Halmunee

If I could sum up my grandmother’s character in one phrase it would be: “It makes me happy when you eat a lot and depressed when you don’t”.

My grandmother has to probably be one of my favoritest people in the world (although this phrase is not grammatically correct, it perfectly conveys my feelings toward her). Aside from her feeding me until the point that my stomach is about to explode, bragging to her friends how smart and good looking I am, and exaggerating all of my accomplishments tenfold, it is her love and selflessness that touches me the most.

I would definitely have to say that my grandmother started to become extremely fond of me after an event that I remember vividly. When I was in the third grade and lived in New York, she visited my family for about a week during the summer. One random day I found out that it was her birthday from either my father or mother. Feeling embarrassed that I didn’t have anything prepared for her, I jumped on my bike and rode to the nearest florist where I bought her a bouquet of carnations. When I presented the flowers to her, her first initial reaction was that of shock. After the fact that her 12-year old grandson at such an early age had the audacity and the thoughtfulness of going out of his way to go out and buy her flowers subsided, she was felt so touched that it has stuck with her ever since. I haven’t shared a conversation with her and her friends without that story being brought up at least once.

Although I have always liked my grandmother from a young age, I don’t think it was until two years ago or this summer until I started to really love her. Being able to stay in Korea for a prolonged period of time and seeing her every weekend helped me connect to her on a deeper level, and find that her character was must more than a cute old grandma loving one of her grandchildren to death. She always puts me before herself; something that only my mother and her share. She really goes out of the way to help me when I am in need.

Even though she doesn’t have much money herself, she always strives to give me an allowance every time that I see her so I can go out and have some fun. Even though she doesn’t have the best fashion-sense, she always tries to buy me some clothes that she thinks that will look good on me. Even though she is old, she always pours out all her energy and love when I am around her.

Being with my grandmother has also made me realize how much of my character is from her. I have always thought that my outgoing personality was something innate and that I developed myself, but through spending time with my grandmother I have realized that I have to give her a huge deal of credit for her genes. Although she is 74 years old, she has this vigor and robustness that makes her seem at least 20 years younger. She is incredibly sociable and amicable to everyone around her, and she is the one who often hosts the Go-Stop card game parties at her place. She doesn’t talk in a meek and tired voice, but rather a powerful and sonorous voice that seems to fill a room. If she encounters a crowd of people, she doesn’t cower and wait for people to clear the way. Rather, she uses her arms like a plow and bulldozes people out of the way.

It would be a crime if I wrote about my grandmother and failed to dedicate a small section to her cooking. The only way I could probably describe it is the Korean phrase: “진수성찬”. Directly translated into English it means “banquet” or “feast” but in Korean it emphasizes the fact that there are so many side-dishes that it literally overfills the table. Not only do I want to emphasize the sheer volume of food that she lovingly tries to shove down my throat, but how delicious it is. I reckon the taste can be attributed to the fact that she puts in several cups of love into her cooking, which enriches the taste more than any spice or pepper in the world. All without artificial flavoring or MSG.

When she told me that she wanted me to take her photo that would be used at her funeral, a strange fusion of denial and flattery came upon me. I didn’t even want to fathom the fact that one day she wasn’t going to be around anymore, but at the same time how taking a photo of her could be one of the “final presents” that I could give to her. So after my month-long trip in Europe when I am back in Korea, I plan on taking that photo for her.

At 74, I have no idea how much longer she will be around. She claims that she is in great health (I think she is as well) but there is no way I can be 100% sure. I pray that she can still around when I get married and be beaming at me with delight while I walk down that aisle with my bride-to-be.

Anyways, I am heading to Europe tonight so things have been a little hectic doing my last-minute preparations. I still feel under-prepared, but my grandmother told me that she went to morning mass to specially pray for my Europe trip. On top of that, she even met me at the subway station after I ran some errands to bring me an umbrella (it poured like crazy today). After arriving we also had some bomb-ass firewood-roasted chicken at a restaurant next door. I wonder if I can eat as well in Europe.

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1 thought on “Halmunee”

  1. I guess you know from my post about my grandfather’s towel what a special connection I had with my grandfather as well, and so it is lovely to read this heartfelt post. I am so happy for people who still have their grandparents alive and spend time talking with and learning them. This is usually our only chance to hear their stories and learn intimately about the past.

    My grandfather lived through the Great Depression and told me what it was like. He told me how people refrigerated food before refrigerators. And we would spend a lot of time together watching golf on tv, something he adored and I did because he adored it. The loss of my grandfather continues to reverberate through my life. Loss teaches you a lot about love.

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