Gotta love the innocence and joy of kids….
Go to 1:30……(Warning Explicit)
Thanks for your support!
I would always remember visiting my mother’s grandparents after church. I never really enjoyed going there because it was far away and there was nothing to do at their small apartment. Most of time when we visited, my 할아버지 (grandfather) would give me and my brother a piece of candy hoping this would melt away our concerns that we would not have much to do during the next few hours. They would be watching a Korean TV channel but I would always show up and turn it to a sports game or show in English that I preferred watching.
I never fully realized how difficult his life was at the time. My grandmother had suffered a stroke and he took it upon himself to take care of her. The right side of her body was of little use so every daily task was made infinitely harder. She couldn’t cut her own food, so everything needed to cut into bite-sized chunks. She could not move well on her own, so he would always help her use an exercise bike for 10 minutes just to get her blood moving. Whenever she needed a helping hand, she would cry out, “아버지, 아버지 (father, father). Most of the time I saw them together he would sit next to her on her wheelchair and grasp her gnarled hand as they sat silently and peacefully together. My grandfather didn’t ever seem like his life was difficult or that he was struggling to get by each day. Without complaint, he got up each morning to take care of the person he loved so dearly.
My grandfather passed away around this time in the summer. He suffered a stroke and passed away quickly. It was a tough time for our family, especially my grandmother. Each night, she would cry out 아버지, 아버지 (father, father) only to realize he couldn’t be there anymore for her. I started learning that the beauty in their relationship was unseen and ineffable. I can’t seem to grasp that right now, but perhaps love can show me what better really is. My grandfather’s love showed me the importance of commitment and sacrifice.
I am not sure what commitment is, I am not even sure if I could ever make commitment. I tell myself that I will commit to studying hard during law school, which of course means writing garrulous and personal blog posts. I live in a culture that reminds me that there are always choices, in fact “better” choices. This is antithetical to the idea that I need to stay grounded, that “better” is not always better. I am not sure in my own life I can see this, but when I watched my grandfather I know that even when beauty fades, that charm is fleeting, that more things doesn’t equal more happiness. My mom would always tell me that he would always call my grandmother his “princess” whenever they did things together, whether he would wheel her outside to enjoy a nice sunny day or eat together the simple foods that he had made or bought.
My grandfather a simple man, taught me much about faith.
My faith tells me that in order for me to live, I need to “lay my life down for others”, that I need to “die to myself”. This paradox is not the way I view life. My needs are of first and fundamental importance to me. What I really need is to learn a thing or two about sacrifice.
My grandfather’s devotion has taught me much about sacrifice. His life was never his own, but he lived in service to my grandmother and showed me he could even give life through his dedication. They would pray together before each meal to a Father they believed held a deeper promise for them. Never once, did I see this man complain about the fact that his handicapped wife was a burden or chore, he loved her too deeply to even let such thoughts develop. Some people say he was too nice, whether it was his willingness to pay for all of his friends he knew whenever he took the bus or whether he would smile even during the toughest of times.
This sort of positive thinking extended and showed me a different aspect of faith: a hope for redemption. Whenever he would bring my grandmother to exercise and she said she didn’t want to do it, he would always find a way to coax her into exercising, telling her “you’re going to get better”. Everyday he seemed convinced she would be able to walk. Any doctor could tell him this would not be possible, but of course why would anybody dare say otherwise? I might dare say he was thinking of redemption far greater than just that current situation.
There’s a promise of redemption that I have as well. That when I have days where I cry out, “Father, Father”, that I know even though my insecurities remind me of my greatest issues and failures, my faith tells me I am deeply cared for. I go through life wondering how I can go through the next day, I am reminded of a Father that tells me He is by my side, telling me to fight on. I see a picture where even though my body will soon fall apart and breakdown, the resurrection tells me, “things will get better”, that I will be able to walk again.
Perhaps my goal shouldn’t always be to seek out the “better” choices. No, “better” isn’t better. Better is love. Not the asinine and sappy love of the movies, young ones frolicking about with not a single worry. My grandfather showed me that love is white-haired and wrinkly, grasping a gnarled hand damaged by a stroke; a quiet and lasting commitment that beats out my fleeting thoughts on what is true love.
I am watching this video:
My two readers have told me that I should really write about this in my typical sarcastic banter, telling me I should write a post and really rail into these guys and the producers for making such an asinine show. I suppose I could rant here and talk about how idiotic these guys are, how they need to get lives and how reality TV is the most self-aggrandizing form of entertainment. There might be some validity to that, but something tells me that is too easy.
For instance, I never understood why so many of my upper-middle class Asians needed to imitate every aspect of “ghetto culture” when they themselves never lived in anything resembling an inner-city. I despise the kid that needs to drop an F-bomb to show he’s “hardcore”. 99% of high school smokers seem like people who don’t have a backbone and just want to do what seems cool and edgy. I find it irritating that some kid who lives in upper-middle class suburbia will actually tell you, “let’s take this outside so I can kick your ass”.
But before I continue, I think I also need to realize that perhaps there is something more insidious brewing in my own heart. People watch these shows, not for the noble lessons they learn or the meaningful themes they can extract but for other reasons. One big thought that I think pervades most of the people watching this show is:
I’m not like them, I am not a loser.
When we watch these shows, we undoubtedly mock whoever is on it. Thank God I am not like that douchebag, with his popcorn muscles and fake tan. Or thank God I am not like that girl who is such a skank and attention-whore. This reality TV only attracts those who are so insecure they need the attention of a TV show to remind them of their self-worth. In essence, a show like this reassures us of our own self-worth. What makes us so special? Maybe nothing, but by comparing ourselves to these clown, perhaps we can tell subconsciously remind ourselves we are at least better than some of them. But I am not even sure that’s true.
I see a bunch of kids who are desperate for attention, even its notoriety of the “Snooki” type. We all want to be loved in some way, damn it if it means making ourselves look like fools. Of course, these reality TV show kids are more blatant and more viscerally disturbing but at the heart of it, what makes them any different from those who choose more refined paths?
This leads to my second point when we say “I know I am not a loser”. I hate to speak for others here (or perhaps I do too much of it), but I understand that my own life is an up and down battle with insecurity. I get irritated when people don’t fully recognize my accomplishments, I get annoyed when I say something and nobody listens, I get depressed when people tell me I am not good enough at something. In my mind, the most important reality TV show is me and I hope that everybody likes what they are watching.
I am not so sure what to say about these kids. I don’t have a bunch of tattoos and earrings. I rarely find myself partying late at night. Yet, at the heart of a show like that, I see a deeper reflection of self on the screen. I don’t need to act like a buffoon daily to realize maybe in many ways, I just don’t want anyone to think I am loser. So something tells me to do better. Inadequacy can be solved if I go to a better school, get a better job, get better friends, get more friends etc. Sure its not acting like a clown on TV, but attention and approval is what I really desire. In my own ways I lack a backbone, daily making decisions based solely on the perception of others. Sounds kind of depressing right?
Let me throw in a different reality TV story here. When we look at the Susan Boyle story, how awesome was it to see this frumpy, quirky and not so sexy woman astound all of us with her beautiful voice. I don’t need to go too deep to capture the joy of the video. Take a look at the video again and watch her reaction as each judge affirms her selection. She can’t believe it! Piers? Amanda? Simon! They all tell her in their own ways that she was indeed special.
We relate to this underdog story, because we see a bit of Susan Boyle in ourselves. There is definitely something unsexy about all of us, something that makes us far from being the belle of the ball or the master of the universe. As a Christian I know this isn’t the end either. You see perhaps a surly member of the audience could have stood up and told Susan that she sucked at singing and it would have made no difference. She had found the “right” source of approval. Who cares what somebody said, the authorities of the competition had already spoken.
As a Christian, I sometimes forget the “right” source of approval in my life; the most important Guy is watching the reality TV show of me. I know I don’t react the way Susan did when the judges gave their remarks; I still fidget at even the idea that someone knows that I am a vast collection of disappointment and failure. This is my “underdog” story. I know deep inside, I am nothing special, nothing sexy, in fact probably somebody undeserving of anything more than this life I have. The cross tells me that God knows this. The cross tells me of how far off I really am. Yet it also tells me not as an underdog no more, but of somebody He approves, somebody He affirms. I need not worry so much about all of my insecurities; something tells me to remind myself the Authority has already spoken for me.
My family has welcomed a new member to our home. He is my older brother’s dog. His name is Winston and he looks like this.
When my brother first got him, I was sure that my parents would dislike him. I was actually concerned they would chastise him for his investment and I made sure to let them know having a dog would be fun. Unfortunately, my parents have become insufferable in their love for this critter. My father carries around a picture of Winston on his phone and shows everyone: anyone from his clients and employees to the guy at the post office or the cashier at McDonald’s. I don’t even remember a time when my dad carried around those cheesy wallet photos of his kids.
Call me the jealous middle child. Objectively, this guy leaves a lot to be desired.
1) He will more than occasionally pee anywhere he wants to inside the house. (The last time I did this, I think I was beaten)
My parents get mad but then find this somewhat adorable. When he poos, he leaves about two large servings of chocolate soft serve that somebody else has to pick up. Occasionally, he wins a treat for pooing quickly and not stepping in it like a moron. I get into law school, the treat I get is a long speech about how I need to work harder than I ever did before to make the family proud.
2) He smells like a dog.
Now I am pretty sure I don’t smell like roses either but this guy smells like like warm gym socks. Even when he’s washed he still has this musty smell to him. Everything in the house smells like Winston now. Even if the smell dissipates, he finds a way to get his hair on everything. Thus everything I wear gets covered in dog fuzz.
3) He has terrible manners.
I leave some watermelon cut on the middle of the table while I am watching some TV. This guy jumps on the table while I am gone and eats half of it. You drop something on the floor, he will immediately grab it off the ground and then refuse to give it to you. He’ll sit there gnawing at whatever it is (remote control, book etc.) and not let go. Some sort of “I still haven’t graduated kindergarten or learned how to share” attitude. This macho, territorial stuff extends to the game of “Fetch”. It’s not really fetch. It’s I throw something, he chases it and grabs it, and then I spend the next 10 minutes tackling this dog, grabbing its mouth, trying to get whatever object out of his mouth.
The ninja farting (silent but deadly) is killer. He farts without any warning or noise that forces anyone near him to gasp for dear life.
4) He is lazy.
(he does this for most of his day)
When we take him outside he sits out in the sun. The idiot is unaware that he is incapable of handling long stretches of hot weather but at the same time is too lazy to move. Thus every single time he goes outside, he sits in the sun and starts panting not knowing what to do. I have to grab him and carry him back inside where he finally realizes he needs water to sustain his life.
(unwilling to move his body out of the sun)
Last week, I saw my mother carry in a huge pillow and a few chew toys in a bag. She was concerned that Winston might be a little lonely or uncomfortable. Yes, her actual son comes back from Korea after being away for almost 3 months and is greeted with a stack of bills he has yet to pay. Winston comes to stay at our home for a week and he gets all these little toys and prizes. When my parents call home, the conversation is something like this,
Mom/Dad: Is Winston OK? Did you feed him?
Me: He’s fine.
Mom/Dad: Why aren’t you playing with him?
Me: OK bye.
(his pillow is better than mine)
When I got back from Korea, I was stricken by a severe case of diarrhea, my parents were mostly nonplussed and peeved at my inability to do anything for that week. Winston, like a moron eats a small piece of unlit charcoal when I was grilling this week. My dad ends up massaging his stomach for the next hour concerned he might be in major pain. Every time he lays down, my parents now think he’s sick. I tell them he’s just being a fat bum. When his nose was running my mom rushed into my room asking me if she should give him a Tylenol cold…..
(he’s not sick, he’s just a bum)
Last week in the morning, my mom came into my room looking for something when she said, “윈스턴, 일어나” (Winston, wake up). I ignored this thinking she was referring to the dog when she repeated the statement. I realized Winston didn’t sleep in my room and deduced she was talking to me! “Oh wait, your name is not Winston. Hehehe.” my mom said, as she left the room.
I guess this serves as a reminder to me that when I have kids I should probably not take them to the grandparents, lest they become reckless sociopaths like Winston. I am the only one who punishes him for wrongdoing. I yelled at him for sitting on our couch and seats.
(he’s not supposed to sit there)
Afterward, all he did was sulk and got really sad. My parents don’t really punish him. They sort of half-yell and nudge him and then give him a treat or rub his belly. Thus I become the bad guy! As a result he just sulks and doesn’t do anything and frowns like this:
(his sulking face)
Not even mini-Winston cheers him up after getting punished. Instead he just waits for the parents to come and tell him everything is OK.
I know I am doing the right thing. I can’t be an enabler.
This was the eulogy (edited for coherence) I delivered at my grandmother’s funeral two years ago. Death is a terrible thing to face and witness, but my heart convinces me more and more each day that this is not the way things are supposed to be. If you like this, try also reading my other post.
I want to thank you all for coming to witness my grandmother’s passing. She was truly a great and loving woman and she was a tremendous blessing to her children, grand-children and great-grandchildren. It is amazing but all of the grandchildren were by her side for this time, something that I would not have been able to have imagined in thousands of years. I have just have a few things to describe about my grandmother.
My grandmother made sure everyone ate a ridiculous amount of food. My Korean is horrible, but I know Korean food well because of all of the things my grandmother made, 무말랭이 (spicy dried radish), 열무국수 (yulmoo kimchi noodles), 식혜 (a sweet rice drink), 동치미국수 (a water-based kimchi), 부추김치 (a chive-like kimchi) , 천국장 (stinky soybean soup). We all knew she made 천국장 “Chungook Jang” because the home smelled like feet that haven’t been washed for weeks. When I would protest the smell because I wanted friends to come over, she would say “너가 냄새 싫으면, 다른 집에서 살어” (If you dislike the smell so much, go live in a different house.) If you don’t believe my grandmother fed us well, I suggest you look at the waistlines of some my male cousins and you will have your answer. I always thought growing up in this family that being chubby was normal.
My grandmother also provided a point of refuge for my brother and I when my father punished us. For instance, when my father took us downstairs for punishment be it because we lied to him, burned our report cards and flushed it down the toilet he made us stand in the garage with our hands held above our heads and hold that position while he brooded over the appropriate amount of spanking. There was nobody we could appeal to it seemed, and as we were bracing for the worst, when we suddenly heard slow steady footsteps creaking down the stairs. My halmoni came down and said, “에비야 고만” (No more). My father replied “Umma!”, as it was obvious he was trying to say “Mom, leave me alone, they need to be punished!” Again she said the same thing, and we knew my father had to obey. I still smile like a little punk over that incident knowing full well we didn’t get what we really deserved. Living with halmoni was awesome knowing my father was ultimately not king of the household when my brother and I did stupid things. Perhaps some can even call that grace.
The grandmother we knew was an extremely strong woman, so it was difficult for all of us to see her fade in such a way. This was a woman who picked acorns outside with Amy and Allen to make food, cooked with Anna, Kathleen and Shauna, poked needles into Brian’s fingers and toes as a cure for whatever stomach ailment he had and even cut up pieces of cheese into bite size pieces for Edlin to put in his cereal (Who knows why this was considered tasty? to each their own).
As we approached this time, we all became increasingly frustrated to see her body falling apart. She could no longer walk, she ate less and less and she was even refusing water. Our comfort that we provided was our best but still lacking, her knees still ached, she became more and more dizzy, she became more and more saddened. Our halmoni fed us when we were hungry, comforted us when we were sick and got angry with us when somebody wronged our family. This disparity pointed to a biting irony in our own lives.
Death is awful, there is no way around it. Regardless of whether you believe God is Jesus Christ or whether you think God is a figment of the imaginations of many poor and lost idiots, the pain and sting of death is a problem faced by a person regardless of his faith or worldview. I don’t know why; but my grandmother’s body failed. We are defined by this fact, our very existence, even my halmoni’s is a fallen one; we are all destined for death. Yet, if we dwell on this point and ask why too much, we fall into the trap of seeing life as an incomplete story, as Macbeth says “full of sound and a fury, signifying nothing” But I want to point us into a different direction; I know we might have our own views and faiths, but I want to direct us to the Christian view that speaks to me and I hope can help us all during this time.
One of the greatest things about my faith is that it does not merely say God has created us and loved us; but it says “Emmanuel” God is with us. When the scriptures say this we are not talking about a foggy spirit that lurks among us. But this is a God who is with us, beside us and IDENTIFIES with us. Jesus felt pity for the poor leper that he restored his health, He was alongside Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. As the Rev. Tim Keller has said, God binds with the suffering to the extent that he feels any move against them is a move against him.
The story continues though because in this world of pain and suffering God does not just give us rules to follow and leave us be. He is a God who gets his hands dirty for us. He cried out for his children so much that he demonstrated his love for us by sending His son to die on the cross. It becomes easier for me to accept God when he is willing to become drawn in this suffering we fear. When Jesus was on the cross, he cried not for himself but for all of us. The Cross is the reason why I believe God is not somebody who doesn’t care for me. God doesn’t merely tell me He loves me, but He shows me. But I don’t think this is the final story either.
In Revelation it says:
See the home of God is among mortals, He will dwell with them; they will be his people ad God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
See, I am making all things new.
This is the ultimate promise my grandmother and we all have. We know our limits, we saw how helpless we were to stop our grandmother’s eventual demise. Yet we have a new hope, that we will be completely restored and made new, that sickness and despair are gone, and we will not know pain. Our story is not incomplete knowing we will see each other perfected, ultimately with our Creator.
I know my grandmother took care of us in so many ways and for that we feel forever indebted. We all felt at home going into her arms, dwelling in her room and feeling her love. In the same way we need to rejoice, because she is being cared for infinitely better than she ever cared for us. The day before she died, she cried out to go back home. She was able to pass away in her bedroom among her entire family in a place we thought of as her home.
But, we must know that, that was not her home. In the same way we joyfully came to her, she can be relieved and see the arms God open wide and His voice tell her, “Come to me all, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Halmoni, rest in peace, you have made it home.
July 30, 2008