen the love and support that was given to him during that time.

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The Dates

THE “USUAL” DATES

15215_630777316936949_1453355116_nIt’s been a long time since my husband asked me out on a date. Sure we go out every now and then. After work, he’d sometimes call or text me to ask if, what or where I want to eat; he’d pick me up from the house or we’d meet some place. On Sunday, we usually go out for lunch or dinner, or order pizza and chicken for take-out while we watch scary movies on our computer. When we want to chill out, we go to our favorite bar and have some cocktails.

We often go out, but “going out” has become so common that we don’t really call them dates. Of course, we still enjoy each other’s company, and when we are together, we are the same “sweet” couple that we were before we tied the knot (except when I complain about how pricey the cocktail is or how terrible the pasta tastes, and hubby takes it as a form of nagging… but, well, these are completely different stories, which RARELY happen now, so forget that I mentioned them).

THE DATE I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO 

couplewcherryb001This morning, while he was getting ready for work and I was fixing him coffee, he asked me if I can wake up early on Sunday. We always wake up late on the weekend, so I figured he has a plan to go somewhere this Sunday.

“Can you wake up at 8?”

“If I have to. Why?”

“We are going somewhere.”

“Where are we going?”

“On a date.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

Yes… but you have to wake up early.”

“I will, I will.” I was beaming and clapping with glee and excitement, not merely because my husband told me that we are going somewhere on Sunday, but mostly because he called it a date.

THE FIRST DATE

What’s so exciting about a date, you may ask?

6120_101222433225776_92967_nBack when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, my husband would not call our dates “DATES”. The moments we spent together, the memories, the conversations we had during those not-so “datish” dates were all beautiful… fantastic… magical, but us going out became so natural from the time I lost a deal with him and I had to buy him a beer and squid balls that we didn’t think we were dating every time we went out. We weren’t in a relationship “yet” when I lost the deal. We weren’t friends either. He’s three years older than me, and according to Korean culture, people who don’t belong to the same age bracket can’t be friends. I didn’t even know what we were that time, other than “he’s my tutee and I’m his teacher, and when he gets tired of our lessons, we go out for some drinks or watch a movie instead”.

Suddenly, he called me one day and asked if I had any plans on Saturday. I didn’t have any plans, so when he suggested we try the new coffee shop in our subdivision, I said, “Yes”. For the first time, there were butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous, confused, but at the same time, happy that it wasn’t just another after-class session. We were going out on a weekend, and that was something.

I never cared whether or not there was “something”. I used to care more about what he learned from me. I am a very dedicated teacher, after all.

However, as Saturday was coming, I became miserable, wrestling with my subconscious thoughts, thinking whether or not there really was something or if I did the right thing when I accepted his invitation to go out with him on the weekend when I could go shopping with my girl friends. “Should I go out with him? Is it a date? It must be a date. What if I think it is, and he thinks it’s not? What if I bring a book, and I ask him to bring his electronic dictionary and his notebook, so none of us assumes it’s a date? No, silly! It’s a date. It’s a date, okay? You are not to be his teacher on Saturday. You are his date… and you should look your best.”

Alas! Saturday came. I slept all morning and when I woke up, I started rummaging through my closet to find the right dress to wear for the evening. Was I excited? You tell me. I spent hours getting ready for the date or “whatever” it was. 

couple2An hour before our engagement, he called to say he was ready. I thought that he would be waiting for me at the coffee shop, but I was surprised to see him outside my house, waiting in the car. He must have waited there for a long time, but he was smiling and his eyes had that gentle, entrancing look as he was telling me that I made him wait too long. Every time I was late for our class, he would look at the clock and make a face, but not that night. I could smell his aftershave when I sat next to him. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to look my best. He did a lot of prepping up, too. He looked different, very handsome in fact. He had a hair cut and his hair was nicely gelled. I used to see him in round neck T-shirt and shorts every time I went to his house for our class, but on our first “official” date, he was clad in white collared semi-fitted shirt and blue jeans that I was certain he had not worn for days. In the car, we were quiet, but we always had something to talk about. That night, it was as if we were both at a loss for words. (Avril Lavigne‘s “Complicated” suddenly comes to mind. ^^)

Finally, we were at the coffee shop. We didn’t need a car to get there. The coffee shop is just a few blocks away from my house. We could have just walked. I knew he was trying to impress me. Besides the car, the after-shave, the gelled hair and the new look, he was being extra nice to me. He was more amiable, and he didn’t tease me at all. He used to kid around and say things that made me want to punch him in the face so hard, but that night, he told me only good things, not flattery, “happy” things, “real” things… and I think that’s when I saw him differently… and I began to like him more. (MYMP‘s “A Little Bit” is playing in my head at the moment.)

We were just getting started. The waitress handed us the menu, and we were going to have pasta, but crap, the phone… his phone rang!

540467_461004223914260_1972193959_nHis friend probably needed the car he borrowed PRONTO that he had to leave in a couple of minutes, so we decided to order drinks instead.

Until now, I don’t know why he borrowed that car… or why he kept saying, “This isn’t my plan. Sorry, this isn’t my plan.” (I wonder what his plan was. I asked him while I was writing this post, but he said he can’t remember. We spent a few minutes reminiscing our dates, though. ^^♡)

It could have been a magnificent first date, if that’s what it was, but well, there had been many wonderful dates after that, and I’m sure there will be more. It doesn’t matter if we think of them as dates or not. What’s important is that we enjoy “being together” and we build great memories out of them.