When my maternal grandmother passed away this summer, I didn't so much feel an immediate loss for myself as I did for my mother.
I didn't know my grandmother very well. She moved to the US (Los Angeles) in 1972. She felt she was already an old woman then so she never bothered to learn any English. Little did she know that she'd have another 30+ years.
I understand Korean fairly well, and my comprehension actually improved when I lived in Beijing. Apparently my people are well known throughout Asia for producing addictive soap operas, which I watched occasionally on TV and DVDs. They were all in Korean, with Chinese subtitles. Of course, when the vocabulary moved beyond, "But I love you!" and "What?!? He married my sister?" I was lost. But everyday conversation, I can follow. However, my spoken Korean is dismal.
So communicating with my grandmother on the few family trips out to the west coast from NY was a one-sided experience.
But she told me one story which I was thinking of this morning. Right before my wedding, I had a business trip to LA and I stopped by to see my grandmother. (Something, which, unfortunately, I did not always make time to do.) As her only grandchild not living in LA, I had to submit to being fussed over relentlessly whenever I was there.
I sat on a cushion on the floor next to her while she held my hand and patted my hair. And she told me of her husband, my grandfather, whom I never met (he died when my mother was young). Their families knew each other and the matchmakers approved of the bloodlines and the alignment of the stars. But she never liked him much, until one night. It was raining and she was looking out the window. She saw a boy walking in the rain, his shoulders hunched against the cold and wet. There was no romantic gesture - he wasn't lingering outside her window to prove his love, he wasn't holding up a boombox blaring "In Your Eyes." He was simply walking by. But she recognized him and that image of him walking alone in the rain was enough to make her think, "yes. I can want this."
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