Countdown to V-Day, Pt. 5

Love can save your life.

50th Anniversary

(first posted on February 25, 2013)

weddingI turned eighteen shortly after starting my first year in college. I was shocked when I found a birthday card from my father in my mailbox. My parents have never been ones to mark occasions that most people celebrate. Had I woken up in an alternate universe? Could I be hallucinating? I was reassured that all was as it should be when I pulled out the card. It contained no message and was signed “Rev. David H. Kim.” My dad’s secretary was keeping track of birthdays and sending out cards from a pre-signed stack to everyone in his congregation.

I can’t remember a single time my dad ever bought my mom chocolate for Valentine’s Day or flowers for their wedding anniversary. The words “I love you” have never, not once, either on purpose or by accident, ever fallen from my father’s lips. It’s not that he doesn’t feel genuine love. He worships my mother. His children and grandchildren know that he loves them deeply. It’s outward, obvious expressions of love that make him distinctly uncomfortable.

Almost five years ago, my mother was diagnosed with primary amyloidosis. The prognosis was dire. The doctors told her she had eighteen months to live. My sister managed to get her into a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. My parents were living in Korea at the time, but returned to the States so that my mother could get treated. My father left her in my sister’s care and returned to Korea to finish out his work obligations, intending to return as soon as the semester was over.

The aggressive, experimental chemotherapy regimen knocked my mother’s disease into remission, but not before it nearly killed her. One day, she was exhausted and suffering and ready to give up the fight. She called my father to say goodbye. She didn’t think she would ever see him again.

My dad told her that she had to hold on. He told her that he wanted to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary together. I know the chemotherapy drugs did their part, but I also know without a doubt that what pulled my mom back from the brink were my father’s words. My sister reported that the phone call was a turning point. When my mother hung up the phone, she had resolved to live. She began to force herself to eat and to force herself to get up out of bed and walk around. My dad’s love saved her.

Yesterday when I mentioned that it would be their 50th wedding anniversary on Sunday, both my mother and father seemed to have forgotten all about it. My mother said, “Oh, really? No, I think it’s already passed.” I had to pull out a calendar to show her that Sunday really would be their 50th wedding anniversary. My siblings and I have long been planning a huge party that will take place this summer, but today I want to mark their golden anniversary with these words. I have never once seen my parents kiss or hug each other. I have never once heard them exchange the words “I love you.” But they have always shown me what a true partnership looks like and what true love is. My parents don’t read this blog and they’ll probably never see these words, but just as they have never had to actually say “I love you,” I think they know the words in my heart.IMG_1952


The “Golden” Finale!

Here’s the last half of the slideshow my sister and I put together for my parents’ Golden Anniversary party:

Each of carries within us a piece from past generations: an aptitude, a special talent, a twinkle in the eye, a smile.

Fortitude. Courage. Conviction. Cheekbones!

Intelligence. Creativity, Vision.

And as the next generation grows up, we are thankful for the many gifts and lessons passed down from our parents.

I discovered this in my second grader’s desk at Back to School Night this past year. I was so very proud.

Ummm…we’re still working on that one.

I’m quite convinced that my mother could whip up a teleportation device, if given a handful of paper clips, some tinfoil, and maybe a few coat hangers…

Snappy dressing? Let’s just say it’s a family tradition

“What’s that, Mom? You want me to pick up the money, do you? Hah! Here’s what I think of your money. I’m picking the pen, so you better start saving up…I’m planning on grad school!”

We sometimes disagree. Correction. We frequently disagree. Correction. We always disagree.

But we sometimes, frequently, and always kiss and make up.

And yes:

It must be genetic.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us 50 memorable years filled with love and joy. We love you.

Wishing each and every one of you a beautiful weekend. 

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Golden, Pt. 2

IMG_4682All the grandchildren performed for their grandparents’ 50th anniversary party. My sister explained why…

Many years ago we had a family reunion with all my aunts and uncles and their families in San Francisco. The granchildren gave performances every evening in honor of my grandparents, who had flown all the way from Korea to be with their sons and daughters. My cousins are an accomplished lot, and like most Korean children, they were given music lessons from the moment they became zygotes. In nightly talent shows our cousins would perform for my grandparents. One cousin played alto sax like Charlie Parker. His sister played Chopin études with a sensitivity and understanding that belied her youth. Cousin after cousin displayed their brilliance at the piano. The youngest cousin, a mere toddler at the time, sang a lovely song with admirable poise and considerable charm.

My siblings and I were the only ones who were apparently devoid of any talent. As my sister explained, she and my other sister had in fact received piano instruction when they were little girls. They received exactly one lesson before they were fired by their teacher, who proclaimed it a hopeless cause. That teacher was our mother.

So at the family reunion, night after night my siblings and I sat, politely clapping for our cousins as they gave one virtuoso performance after another. One night, some of the cousins pushed my brother Teddy forward. Finally, our family’s talent was going to be showcased for our venerable grandparents! All week Teddy had been regaling the cousins with Eddie Murphy routines. Now, Teddy gamely stood up and performed a completely inappropriate routine for my grandparents. While I can’t remember the exact details, I’m sure there were penises involved. My grandparents probably didn’t understand a word he was saying, but tears were rolling down their cheeks as they laughed hysterically.

We were so very proud.

My siblings and I may never have had any talent, but our kids did their best to redeem us:

For the finale, the kids performed In My Life, by the Beatles. My son had arranged a version for the three of them to play and he had cracked the whip like a martinet all month long trying to get them to do it right…

We were all glad when that was over and it was time for cake!

Tomorrow: Teddy’s speech and Sibling Love

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