Sunday, May 20, 2012

I didn't know her.

My father grew up in Washington, in a small town called Neilton. I've been there, there isn't too much.

He was raised by his mother alone. His father was killed when he was quite young.
They lived in a small blue house that my grandfather built himself.
When he was of age, he enlisted in the United States Army, which sent him to Seoul, South Korea. There, he met my mother.
At the age of 19, he wrote my grandmother, asking her permission for marriage. At that time, he wasn't old enough. If memory serves me right, he had to be 21.
My grandmother refused. My father waited and then married my mother when he could. They stayed in Korea for years after that. That is where my brother and sister were born.
They sent my grandmother photos of her grandchildren, as she was the only grandparent alive. My mother's parents, both of them, passed when she was just 13. She was the second oldest out of 6 kids. Most of the responsibility fell on her shoulders. Infact, I still have an aunt and uncle that we don't know about, because they had to be given up for adoption due to the circumstances. My mother still thinks about them a lot.
When they came back to the states, my grandmother had a wedding for my mom and dad. The explanation being "she didn't trust the Korean wedding". I'm unsure of how true this is, as I'm just being told stories.
She helped my parents get on their feet. My parents and siblings, after moving quite a bit, settled in Pennsylvania. My grandmother stayed in Washington, in the home her husband had built for them.
While in Pennsylvania, I came along somewhere. For Christmases and birthdays I received a box of gifts from my grandmother. When I learned to read and write, my grandmother exchanged handwritten letters with me, though I doubt mine made any grammatical sense and I had a hard time reading her cursive penmanship. We would occasionally call eachother, just to check in. This is the extent of our relationship. I had only seen photos of her. She might as well have been a stranger to me.
When I was..about brother and sister had moved. My brother was in the Marines. My sister had married and had her first son. My father got a job transfer and moved us to Missouri. The move was at the beginning of summer, and I knew no one. It was hard, and I enjoyed every visit from family members we had.
Somewhere during that time, my grandmother boarded a plane and visited us for two weeks. This was the first time I met her. She waited until everyone else had left before she began walking slowly off the plane.
While she was with us, we went to Branson. She bought me a deck of Elvis playing cards. One morning, at our house, she calmly walked upstairs to let us know that there was a lizard in her room and asked if one of us could please take care of it, which my dad promptly did. She helped my mom make sure she got the potato salad just right. She attempted to teach me to crochet with all the patience in the world. She was a kind woman, with a big heart, though my dad will argue that she was a very strict parent. I suppose you have to be that way, though, when raising 3 children on your own with little money to stretch.
After that, our relationship continued with phone calls, letters, and the occasional gifts. I hadn't seen her since.
Years passed. I married and had my first child, Riah. When Riah was 8 months old, I got the phone call from my sister. My grandmother wasn't doing well and my mom and dad were driving to Washington to be with her. These would be her last days.
She passed away in a hospital bed with my father by her side. She did not get to meet any of her great-grandchildren.
My (at the time) husband, daughter, and I boarded a plane and made the flight to Washington. It was winter, cold and snowy, and I had to say goodbye to a woman I only heard stories about. But nothing about it was tense or sad.
Her funeral was a joyous occasion full of laughter and some tears, but mostly stories. This is where I learned about who my grandmother was and what a pain my father was.
This is where I learned just how much like my grandmother I am.

My father, mother, sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, (ex)husband, Riah, and I drove to the little blue house she still lived in. It was rundown greatly and needed work, but that didn't matter anymore. The land had been bought and we were cleaning the house out so it could be bulldozed down. The house was a mess, you could say. My grandmother kept everything. She had crochet projects in the works, old letters to Santa from my father, and books covering the walls of her bedroom. We found my grandfather's dogtags from when he served. We found so many things that my father thought were lost forever. She kept it all.
Among the things, we found this.

This is a teaset that was sent to her by my mother and father while they were in Korea. It's 30-40+ years old. It was boxed in the original, tattered box, wrapped in Korean newspaper. It was never taken out despite the blue color, which was my grandmother's favorite color, but she kept it all the same. It's one of the few things I have left from my grandmother's house.

I didn't know my grandmother. But I loved her.
Don't take the relationship you have with your family for granted. You don't know if that day will be the last you have.

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