My Halmoni and Sachon

For those of you who don’t know, my grandmother has been part of my life from a very young age.  When I was born, my grandmother came over from Korea –almost 26 years ago.  My father always traveled for work when I was younger and my mother worked long hours in her store (and still does).  Growing up, I spent more time with my grandmother than either of them.  It is a bit of an amazing relationship that we have.  My Korean vocabulary is quite limited and her English is as well.  However, if I ever needed something, she knew exactly what it was.  If I was ever feeling down or bothered by something, she could tell and always knew a way to put me at ease.  Unfortunately, when growing up, I just never really showed appreciation.  Especially in my much younger years I was quite the brat. 

But, of course, with age I have come to appreciate my grandmother so much.  I think the first time I ever really thought – and I mean really thought – about this is when my mother told me that my grandmother would be returning to Korea.  It was like a switch was turned on immediately.  Something clicked inside my head and then it hit me – my grandmother, who had been there for me every day of my life, was leaving me.  I got to meet one of my cousins from Korea for the first time.  She was incredibly nice and I remember her being very pretty.  Definitely the same genetics as my mother.  I didn’t get to spend much time with them before they left since my mother sprung it on me as she usually does.  When my grandmother left, it was like a piece of me was gone.  No longer when I came home was it the same.  But I know it was something that was going to make my grandmother happy – to be with her other family, and that I must share her and cherish the time we had together. 

Luckily for me, my grandmother returned.  Not even a year later, she came back to be with us again.  Everything was great again.  However, I was now busy with a new job back in Virginia (I was in West Virginia right after college).  I worked all the time and was living on my own in Richmond.  I didn’t come home that often and while I never spent large amounts of time with my grandmother, it never meant that I didn’t appreciate it.  I always looked forward to seeing her again.  I always think about my grandmother; praying for her health, happiness and the next time I will get to see her.  And I know that while our communication abilities are still limited by conventional means, we still understand each other better than most people could only hope.

This bring me to now.  My grandmother is going back to Korea … for good.  I always had a feeling like this time would come.  And for the past several months, my parents had been telling me she would be returning to Korea but never gave me a definite time.  Recently, they informed me that my cousin from Korea would be in the US sightseeing and would accompany my grandmother back to Korea.  However, this time, it would be Da-Jeong, the younger sister of the cousin who came several years ago to take my grandmother to Korea.  I was to pick Da-Jeong up from Annandale and bring her down to my parents’ place. 

I really didn’t know what to expect from my cousin.  To be honest, I didn’t know much about my other cousin but I did know that Da-Jeong would be younger.  I figured this could mean that we would have more in common.  Growing up, I never knew much about my family; on either side.  I knew who my mother and father were.  Where they came from.  I knew my grandmothers on both sides and knew of my grandfather on my father’s side.  I knew that my mom’s dad (my Korean grandfather) had passed away before I was born.  However, I don’t know much other than that.  I met the majority of my Dad’s family when I went to PA for my Grandmother Bell’s funeral.  They are great people and I wish I knew them earlier in my life as well. 

When waiting for my cousin, I had lots running through my head.  Kristin came with me and as we sat in the truck I was nervous.  I didn’t know if she would know English or how much she would know.  I didn’t know if she would be accepting of my piercings, if she would be talkative, or what we would even talk about if she was.  However, I knew that I was meeting a family member.  Someone I feel a connection with without really knowing them.  I knew I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her and get to know her.

Unfortunately, life had other plans.  I recently turned in my notice of resignation at my current place of employment.  While most would think that gives me more time to spend with my visiting, and soon departing, family it meant otherwise for me.  I have been working extra hours to ensure that the project at the client will be left in the best possible state.  I’ve decided to leave my company to start one of my own which is just another stressor and time drain.  Also, one week ago, my father was admitted to the hospital.  He is much better now and seems to be back to normal.  However, we spent the weekend visiting him in the hospital and not really hanging out, getting to know each other. 

I will say that we have spent a little time together.  We did get to have dinner at Lulu’s (my brother and Kristin were with us as well) and then headed over to Havana 59, which is ironically owned by a Korean woman as well.  I wish I could have just quit after two weeks and been able to really spend time with her.  Just a little bit more time.  I would love to show her around Richmond or even to other places in VA. 

Today there was a service at my grandmother’s church with a reception afterward for my grandmother and cousin.  This Korean community has been there for me since I was little.  Many people I haven’t seen since I was younger were there to see my grandmother.  It was a bittersweet moment – all of this for my grandmother; however, it was for my grandmother who was leaving and going halfway around the world from me.  It was beautiful seeing everyone there for her.  Knowing she is loved by so many people and that there are others that will miss her just like I will. 

Now, I am one week away from my grandmother and cousin returning to Korea.  I still haven’t had Da-Jeong over to my new house.  I thought about how I haven’t taken her to Millie’s downtown for the most delicious brunch I’ve ever had.  How she hasn’t seen the Fan or all of the boutique shops in Carytown.  How my cousin hasn’t seen Penny and how Penny hasn’t gotten to see my grandmother in quite some time.  It has always amazed me at how calm Penny is around my grandmother and also how my grandmother seems to really enjoy Penny being around. 

I just don’t want Da-Jeong to think that I don’t want to spend time with her.  I want nothing more than that.  That even though I have only truly known her for just under a month, I care about her greatly; she really seems like a great person.

I just wish there was more time.  More time with my grandmother.  More time with Da-Jeong.  Time to go back and change how I acted toward my grandmother when I was younger; more appreciative of how amazing she is.  I wish I had learned Korean so I could actually ask my grandmother all of the questions that ran through my head.  What does she think about?  Anything and everything about her life in Korea, my family in Korea and my grandfather than I never knew.  If she was happy.  If she misses being in Korea.  I want to know anything she would share and I never want to forget any of it.  I can only hope she won’t forget about me and the knows that I love and care about her tremendously.

I know I haven’t written in this blog in quite some time.  But this is a huge event in my life.  I’ve had an absolute ton of thoughts running through my head and I just felt compelled to write it out.  I hope to be able to visit my grandmother, Da-Jeong and my other family in Korea as soon as I can.  I know next Sunday will be pretty rough.  I’m still not ready for it…

I’m not sure that I ever could or will be. 

할머님을 사랑합니다
(I love you, grandmother)

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