Not too long ago I was given an image of my grandmother. one that just may stay with me forever. my mother and aunt, reunited for the first time in nearly thirty years, sat me down in a cozy living room in Gilroy, California and proceeded to tell me stories of my halmony. I sat beside my aunt on her all-too american big comfortable couch and watched my mother twirl like a young girl as she sat in a chair in the middle of the living room.
i knew some things about my grandmother. like, she used to wear ballet slippers and cardigans, a trait I am proud to say i posses myself. and she was unbelievably punctual, a trait I will probably never posses. and she was perfect. she was educated, Martha-Steward domestic, and beautiful. With a porcelain face and a petite dancers frame, she dressed in pearls, poodle skirts, hanboks, and beautiful shoes. She could prepare your hearts desire from scratch, sushi, bulgogi, pastries, bi bim bop, and cakes. And she believed in the arts. When my mother showed the slightest interest in dance, my grandmother immediately enrolled her in private lessons with one of Korea’s most celebrated dancers and landed her a position in an art school in Seoul.
But where there is such brilliant light, there is always sadness. My grandfather, brilliant, charming, handsome, and kind worked out of the country most of his time for his engineering job. When my grandmother got sick, later discovered to be Cancer, she spent most of her time with the kids, alone. When the she made their bento boxes and they went off to school she would climb on a rock, to get a view of the river to wait for my grandfather. He’d stop in every so often, buying more medicine and checking on the children, but he never stayed. And when he was gone, as the children would take the walk back to their home, they would see their mother, a lone figure, waiting, yearning for her husband. It’s not that he didn’t love her, not at all. This was a woman he left his arranged marriage for. They weren’t just married, they were lovers. They’d dance to Frank Senatra in the living room after they put the children to bed. He’d surprise her with wonderful gifts and outings to see movies and just about anything to make her smile. But, when she was sick, he, well, he lost. He was lost, maybe, depressed beyond belief. He didn’t understand that she was going to die. Or maybe he did. Maybe he just couldn’t stand the pain. Whatever it was, my grandmother had faith he would be there, and though he always came back, he wasn’t there when it mattered. And because she passed on a day traditionally thought to be bad luck, none of her friends came to her funeral either. It was her children, Kyong, Miae, Hung, Sung and Moon in the cold Korean winter who alone mourned her. This swan, this muse, expected the most of the world on that rock, waiting.
i HAVE to tell her story.