Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wings to Fly — 8

Memoir Index

My Marriage — The Unraveling

When Tom was 10 years old, he received the Lord through his Sunday school teacher. He told me he always fought with his brothers and sisters. He had an unbelievable temper, and it was always him against his siblings. He noticed after his salvation, he did not remember such hostile confrontations… My sisters-in-law confirmed this to me. Soon after this he told God that when he grew up, he would serve Him full time.

When I was 10 years old, I was filled with desire to avert pain for my father and mother. My poor father was constantly trying to earn a living where no earning was found. I made a vow that I would succeed so I could take care of my father. Embedded in me were all of my mother’s woes, all of her hidden anguish of life. I determined that whatever it took, I would make life easier for my mother. Then there was my grandfather’s dream—I would be the daughter in the family to bring kingship back.

Such an irony in life—two children with such conflicting determinations grow up, fall hopelessly in love, and get married.

The first eight years of our marriage was bliss. Tom was a wonderful husband, father, and excelled as an engineer. Oh how I loved being his wife. The only agony for me was that he was tireless in serving our church, after 40 hours of work. It seemed to me he had endless energy in the evenings and weekends to take care of church needs. Yet it was okay even though I was keenly aware of my growing loneliness. I loved the feeling that we were secure; I would never have to experience my parents’ pain. Tom would often forget about his pay checks in his wallet because we could live on half of my paycheck. My dream of fulfilling abundance in life was happening. I longed to be a Christian whose abundance was able to bless God and humanity.

In 1987, my blissful life was shaken to the core. I remember one day Tom came home running. He was so excited. He wanted to take a year off from his job to be immersed in a Bible study program. Up to now whatever we requested of each other was happily consented; I was still living a honeymoon marriage after eight years…I did not know how to answer his request. We had just bought a home, we had 2 car payments, and our children had very busy schedules. In the end I said, “Yes”. He longed for it so much that I could not deny him.

In July of 1987 Tom went to Anaheim, California, for our bi-annual conference lasting ten days. He came home and went to Cleveland for three weeks, which involved serving young people’s summer programs. Thus the year was initiated. All the pain that I had suppressed in the depth of my being resurfaced that year in unbearable agony. The searing loneliness of my childhood that I thought was gone forever when I married Tom resurfaced and was staring me in the face. The pain of abandonment, the sense that I don’t matter, I am being used, he does not care for us, flooded me constantly in his absence. Yet I did not tell him of my inner turmoil. After all, it would be over in a year. Let him have his enjoyment.

In Tom’s absence, I experienced such severe depression that it scared my friend Linda—the only person I confided in. She told me, “You must tell Tom. Your depression will destroy not only you but your children.” Yet how could I tell Tom? Whenever I was with him, somehow everything was OK. So all things were kept in my heart, brewing and growing there—this loneliness blacker than death, desperate unhappiness, fear of him abandoning his family to serve Jesus. I kept telling myself, “Everything will be okay in one year.”

As I experienced this rollercoaster, I started to hate the man I so adored and loved. I determined that at whatever cost I could not afford to love him. During that year, I realized deep in my heart that one day Tom will serve God full time. I felt it was my intense love for him that caused me to suffer; if I didn’t love him, he could do whatever he wanted, and it would not affect me.

As promised, when the program was over Tom went back to work. He came home every evening to find me cooking or being busy with kids. I was no longer the wife who was crazy about him. In one short year he had lost me, and he did not know how to restore our sweet intimacy.

Henna was six years old and Christian was four. They were adorable children. I would watch Tom—oh, he was such a good father. I always thought my children were so fortunate to have a father who loved them so much. I knew how to take care of them, yet the ability to connect with them emotionally eluded me. I knew how to read to them, teach them, help them with school work, and take them to all kinds of lessons and parties. Tom knew how to play with them, discipline them, love them, and connect with them in their soul. He knew how to have fun with them. My love for our children had a very different flavor than Tom’s love for our children.

We continued to be very active with church functions. I attended all the meetings, sister’s tea, prayer meetings, home gatherings, and Sunday meetings. Our church always had many conferences. I opened my home for hospitality. I attended bi-annual Bible trainings. My life was so filled with activities, including taking care of “new ones.” I was falling deep into religious obligations. I had lost my zest for life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wings to Fly — 7

Memoir Index

My Marriage — The Early Years

I am often filled with so much sadness and longing for what I cannot have. I married a most wonderful man who loves me so much. There is so much inner conflict within me. Why is it so hard to accept him as he is? During our 28-year marriage we went through one struggle… his values and my values are at opposite extremes. We compromised at great pain yet I continue to long for what I cannot have.

Tom grew up very different from me. His childhood was full of playing and creativity. He was the fourth of seven children growing up in Connecticut. His father was an engineer who had his company at home… and his mother was… her family was everything… mom. He had woods for a backyard. Neighbors were too far away, so his best friend was his younger sister, Shirley. To me, his childhood seemed like a dreamland. He recalled his younger years as such. It was always Tom and Shirley. Their play consisted of creating an on-going drama with their stuffed animals and dolls. The theme and story would continue for months. He told me of creating a newspaper called The Weakly Weekly when they were in fourth and sixth grade. They were the news collectors, writers, editors, and printers and then they sold the papers for 5c a piece. The paper existed for years. They were so lost in their child’s wonderland. There were so many adventures of carefree childhood, and I would compare that with my sad childhood in the war-torn land of Korea.

Tom and I met during our college years. We were both in the same church, the church in Chicago. Yes that was our name, and we were affiliated with other churches which were named after their city. We were Bible-based, Jesus-loving, Jesus-centered people. Those were wonderful years. Oh the joy of being lost in Christ... Our young people’s gathering was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I saw life bigger than all the struggles of individual beings. I saw life bigger than what I had ever imagined human life could be. In 1974, Tom’s family moved to Chicago. He was tall. I never thought he was handsome, yet I was so attracted to him. His quietness intrigued me. When he played guitar and sang, it absolutely melted my heart. I also observed that many other young girls in our gathering had a “crush” on him. I thought it is better not to consider him. I refused to be in a one-sided love affair. Also at that time I was the only Korean in the gathering. With so many American girls trying to get his attention, I could not possibly be one of the contenders.

We were married in 1979. I was the happiest young woman on earth. I met the most wonderful man there could ever be. He loved me so much. And I could not imagine a day without Tom. I was a pharmacist and he was an engineer like his dad. In this new life I saw my future. I knew how to conserve and accumulate our earnings. I saw that in a few years, we could buy one property, then another in a couple of years. I saw that by the time we were 50, we would have a small empire of estates. I would fulfill all my passion and destiny that was ingrained in me. It was an inevitable thing. I would raise my family to be kingly, and that would somehow fulfill my grandfather’s wishes. I would fulfill my mother’s dream. She would tell me during my growing years, “You just study …I will clean and cook so that you do not have to do this when you grow up.” Cooking and cleaning were for servants.

I had a passion within me to be a significant somebody academically. Yet I was a Christian now. My priorities had changed. I would settle for being a part-time professional, raising children, yet underneath creating and fulfilling my destiny. Little did I realize that Tom shared none of my passion or drive for building up wealth. He had no desire to accumulate wealth. All he wanted to do was one day to serve Jesus, whom he loved, full time. I wanted to be a famous somebody; he did not care if he was nobody. I desired to have recognition; he needed no recognition. In our churches, we sing songs he has written, yet no one knows he wrote them.

Tom worked as an engineer from 1980 to 1998 and served the church. He allowed me to accumulate much of our earnings in a 401K. I insisted on doing this because I knew in my dread of dreads that he would enter full-time service to Jesus, which would knock our income 80%. The pain that would encompass me was intense. Yet he would not do that without consulting me.

Tom took a leave of absence from work in 1987 to be in a full-time training program for a year. He was in the heavenlies daily. It was so good to see him so happy. Yet I was suffering. I could not handle this. To me every day he did not work was a day wasted. I continued to work part time, and that was enough to pay our bills. To me the right way to live was to save 70% and live on 30%. To do otherwise was destroying me. To live from pay check to pay check was despicable and lowly to me. It was fine for Americans but not for me. Tom was gone for weeks at a time. The feeling of abandonment flooded me. This one year would damage our marriage. Yet I said nothing to him. I just kept telling myself, “After this is all over and done, when he goes back to work, everything will go back to normal.” It did not. We were on a rapid downward course, and our marriage was in trouble.

I felt unloved, uncared for, abandoned, and used. Yet when he came home, he loved me so much, I was lost in his love. Then he would leave, and I would enter an intense cycle of suffering.
I remember one evening, I could not face another day of being “used.” I determined that I would leave my two children at our babysitters and leave Chicago…go somewhere and start my life all over again. I could no longer go against everything that was me…. As I was thinking this I got a phone call. It was Tom. He said, “JaeHi, I am leaving now. I will be home in seven hours. That will be around 2 or 3 AM, and I did not want to scare you.” I said OK and fell back on my wet pillow.

He spent the next two weeks just with me and promised me that he would go back to work after the training ended. I asked him what made him come back that night. He said, “The Lord told me that I needed to take care of you. I felt I could take on the world, but the Lord told me to take care of you first.” I cried. God was real. That was 1987.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wings to Fly — 6

Memoir Index

High School Years

My Christian life is similar to wild and windy storm with volcanoes erupting … to be followed by calm peace of soft wind, reflection of rising sun, warmth of embracing sunshine, and grazing of deer in a safe pasture. …then long struggle of walking in deep dark tunnel, when it became too much to bear I would see the light…Yet my outward life seemed very peaceful, many people have told me that I am so calm and cannot imagine me getting angry or mad, and that my life seems so steady…it was always my inner turmoil.

I remember as an insecure immigrant girl, always being so lonely. The loneliness was so intense I would sometimes find myself crying…”maybe I would not have children when I grow up”, I thought. I did not want them to experience what I was experiencing. American kids were into having fun, parties, TV programs…I could not relate to any of it. I have seen too much sufferings of aftermath of war, mainly through overhearing what people went through. The radio program I listened to faithfully was a testimony program which consisted of struggles of life, how the war robbed them of their loved ones and possessions. The general theme was suffering in rising from street life due to war to a respectable life....Most of the songs on radio, in my growing up years in Korea, was the heartache and pain of losing loved ones.

When I started Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, I realized that I must do something about my loneliness. I must change who I am and have friends. I must accept the way of American kids…oh such superficial life. Before long I was called “Jay bird” because I talked much. I went from silent, invisible child to a chatter box. Soon I was realizing that making friends was not that hard. During the first year I experienced another extreme of loneliness. I had many friends now. I would spend many afternoons with friends, yet I was so lonely. I was so lonely in the midst of a crowd. I still felt no one knew the real me. In this backdrop of loneliness in the midst of a crowd I got saved as described in the beginning of my memoir.

During the first two weeks after receiving the Lord, He filled my loneliness. The painful loneliness that I carried for 15 years of my life was gone. He filled me with love and embrace. I have never experienced this. I found a bible in our apartment. My little sister had gone to a bible study with her friend and brought home a bible. That was 1970. The girl who introduced the Lord to me wrote to me every week. She told me that I must seek other Christians.

I remember walking to many churches. I did not yet know that churches had their services mainly on Sundays. I would walk to a neighboring church on Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and other odd times only to be met by forlorn buildings with hollow sound of emptiness as I knocked on their doors. One day I actually came at a right time, Sunday morning. It was a long room with many long wooden chairs. The pattern of people’s seating arrangement was big U. The front of the speaker was empty. People clung to the edges and towards the back. I seated myself at the end. In about an hour the program ended and everyone stood up to leave. I was so excited to meet these “Christians”, yet they passed me by. It seemed no one saw me. When the hall was about empty, one man noticed me. “So you are new here. Welcome”. We shook hands and then he left. Was that all? What about this wonderful “Christian Family” that I was getting?

Well there must be another place. I waited a whole week until the next Sunday for I knew better. This time I did not go to service. I waited outside. I wanted to find a welcoming people before going into their building. This time it was a Catholic church. I immediately was drawn to a friendly family. I walked up to the mom and said, “Are you a Christian? I just became one!” She said “Well, we are Catholics, and you could say we are Christians”. I wasn’t sure what she meant but that was good enough. That family took me out to breakfast that morning. They talked about a retreat they were going to and invited me to come along. It was a Catholic retreat in Canada. They could give me a ride. I remember saving up all my babysitting money that summer so that I could go to this retreat.

That retreat was memorable. It was a conference with many special speakers. There was much love and acceptance. I spent my 15th birthday there and they gave me a surprise party. I would spend many meetings with these people over the course of next years. Yet something bothered me. There were many young students. When ones declared that they would give their life to stay single for Jesus (to go into life of celibacy) there was the most applause. I was told that they would go into Brotherhood or Sisterhood. They lived in Brother’s home or Sister’s home, and had normal jobs. They had serenity about their person. I was 15 and with new love for Jesus, I was not ready to give up having a family life.

I remember as I was entering sophomore year in high school, I prayed, “Dear Jesus, I am not sure if you are real or not. Please do not bother me any more. I do not want to give my life to you.” Soon I forgot about Jesus and my life began in pursuit of academics.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wings to Fly — 5

Memoir Index

Who Am I?

I tried to understand who I am, where I came from, why am I so complicated…Why is it so difficult for Tom, my husband to understand me. I am realizing that I am my mother, my father, my grandfather, and all the important characters I heard from my grandfather, and so many people I read about…

My mother was 19 years old when she married my father. The war had just ended. She moved up to Seoul where my father had prepared a small apartment for them. He had arranged for his parents and siblings to live somewhere else, yet all the financial support came from him. I don’t know what went wrong. Eventually the large family moved in with this newly wed young couple. My mother, being the only outsider of the family, was treated as such and before long, my mother realized that she was not much more than a servant. Her husband was gone long hours in his entertainment band he created. She was serving a very demanding in-law family.

I was born 2 years later, a second born daughter. Her first born was frail and sickly baby who died 3 months later. At my birth she felt panic. She had borne 2 girls. She herself was an unwanted girl. She did not have any companions to share her sufferings. I doubt my father knew of all the inner torture she was going through. She would cry when no one is looking, pouring out her heartaches and agony of life to this little baby. She said, “You were the only friend I had…. I told you all my sufferings…” I don’t know when I started to understand her deepest sharing. All I know is that I always remember as far as my memory could go, she would cry and tell me her stories. Her stories of growing up under her step mother who did not love her, stories of her own mother who loved her so deeply yet she was taken from her by death, of the grief and injustice her young brothers and sisters in law were causing for her. She begged her husband to take all of his family and give her a small apartment just for her and the baby. He could stay with his parents and siblings.

Eventually she did get accustomed to this new life. She did not visit her folks. She had married against her father's wish who wanted only the best for her. Her stepmother would only gloat at her sufferings, or so she thought. She never told them... I did not see my maternal grandfather and stepgrandmother until I was 7 years old. Even then, my mother would tell me later, they never knew how poor our family was and how much in agony she lived her life, and I was her only outlet.

I grew up under heavy cloud of “woe is life.” I don’t remember having a joyful childhood. Mother did everything she could to be a good mother, and would let us know how a step mother would treat us in each circumstance. I grew up as a loner always believing that I was not liked, always believing that I was not interesting, and no one would want to be my friend, and no one could love me. I had deep fear within me, if anyone gets to know me, they would find out how boring I was and leave me. I could not bear the thought of abandonment. As a small child, I was a tangle of fear.

My brother came 2 years later to my mother’s great relief. She had borne a healthy and beautiful boy to our family. He was an adorable baby. He had all the characteristic of what a beautiful child should be. Later on I would watch him in amazement, he is loved by all. He knew how to get adults’ attention as well as children. He always had half dozen other kids following him as a leader of the pack. World was child’s play land. I loved him. He was my only friend in my childhood, when he was not with his friends... I was able to be with this little brother without having to worry about how he would accept me...I was able to enter into the land of imagination in our playing. We would collect caterpillars and imagine that was our caterpillar family. We would collect flowers and rocks and create a home for our little creatures. We climbed our rock garden and we were climbing a high castle wall, we would climb our gate for …I don’t even know what… it was fun.

My grandfather loved to read to me. I was his student of Confucius teachings. Sometimes I would sit for hours as he read. Oh I remember so many stories of great scholars and generals of China and Korea. One story that played a great part in my life was; One mother who was very poor had a son. She sacrificed everything to educate this only child. She sold rice cakes. From morning to dusk she worked. Made her cakes, went to market to sell her cakes, and came home late at night. She sent her son to China to be educated. Being separated for the first time, the son came home to visit his mom whom he missed so intensely. Traveling long distance on a mule can be costly and take up much time. Mother was not happy to see the son. That night she gave her son a writing parchment. She said, “When you can write with fluency of how I can cut my cakes, that is when you can come back home.” In the pitch black night, the two began to work. When she lit the candle, his writing was all over the paper, and her cake was as even as could be. Cutting long sticky rice cake required skill even in light. He returned to China and did not come home until his education was finished and eventually became one of the most well known laureate in asia. I determined that I will not stop until I achieve the success, whatever it was…

He would tell me that we are descendents of Kim dynasty of so many years ago. Our direct for-father was the 5th son of Emperor somebody. Therefore I was a princess. He believed that it was my destiny to bring my family to that level of honor…It was rather strange that in a male oriented culture, my grandfather would determine that I was to fulfill the honor of bringing our family fame back. I was determined somehow I would make that happen….how I did not know.

I was slow to move, slow to think, and did not have much personality…I was not cute, I did not have quick sense, I was too fat…these are the comments I heard all through my childhood. It seemed there was nothing that I could do right, be right, or look right…there was always something lacking. My cousin, who was being raised by my mother, had the adorable looks, personality, quick sense…and everything I did not have. When mother would take us both shopping, people noticed my cousin and no one noticed me. They thought my cousin must be my mother’s daughter. After all, my mother was very beautiful. And this adorable little girl must be her daughter. It was not possible this clumsy JaeHi could be her daughter. It was difficult for my mother, to have her own daughter be slighted. Eventually it was easier for my mother to take my cousin (then age 5) with her in daily grocery shopping and leave me (age 3) behind with my uncles. I understood that something was very wrong with me.

In school, I was good in art, even through my child’s eye, I could tell that I was often the best. Yet my teacher would praise other children. They had nice clothes and their moms were always at school bringing little gifts for the teachers, and sometimes money. My mother had no gift or money for my teachers. I knew this much, even to get praise for my work required gift or money for the teachers. I longed for recognition that I should have gotten. I determined that somehow I would succeed in life so I would not be slighted.

I watched my father, studying, always studying…Why wasn’t he playing with us... War was over. He no longer had his entertainment troop. During unemployment time (most of Korea was unemployed), that is all he did….always study. All the money he earned was spent on his large extended family and nothing was left for his own little family. I hoped within me I could do something to alleviate his pain that I could somehow provide for him. I knew I had to succeed to take that pain away from my father.

I was nine years old. My father had been in the U.S. for two years earning money and preparing to bring his family to the U.S. One day, without any announcement, he appeared at our front door. I immediately recognized him. He winked at me. I understood that I was to play along with him. My brother was seven and had not seen our father since he was five. My father called out to him and asked, "Did I get your name right?" My brother said, "Yes." Saying my mother's name, my father asked, "Did I get your mother's name right?" Again, my brother said, "Yes." I could see that my brother was getting uncomfortable. My little two-year-old sister had no idea what was going on. He knelt down, spread out his arms and said, "Come, I am your dad." There was uneasy silence. I ran to him, soon followed by my brother and sister. My father was home.

School academics were getting intense. My peers were getting private tutors who would help them after school. We were all studying for our 6th grade exam, which would determine which Jr. High school you would go to. Sometimes that determined your whole future. The one who went to best Jr. High would then go to the best High then to the best University. Somehow we only saw in terms of best or nothing. Time was ticking. My family did not have the luxury of hiring a tutor. My parents had sacrificed enough to send me to the best public grammar school at that time. I would do my best to keep up….ultimately I was saved by coming to the U.S.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wings to Fly — 4

Memoir Index

My Mother

My mother grew up with knowledge that her birth was met with deep disappointment. She was named Last One, being a 6th daughter. She watched her father bring home a second wife …he needed a son for an heir. Ironically my grandmother’s last child, her 7th, was a son … the whole village rejoiced. Master Park finally had an heir…. His second wife had a daughter when his first son was born to his first wife. My mother’s life was quite happy until her mother died at age 11. She was not prepared for life without a loving mother. Her longing for her mother was ..oh so deep. Her step mother who was always around as a background helper in the estate, now took over the role of the Lady of the house. Her immediate differentiation between her 4 children and 7 children of the 1st wife was manifested. She despised that her husband’s other children excelled in school and her own children did poorly.

My maternal grandmother was delicate in health. She was a lady of much learning. She not only knew how to read and write, she was versed in famous writings…. And she wrote poems. Having 7 children must have been too much for her frail health, yet she had to produce an heir. Her life was not easy.

My grandmother gave her love for learning to her children. My mother would often tell me stories of school teachers lifting up my uncle on their shoulders to announce his achievements to the whole school. As a boy he was small and slight in frame and any teacher who wanted to show him off would lift him. When my mother excelled, who was 2 years older, it became a small phenomena in the old country school. The second wife had 2 children at school simultaneously. As fate would have it, her children barely could keep up and often was being disciplined as troublemakers. It must have been humiliating to the 2nd wife. After the death of the 1st wife she was not an easy mother for the children.

Throughout my growing up years, my mother would tell me what I would not get if I had a step mother. When she bought a piano with their meager income as a new immigrant to US, she said…”my step mother would not allow a piano to be bought for us, and we wanted it so… Enjoy.” I did my best to please my mother. My brother and sister did not last long with their lessons.

Every time she bought us clothes, she would let us know that how much it is in her heart to give us wings to fly. Nice clothing did that for her. I understood that her stepmother did not have that in her…that everything was given reluctantly.

In high school, to avoid family tension, my grandfather provided his first set of children a home and household help in another town to go to school. It became evident the 2nd wife’s jealousy made it very difficult any other way.

I don’t know very much about my step grandmother. My only recollection is when we went to my grandfather’s 60th birthday, she received us warmly.

When my mother graduated high school, it was my grandfather’s desire to send her to college and set her up with a business. If she went to a pharmacy school, he would give her a pharmacy upon graduation. At this juncture, my mother wanted a home of her own. She wanted to be married. She no longer wanted to come home where she was not welcome.

There would be many battles between my mother and her father who wanted so much more for her life. He tried to reason with her. She was smart. He could finance any education and business she desired. She could have a future well set. I think he was thinking that she does not get inheritance yet he could have her well established. My mother was set, she wanted her own home. My grandfather gave in and hired a matchmaker to bring a good husband for my mother. She was beautiful, brilliant, and a daughter of a village lord. She would have many good prospects wanting her.

War had started. North Korea invaded South Korea. North Korean army was pushing South Korean and American army to south where my mother lived. Korean war would change her destiny. The man she would marry would be from Seoul. He was handsome as she was beautiful. All her woes under her step mother would be nothing… Her new life would bring much suffering in the world of war torn land.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wings to Fly — 3

Memoir Index

My Childhood

The earliest story, which I have no recollection, is I cried a lot as a baby. My mother was in charge of caring for such a large family, I was left to my aunts and uncles then in high school. I would cry to the point, one time my uncle placed me outside the front door and left me crying harder. Could this be where I pick up a sense that my life was in danger unless people liked me? Sense of fear and danger haunted me. I worked all my life to get other’s approval, to be liked by others.

Oh the security my grandfather provided for me. I was his first grandchild and he loved me. I remember around age 5, I would wake up at dawn, early. I would go to climb the mountain with him. It probably was a hill. To me it was a mountain. It was daily excursion he had. We would set out around 6am. As we were climbing the hill/mountain we would greet other grandpas who came out for a walk. On top of the hill there would be many grandpas, chatting and visiting. I was the only child there and felt very special. When we came back to our home, we would experience the most delicious breakfast you could imagine. Fish, meat, dumplings, vegetables and rice. Oh how I loved my grandfather. My father was at work always. My mother was too busy taking care of so many people in her family.

My grandfather, at one point, disappeared from my life. He went to USA to visit his daughter who had married an American soldier. He did not come back to me. The sense of abandonment was so profound. He probably thought it was easier to leave without facing tears of beloved grandchild begging him not to leave.

I remember, oh I must have been 7 or 8 years old. I was climbing hills with my cousins who were much older. We went grasshopper hunting. I have never done this before nor will I ever do it again. We would collect lots of grasshoppers, then build a fire and roast them to make the most delicious snack. The joy of hunting, collecting, building a fire…the breeze, the beauty of hills and mountains, the sunshine on us happy children…I could still see it so clearly. Today I could not eat such a snack.

I was in a river with 2 or 3 other children. I did not know how to swim. I was having so much fun walking on rocks….all the sudden I fell. The water is over my head. I jumped to grasp for breath of air, but I was still under water...I screamed… The children were frightened. They were not big enough to pull me out. I watched water closing over me and everything turned dark, just then I was aware of someone rushing towards me, picked me up and carried me to the banks. I was aware that he was comforting my companions. When I came around, he was nowhere to be found….Was he an angel… I never found out who he was…

I remember going to my grandfather’s home, my mother’s father. I was 7 years old. This was the first time I was visiting him. From train station to his home, people were stopping their work and looking at us…just about everyone. I asked why. I am told, they are saying, “Those are Master Park’s grandkids from Seoul”. They have not seen us. My grandfather Park was a wealthy man. He owned all the fields in that village and every one worked for him. He allowed us to play with his orchard fruit. He would give us bushels and we would set up a stand to sell them for penny a piece. People would come far and wide to buy from us children, we were playing but they were getting bargain not found anywhere. We saw servants kill a cow, pig, many chickens…it was his 60th birthday. The whole village and surrounding villages were invited. People came all day long for birthday feast they would probably never see again. I felt like a princess.

I remember, as a small child, just watching my mother work. She was always so busy. Busier than what a young woman can handle. I would experience loneliness so strong, and incredible yearning for her yet I knew my mother was too busy. She had too many people to take care of and I was one of so many people.

I would watching my younger brother play. He was the leader of the pack at age 4. He was always playing with so many friends. I was so afraid of people and stayed in safety of my home. I would watch my brother and wait for him to come home to play with me. He was the only friend I had…

I was 7 years old. I had a baby sister. Oh how adorable. I wanted to take her out to the play ground. Mother didn't let me. One day, she said ok. My sister was about 6 months old. I thought she must want to go down the slide. I carried her on my back and while climbing the steps, I droped her. Oh I was so scared….
She grew up to be a brilliant writer. She too would attract people and make friends so easily… Yet I was so scared of people.

One day I was sitting on a swing in our back yard, alone as usual…no friends. I was looking at the clouds above my head. I wondered who is above the clouds. Is the world created for me? Is there a God? Who is he? What is he?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wings to Fly — 2

Memoir Index

My Father

Today I went to visit my father. I gently stroke his face and shoulders. He looked at me. Now he barely has energy to stay awake. I was remembering last week when he asked me if I could pray for him in Korean. I looked at him in amazement. It was not too long ago that he could not tolerate anything related to Jesus.

He had a very difficult life. At age seventeen he was responsible to support his parents and six siblings. Korean War had devastated my grandfather’s farm. When the war was finished, my grandfather could no longer farm his land to support his family thus the responsibility fell to his third child and the oldest son, my father. Actually he had an older brother who died prematurely. My father was determined that he was not too young to support his family (parents and siblings).

He knew that learning English would be critical in early 1950s. He befriended American GIs and practiced his English. American army soon realized that there were virtually no person who could speak both English and Korean. They took on a young man who could somewhat communicate and employed him as an interpreter. He soon became a prized employee critical to American army. He never saw the front line. He was kept safe.

He realized that American GIs were starving for entertainment. He created a entertainment troop of singers and comedians, promising them salary on a gamble that GIs would buy enough tickets for him to keep his promise to his entertainers. He was to earn much money and turn it over to his father, like a good Korean son. His father who was not wise with money, gave it all to his children (my aunts and uncles) who would buy jewelry when most Koreans did not know where their next meal would come from.

When he married at age 27, Korean economy was still reeling from the devastation of the war. In this backdrop my mother, a young wife of 20, would experience life with a baby (myself) and parents in law and brothers and sisters in law and their spouses and children all living under my father’s roof. Yet my mother, being the new comer, according to Korean tradition had to serve the entire in law family living in her home. She too would experience hardship that most Americans could not imagine.

When US troops went back home, my father’s entertainment troop dissipated, yet a few of those talents would eventually become famous singers and comedians later.

My father brought his family to America in 1966, land of hope and dreams… Out of sheer determination that their children would fare better then them in life, they made for us a wonderful home in this land so foreign to us. Oh those years were precious.

We were a novelty in Irving Park elementary school in Chicago. Kids never heard of Korea? Is that a country? Asians were either Chinese or Japanese. I was in 5th grade, my brother was in 4th grade, and my sister was in kindergarten.

After a hard day at work, my father would give us English lesson that was at a pace to give us proficient language skill in 1 year. Then my mother would sit with us after my father’s lessons for next 2 hours helping us study. When I was in 8th grade, I was called to the front by my teacher. She made an announcement saying, JaeHi has earned the highest Math and English testing in the whole school. I looked at the report. I said, “That is my younger brother’s name. Not mine.” Our names are very similar.” She said, “well, you are a good student too. We’ll just let it be.”

I would watch my father study after giving us our lessons. He would stay till 2 or 3 AM or later to study to become a computer programmer. He would have to get up at 6 in the morning to get ready to go to work. One time I saw him bleed in his nose and mouth. I learned that if you keep overly exhausting schedule, that can happen. He continued this schedule until he earned his diploma to become a programmer. The love my parents manifested in raising us was deep and profound. To us whether he was a skilled craftsman or a computer programmer, it did not matter. He wanted us to be proud of his profession.

At this time, my father would teach us God will take care of those who takes care of themselves. At age 14 when I received Jesus into my heart, my father’s pain would begin. He was fearful for my life. His tender and gullible daughter can be more gullible and taken advantage of… with Christian teachings….

My father received Jesus Christ at age 80, through this daughter who caused him much pain for being a Christian and marrying a Christian full time worker.