Letter to my Dad (Appa)
Today, I’m taking a break from blogging to share with you a piece of my heart: a letter to my dad, a man I never got to know but miss and love every day. Love knows no bounds in connecting from one human to another or even from one life to the unknown.
It’s been quite some time since I last saw you— 24 years to be exact— and that time was at your funeral. I’ve been told that at your funeral, at the age of 2 1/2, I asked if you were sleeping and that made your sister cry. I don’t remember that, but I do remember wearing a black velvet dress, black Mary Jane shoes and white socks with frills on it. Your sister was holding me, and her cries were so loud they hurt my ears.
I also remember a few other memories directly and indirectly related to you like being at the hospital and getting excited about getting the red jell-o whenever I visited; waiting at the hospital on a bench with Unni (I think this was the day you died); coming back home from the hospital and telling Umma that I forgot to say I love you and hold your hand; crawling up to you at home when you were lying on your mat on the floor and gripping my entire hand around one finger; and lastly, being potty trained by you. You taught me a lesson that’ll last a lifetime and is the basic fundamental skill for being socially competent. Thank you.
A lot has happened since you left this earth. The world has changed so much you wouldn’t believe it. From what I know of you, I think you’d love the fact how easy and cheap it is to travel worldwide, which is what I’m doing right now. I’m in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and I’ll be living here for two years. I plan on exploring Europe as much as possible while I’m here. I love traveling and discovering new cultures and food… maybe I got that from you. I know I got the food part from Umma.
Anyways, life was tough after you left. Umma died from cancer but I really think she died from sadness and stress: the sadness of not having you around and the stress of taking care of three children 10 years and younger by herself. As Oppa and Unni were becoming teenagers and I was a child, we definitely were not easy for a single mom to take care of. Yet she was strong ‘till the end. She didn’t even show true signs of being sick ‘till the very end, and even then, she did her best to look strong in front of us.
Then after Umma died, life was even harder without an adult. Oppa and Unni did their best but we were all kids. We fell a part inside and from each other. My adolescent years were rough. The house was a gloomy place to be, but somehow we all survived and grew up in our own ways.
I went to college in Florida, and Unni also moved to Florida. After a few years of a strained relationship and furthering the struggles we carried from Connecticut, we finally started becoming true friends, and it all started with the birth of Ilius, Unni’s little boy who’s five years old now. He’s a sweetheart, and I love him so much. I was at his birth, something I was not prepared for at 22, but I helped out as much as I could. In retrospect, I wish I could’ve done more or have been kinder. Under stress and fatigue, I tend to get snappy, and I remember being snappy to Unni on the way home from the hospital. Although, Unni said I did more than enough, and she couldn’t do it without me. After the birth, I went home with Unni for a few days but had to go back to take my midterms, which my teachers pushed back a week for me so I could help Unni. She had a c-section so she was healing from a major surgery, which was disgusting to see by the way, and had to take care of the baby by herself. I can’t imagine how she did it but she made it through because she’s strong like you and Umma. I’m happy I was there for her at least a little bit, especially at the hospital. We slept together on the same hospital bed side by side.
She’s having another baby by the way, a little girl. I wish I could be there for her birth but it’s ok because the baby’s daddy and Ilius will be there. I really like the baby’s dad. He’s kind and caring and watches over Ilius like his own child. I had a feeling she’d have a girl because you died, then Umma. Then she had a boy, and now will have a girl. I swear I’m slightly psychic. I’m a Pisces you know. Anyways, our family is growing again. For so long, it felt like our family was just getting smaller and smaller. One person makes a huge difference; two just flips your world upside down.
Oppa came to visit in college but we didn’t see each other or talk too much during that time. I had a lot going on and was stuck in my own bubble. But after college, I moved to New York City where he was living, and we got closer again almost like how we were close before Umma died. Right now, he’s looking for a new job, and I really hope he gets it. I pray to god to help him with his job search. His life has been hard since you died, and he really deserves a break. He’s a good hearted person. We have similar interests like food and beer, and he’s a good Korean cook and dessert baker. I like eating at his house. It’s been great living near him.
So that wraps it up for Unni, Oppa, and our relationship between each other now. As for me, my life is unbelievably easy right now compared to what it used to be. I don’t work, and I can’t believe this is my life. I’ve had to work so hard to survive for most of my life, and now I’m living the dream. It’s largely because of my loving husband, Mike. He’s not Korean or a Jehovah’s Witness but he has such a good heart. Unni, Oppa, and the Dixons love him, and I hope you would too. He understands more than anyone the struggles I’ve been through and lovingly wants me to have a break. It’s so hard for most people to understand my pain and sadness but he really tries. He’s got a lot of compassion. And on that note, we got married this year!
All I have of you is photos, a handful of memories, and stories from our family. But on your family, I’m sorry but I really don’t consider them my own. I didn’t grow up with them, and although some of them were at my wedding out of respect for you, I don’t see myself continuing this nonexistent relationship except with the cousins. They’ve been in my life since college and have been good role models in their own ways.
If you’re out there somewhere, I hope you’re with Umma watching over Oppa and Unni. I have back pains that I haven’t been able to shake for 3 years, and sometimes they’re so bad I can’t walk more than 30 minutes, but besides that I’m 100% ok so please focus all your attention on Oppa and Unni. Life is easy and so good to me. I am a really fortunate person.
It’s hard to say I miss you because I didn’t really know you but I definitely miss all the times we could’ve had together and learning about you and your childhood. It sounded very rough, even rougher than mine. I plan to end this cycle of hardship us Kims seem to experience with my kids. Their lives are going to be quite easy and comfortable, maybe not with monetary things, but at least with love and support. I used to want to die all the time and hoped I would be dead by 24, but now I hope I live as long as possible so I can watch my kids grow up, and also, no one will have to experience the pain of me dying. Anyways, if Umma would’ve let me, I definitely would’ve learned Tae Kwan Do from you at an early age. It’s always good to know self defense especially when I’m partying and going home by myself. I’m really into the underground house scene, and usually don’t get home ’till pretty late but I try to make it to the sun comes up because that’s my favorite time of day; it rarely happens.
I love you. If you’re out there somewhere with Umma, tell her I love her too. If you believe in Armageddon and Jehovah’s paradise, then none of your children will be there, and we’re sorry for that but I think you can understand all we went through and how hard it was to keep religion in our lives let alone keeping food, bills, and other general life stuff under control.
I found god but I had to redefine my definition of god just like I’ve had to redefine love, friendship, and so many other terms. I’m constantly reevaluating and redefining my life. It has been a good way to learn and grow from the past and the pain.
Today I will celebrate your life and know that the passing of your life ceased any pain you were experiencing. At the very least, I am happy you are no longer in any pain. I miss you. I love you.
Thank you for listening. In honor of my dad, I will be out celebrating his life today. If you’d like to celebrate with me, reach out to your dad or any father figure in your life that’s helped you get this far in life. We wouldn’t have made it without the people in our lives who love and support us. ‘Till next time, xo.