Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Since B is an asshole...

...I'm gonna go ahead and post something he wrote a few weeks ago.

I was totally confident I could beat him. Totally confident that this time I’d emerge the victor. And so I did it. I challenged my dad, once again, to arm wrestle me. He laughed that same way he always laughed and told me that there was no way I’d win, but things were different this time. This time, I was in college, I had been going to the gym, and I was totally confident that at this age, he’d be easily overpowered. All throughout high school, I’d occasionally challenge him, and over and over again, he’d beat me. So as we put our elbows on the table, my adrenaline pumping, we gripped each others hands in what would be the last time I ever arm wrestled my dad in my life. I was 20, and he was 54.

When we began, I was a little surprised at his lack of strength. I quickly brought him down, but something strange happened at that moment. I didn’t feel victorious at all. In fact, when I saw the look of shock on his face, I felt more defeated than I had probably ever felt in my entire life. He paused, and almost started contesting, but he stopped himself. Then he stood up, and there was no longer a smile on his face. There was a look of confusion, and he walked away without saying a word. One word kept replaying in my head, and I didn’t really understand why. “Fuck!” Well, when I think back on my life, I realize there’s a lot of things I never understood, and my dad was certainly one of them. It was the last time I’d ever arm wrestle him again. And it was also the day that my dad began aging.

I never understood my dad.

My dad was the oldest son in a poor family of 5 kids. Because my dad was the oldest son, he had to learn about sacrifice at a young age. He’d help raise his younger brothers, and even his older sister got to travel, something he had passionately wanted to do, but didn’t because he was the oldest son. It’s kind of a Korean tradition for the oldest sibling, especially if he’s male, to suffer for the benefit of his siblings. So when his sister traveled, he lived this passion through her. And his passion for music was lived through the piano playing fingers of one of his younger brothers.

When my dad first came to America he went to school and earned his masters, studying mostly physics. It must’ve been strange for him going to school again in a new country when in Korea he was actually a high school teacher. He came to America because some of his brothers had already moved there and confirmed that America did in fact have more opportunities for a better life. So my father, after marrying, went straight to America and began his search for a better life. Surprisingly, my father who hardly spoke a word of English managed to graduate and receive a masters in civil engineering. He quickly got an office job doing something involved with civil engineering, but got bored of it and quit. During the next few years of his life, my brother and I were born, and eventually my father ended up joining the US Army mostly because they provided housing and free healthcare. I have vague memories of Tennessee, and the base he went to every day.

After my sister was born, me and my brother were almost of age to begin schooling. My dad wanted us to receive an education in New York City, even though it was impractical. He went to New York City and rented a ratty old apartment in Elmhurst, right underneath the 7 train. It was absolutely crucial that he find a job immediately because he had three children to support so through his sister, he got a job at a post office right outside of Jamaica, Queens. He became a mailman, and never looked back.

I never understood my dad. Sometimes in total and utter frustration I’d yell at him, “Don’t you want to do something more!? Don’t you want to become something!? You’re a fucking mailman! You’ve got a masters in civil engineering and you’re a fucking mailman! I don’t get you!” He’d always reply the same way, “I like my job.”

After that day I arm wrestled my dad, I went back to school, and didn’t come back for a couple of months. I’d always see him in intervals of 2 maybe 3 months and every time I’d see him after that, his hair always got whiter, his face a little more wrinkled. Presently, I see him once every two weeks for a couple of hours each time, and it scares me because I really can see him age. This past weekend, we celebrated my father’s 60th birthday. I still can’t believe it. My uncles and aunts all came, and we, his immediate family, were there too of course (minus my brother who’s in Australia). My dad was his same usual happy self, probably because he was around those he loved most. Those he had sacrificed many of those 60 years for.

Not to mention he was drunk.

My father’s never been a victim of circumstance. He embraced it. While others complained about their sacrifices, my father always reveled in the positive outcomes it brought about. My father was the type of person who had no problem working a menial job as long as it meant we were living well. While others at church were doctors and business men, my father had no problem holding his head high with them because he knew he had provided well for 3 children. He had found something he was willing to live for and something he was willing to die for. The same thing he was willing to sacrifice for when he was a young man in Korea.

I never understood my dad. I never understood how someone’s passion in life could be his family.

Happy birthday old man. I’ll die happy if I grow up to be half the man that you are.



Anonymous Lolo said...

You know, if you look at it from his point of view, the sacrifice for and the joy derived from his family, then his story isn't even close to being over.

It's a parent thing, maybe. I know I have some of that but I think that it helps when you know that children really, really love you back.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

That was a damn fine article.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Peter P. Murphy said...

Crap... I almost blubbed. I'm calling my old man.

12:44 PM  

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