The afternoon after I wrote my last post, I got home from work and I went into the backyard with the dog for some routine ball time. In between throws, I scoured the ground and all the numerous patches of clover, looking for a four-leaf clover. I know that at my old house, the backyard was rife with four-leafers, but it never took away from the happiness from finding one, with the hopes that somewhere in the world, the magic of the luck of a four-leaf clover could be cashed in, in some capacity. And given the intensive dread that existed at that time concerning my family, I felt really, really hopeful that I could find just one more four-leaf clover in my new backyard.
I couldn’t. Even after nearly 45 minutes of looking for a four-leaf clover, there were none to be found in my new house. Even the dog was tired of running for the ball at that point. There simply wasn’t one that I could find.
But it’s not that it would have mattered anyways. About an hour or so later, I received a phone call from my sister, who let me know that her husband, my brother-in-law and father to my niece and nephew had passed away two hours earlier, well before I had begun my search for a four-leaf clover.
Even now, I replay the conversation in my head, and it brings tears to my eyes every time, hearing details of his last moments, and how he seemingly held on just long enough for his kids to make it to the hospital so he could say goodbye to them. It’s difficult to even type out these words and keep my composure, thinking about it.
The thing is, all this happened right on the day in which my vacation was starting. My first flight out was just hours away after getting off the phone with my sister, and I felt trapped in this unwinnable bubble that whatever I did was going to be the wrong decision. Despite the fact that my sister insisted that I go anyway and try to have the best time I could given the circumstances, I still felt like an asshole embarking on an international vacation when someone important to my family had just died. Sure, I know my sister, and I knew my brother-in-law well enough to know that they’d both have wanted me to go, but it still didn’t entirely feel right.
On the flip side, it wouldn’t have been fair to my girlfriend to slam the brakes on our vacation, at five past the twelfth hour; this was a trip that had been planned for a very long time, and although I could probably get whatever documentation necessary to negate my cancelation costs, her not being of relation most certainly wouldn’t, and it’s definitely not fair to penalize her for my family’s affairs. Plus, she has a far more stringent vacation schedule than I do, and it’s not like we could re-schedule with ease, regardless of the monetary part.
Ultimately, we went on the vacation. Despite the fact that in my quiet moments alone, thoughts for my family flooded my head, and filled me with a myriad of conflicting emotions, it was still a positive trip, and it was good experience getting to take mythical gf to Seoul, and see a little bit more of the city mostly through her eyes and expectations. I learned more about the city on the trip, as well as getting to be there in a different season, as opposed to being there at the tail end of the summer and early onset of fall last year, so it was actually really, really cold while we were there, and if not for the preparation we made for it with caps, scarves, gloves and winter coats, we would’ve been in for a rude awakening.
Not to go unmentioned was our brief trip to Manila in the Philippines, which saw us going from an average temperature of 35F in Seoul, to like an average temperature of 88F. A misadventure where I left my phone in an Uber tarnished the trip, but was miraculously saved, when through some pulling teeth, the Uber driver actually emerged to return the phone to my hotel. But Manila was still an interesting trip which I feel like I really got to see a new experience of a country that is pretty different than lots of places I’ve explored in the past.
Most notably, I’m convinced the Philippines is the country that the internet seems to have forgotten; aside from the dramatic difference in temperatures, going from Korea to the Philippines, the same stark differences could be said about the speed of the internet. It was difficult going from fast and reliable internet and mobile data speeds in Seoul, to the sparse and nearly non-existent service in Manila, which is one of the more metropolitan and advanced cities in the Philippines. It didn’t really help when I was scrambling to try and figure out how to get my phone back, but fortunately it all still worked out in the end.
Overall, I do feel that the trip went well, and mythical gf and I succeeded in enjoying Seoul and briefly experiencing the Philippines. I feel that I got over jet lag fairly quickly, and by the trip’s end, managed to feel somewhat relaxed, and by now, on my deliberately scheduled recovery day, I feel pretty decent, physically.
But given the circumstances of what happened right before and while I was away, I think I’m always going to be left with some questions on wondering if I did the right thing. In one hand, I feel like I should have been with my family in this tragedy, but in the other hand, it’s not always about just me and it would be unfair to mythical gf for her to have to forfeit so much on my behalf.
I guess that’s the thing about situations like this, they’re a microcosm of how life simply just doesn’t work out for everyone, all the time. It ain’t fair, but that’s just the way thing are sometimes.