My father and I met-up a couple of weeks ago to celebrate his birthday, and for finally passing his examination! He wanted to go someplace low-key — just somewhere we could have a good meal and hangout. We settled on a modest little spot in our usual area, and both ordered our comfort foods. I went for a bowl of tofu stew (“soon du bu jigae”), and my father ordered spicy cold noodles (“bibim guksu”).
Eating Korean food always has a way of reminding me of my childhood, and parents in particular. The spices are so familiar to me, yet I rarely find myself ordering or making the dishes I grew up on. Part of the reason was because it made me feel homesick during the years after I had runaway from “home.” And my husband knows to this day, that when I go out to order Korean food, it either means I’m feeling really sick or missing my parents.
It had been years since I had this specific stew in the presence of my father. And it took nearly half an hour to eat it because it was so hot! I could tell he was amused watching me struggle in consuming this boiling hot stew, while he slurped his cold noodles down in less than ten minutes.
“Too hot to eat, huh?” he said.
I laughed out loud and nodded. He was right, I should have ordered the noodles with him. As we shared our lunch, he asked about school and how things were going. I admitted that it’s been a struggle staying balanced with law school, family, work, and making sure we’re paying the bills. The decision to leave my full-time job and transition into the full-time law program has certainly added some strains, but I know we’re almost there.
I think he must have sensed something was up, because he asked what I had planned to do after I graduate. I told him the truth, “I don’t know.” What I do know is that I trust things will work out the way they’re supposed to! He seemed pretty satisfied with that answer. I switched the topic to his plans. He still plans to start driving, but wants to take some time to decompress and relax. A part of me wishes that I could go out and buy him a used car to start driving right now. I know timing is everything, so I’m letting things unfold the way it has with us. Maybe after I graduate and start working again.
A lot of the time we share together is filled with quiet, and I appreciate that. I’m sure someone looking in from the outside may find it odd that we’ll just sit in one spot for half an hour, and intermittently glance over at each other and share a few thoughts, then go back to gazing at the scene in front of us. It must be a “photographer thing,” where we feel most comfortable blending in and letting things happen without our influence. Our time together is almost meditative… quiet and lovely.
He isn’t rushing anywhere in life right at this moment, and neither am I. It’s intriguing how much we are alike and different at the same time. We generally initiate conversations by saying whatever random thought is in our heads.
“Dad, remember when I told you that I started paddling? I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I thought about you in every race towards the finish line. I thought about where you were, what it felt like to be there with you, and I took that and used it to push past my physical pain towards the finish line.”
My father was quiet for a minute or two, and then he nodded and said, “But now you don’t need to think about that pain. Now you can just make a goal, and work towards that goal, and do it. You look to the future now, not back.”
It meant so much for me to hear this when I did — he was right, it’s time to look forward. We are looking forward separately and together. I’ve thought a lot about what he said to me about looking forward in my life in the past weeks. There is still so much that I want to do and accomplish in this lifetime, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to grow from the experiences I’ve had with him and on my own.
I feel like it’s time to share my story beyond what I’ve written in this blog and what is already “out there.” A part of me has always felt the pull to do that, but it requires that I look back in order to keep moving forward. It requires that I dig deeper, to open my heart, and sit in my own vulnerability to write the full story. I’ve tried to do that before and it was really depressing. I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life learning how to separate myself from the dysfunction of my childhood, and to move past it so that I could be the person I am today. It’s something I’ve struggled with more recently, especially since my experiences with my father have become so public. I felt like I had moved past it all, until he came back into my life just a couple of years ago. I realized there was so much more emotion and feeling underneath this protective shell I’ve grown over the years.
I’m still trying to find that balance, but the focus right now is to continue growing with my father and devoting more time and energy into my family overall. And of course, I continue to reach out to my friends on the streets and have community talks and conferences planned. I feel as if I’m on the cusp of a new chapter, and I’m grateful for all of the experiences I’ve shared with my friends, my family, and from people who have reached out near and far.
So with that, I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours. I am so thankful for the life I have, that he has, that we all have today. I’m grateful for my good health, and the ability to keep sharing and connecting with all of you. As I continue discovering who my father is, I’m learning who I am as well. Thank you for following along. Sending you a big embrace this holiday season. 🙂