Mr. Lee used to be my parents’ driver when they lived in Korea. He has since become the editor of a monthly publication put out by the university. With his degree in Korean literature, it’s a position he’s well suited for. But then again, he could probably do any job well. While we’ve been here, he’s resumed his former role as my parents’ driver and my mother’s perfect child/best friend/right-hand man. While my sister and I stumble and bumble around like a couple of useless, non-Korean-speaking oafs, he magically smooths the way for us. When we go to restaurants he orders all of her favorite foods and a pair of the wooden chopsticks she prefers to use over the metal ones that are usually given. He leaps out of his seat and rushes over to open my mother’s door and discretely, solicitously helps her out of her own seat. He knows exactly what my mother wants before she even knows it herself.
The last time we visited my parents when they were still living in Korea, my mother was so sick, she spent most of her days in bed. I remember visiting her at her apartment one day and when she opened her door, she noticed a row of those large water bottles that are used in office water coolers lined up in the hallway. My parents had a water cooler in their apartment and they always used the excellent water from my grandfather’s mountain that would periodically be brought back to Seoul.
“Oh my goodness,” she murmured, “I just mentioned this morning that I was going to need more water soon, and he must have gone right away and brought it back while I was sleeping.”
So…just because my mother mentioned in passing that she was eventually going to run out of water, Mr. Lee immediately got into the car and drove FOUR hours to get her water so she wouldn’t have to worry about running out.
In short, Mr. Lee is an effortlessly perfect human being. We have yet to find a single fault in him, though believe me, my Harpy sister and I have tried.
Another woman, a former student of my dad’s who is now a professor at the university, has been meeting us whenever we’ve had occasion to go there. She too is effortlessly perfect. She is slim, elegant, and beautiful. She is perfectly dressed, perfectly coiffed, perfectly gracious. She speaks in beautiful modulated tones. She welcomes us with sliced fruit, coffee, and tea. She insists on pulling a tiny rickety stool out of another office to perch upon, while the rest of us sprawl like enormous beached whales on the comfy armchairs in my dad’s former office. (It’s been left vacant, with his name still on the door)!
After a day or two of being driven around and hosted by the perfect Mr. Lee and the perfect Dr. Yoo, my sister jokingly said to my mother, “I bet you’re sad that your daughters are lumpy and stupid and not perfect like Mr. Lee and Dr. Yoo.”
“Ah well,” she replied as we walked along…without even cracking a smile, “Come on, Lumpy. Come on, Stupid. Let’s go have dinner.”
Next: Lumpy and Stupid visit the country.