A series of moments with my inimitable 아빠 (dad) during my three weeks at home.
We had just sat down with our first round of buffet plates.
“Before we continue the conversation,” my father said. “I have something for each of you.”
He pulled out four envelopes from within his ever-present journal and handed one to my mother, one to me, and the last two to my sister. He instructed her to give the other to her boyfriend.
The cards too gave instruction.
And that night, we celebrated each one of us.
Hearing groans from the living room, I immediately ran out to see why my father was in pain. He was gingerly lowering himself to the ground, moaning as he went, since he had thrown out his back a day earlier. He picked up a fallen honey cracker even as I told him to stop.
I then said, “아빠, 제가 버려줄게요.” (Dad, I’ll throw it out for you)
He grinned, popped it in his mouth, and then offered me a cracker from the full bag in his other hand.
After getting stuck in traffic, we rushed into the rice-paper walled restaurant two minutes before our reservation. Our faces fell: there was no television inside. My father hollered at the hostess, “TV 없어요?” (You don’t have a TV?)
Her answer, with an arched eyebrow, “우린 전통 한식당 인데, 왜 물어보세요?” (We’re a traditional Korean restaurant. Why would you ask that?)
His answer: “박태환 선수가 지금 수영하잖아요! … 금방 갔다올게요…” (Park Tae Hwan is swimming right now! We’ll be right back…)
At that, my sister, father and I ran back to the parking lot and watched the Korean swimmer win bronze in the 200M freestyle of the 2014 Asian Games —
— in our car.
“It’ll only take a few minutes,” he said, as he started to boil water.
“Only if you’re sure, if you don’t mind,” I worried in the last hour before I had to take the shuttle to the airport.
He looked at me and said, “As long as you want to eat my food. You sure you don’t want Korean food for your last meal?”
I set the table for two.
As he grated parmesan cheese onto our plates, he said, “You won’t find anything this simple at a restaurant in Korea. Oh, and you have to drink this wine with it.”
I ate my last meal of my trip sitting across from the man who made it for me. Just a few ingredients made up this pasta dish, and its simplicity reflected the purity of his love for me.