Year 3 without my Dad

Tuesday, August 27, 2013




I'm coming up on the third anniversary of my dad's death.  As grief tends to come in waves, I'm feeling the tide rise as we approach his death anniversary.   This year, the grief is manifesting itself a little differently.

I have started to show Sisi a box of pictures of my dad, and told her that is her OG (Other Grandpa). She studies the pictures carfeull, and when she is done looking at them, she says, "Bye bye, Other Grandpa!"  She will never know this man who took his life while she was still in my belly, and that makes me sad.  I know for a fact he would have adored Sisi.  He would also be thrilled that she has a bit of Asian look to her (I remember him being bummed that our kids probably wouldn't look at all Korean.)  She looks so much like him in this picture on the left...



I've become obsessed with North Korea after watching all the NK documentaries I could find on Netflix.   For several weeks, I could barely function as I mourned over North Korean concentration camps and widespread starvation.   What does this have to do with my dad?  Well, my dad was actually born in North Korea.  He escaped by foot to South Korea in 1951 when he was just 4 years old.  Piggyback on his older brother, with his mouth taped shut so he would not cry out.  Not all of his family survived this crossing. The first of many tragedies to befall his family.

My dad was so lucky to escape when he did. He got to come to America, and met my mom, and had 3 kids.  It begs the question, why didn't he make the most of his freedom?  Why could he not wake up everyday and say, "At least I'm not in North Korea anymore!"  But I'm realizing,  just because he physically left that situation doesn't mean he didn't bear the scars.  To a depressed person, anywhere and any situation can feel like Hell.

In grieving over North Korea, my therapist believes I'm grieving over my Dad.  Also, supposedly when you turn 30, it's pretty common to go in search of your heritage.  I guess the 20's are a little bit of a self-centered decade (understandably), but the 30's is one of looking back and seeing your own life in it's bigger context.  So I guess my North Korea obsession isn't that crazy.

Lastly, I've been decluttering to the max.  In one week, I sold or gave away about 40% of my possessions.  I'm also downgrading to a "dumb" phone, and completely getting rid of our home office and everything in it to make way for one more baby (not yet!  but hopefully soon!)  At first I didn't see the connection between decluttering and my Dad, but now it's quite clear. He had delusions of striking it rich, and living that materialistic American dream, but that never happened for him.  He was always comparing himself to his more successful friends.  It seemed like material things could make him happy, but just for a short time.  He was always whispering in my ear that I should become something prestigious like a doctor or lawyer. He even hinted how disappointed he was that I squandered my Berkeley degree to become a florist.  Fortunately, I never let his pressures direct my life. In fact, I hope I'm taking the opposite route.  So anyway, in regards to the decluttering, I'm asking myself, "What will my legacy be? Will Sisi inherit mountains of clutter and shoes and knick knacks, or just the things I really cherish?" With that thought in mind, I've purged anything that I don't use often, and have a renewed sense of appreciation for what we have left. Hopefully I can raise Sisi to be much more than a consumer.  

On the anniversary of my Dad's death, you'll find me eating at this super good Korean BBQ in Irvine. I am so sad that my dad will never know the joy of 20.00 all you can eat Korean BBQ where you have exactly 2 hours to eat all the meat you can devour.  In obedience to him, who always instructed us to go buck wild at buffets, I always eat so much that the waiters start giving me annoyed looks when I exclaim, "I'm just not full yet! Keep it coming!"

Hopefully this post isn't too ranty or random.  Just me trying to process his life and death, which will probably remain somewhat of a mystery to me for as long as I live.

3 comments:

Angel @ loveandsplendor.com/blog August 28, 2013 at 2:02 PM  

I love that bottom photograph -- how cute is your Mom in that dress and your dad in that suit?? You know I love you so much!! Sending you lots of hugs during this rough time of the year. I loved this post, despite the tough subject matter, because it gave me another glimpse of your heart. I love that even after 12ish years of friendship, I'm still learning more about you! xoxo

Freckles Chick August 29, 2013 at 10:14 AM  

I had no idea the circumstances surrounding his passing. I'm so very sorry, friend. My dad & I aren't close (he's always been a Tiger Dad & to this day my self-esteem is still recovering) & life hasn't been kind to him. I totally understand that dynamic.

Sending you much love. This was so beautifully written. And how cute is that last pic?! You look a lot like your mom to me!

Rachel August 30, 2013 at 12:18 PM  

Oh, Kris. My heart hurts for you, but this is such a touching tribute and I'm so impressed with the way in which you continue to explore these emotions and consider your reactions to them. I'm so sorry that Sisi will never know your father, but I know that you'll make his memory a presence in her life. Huge hugs to you.

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