Happy Father's Day, Abba!
At the young age of 21, Abba left his home country of South Korea with his sick mother to pursue the 'American dream.' With hardly any money or knowledge of English, my Abba, the remaining patriarch of the family, did all that he could to keep his family afloat--nursing his mother back to health, putting the food on the table, and taking the initiative to earn a bachelor's degree from South Carolina University. He bused tables while facing the harsh realities of racism and inequality within and outside his workplace. He was accused of stealing, taken advantage of, and often disregarded because of his ethnicity and inability to speak English. But here's the silver lining: He fell in love and married the woman of his dreams, and gave my brother, myself, and my sister life.
Growing up, I hardly remember my Abba being around. He worked hard and ultimately became a successful computer engineer--he would leave early and come home late, often working weekends. We had family vacations but they were far and few. He was a man of few words and verbal expressions of love were rarely uttered. I defied this when I was younger and didn't understand it. For so long, I assumed my Abba wanted to be away and focus on his career and live his life separately. But then, I finally realized: My brother left for college. I left for college. My sister left for college. We were healthy. Fed delicious meals every day. We freely played sports, explored music and arts, enjoyed entertainment with friends. Other than the standard family fights and consequences of my rebellious teenage behavior (yes...I was a pretty big pain in the ass. The other two were angels, it was pretty annoying) life was and is so beautiful.
My Abba was, in fact, focusing on his dreams. He had been working hard to build those dreams piece by piece--the dream of seeing his children live a life free from adversity, unlike the kind he faced. The dream of ensuring we were raised well-spoken as Korean-American's so we wouldn't face racial discrimination, unlike the life he had. The dream of seeing his children pursue education freely without scavenging for money, unlike the life he had. And verbal expressions of love were uttered. Did you study? Do you have money? Did you have breakfast, lunch, dinner? Did you eat? Make sure you eat. When I had the slightest cough, he'd run home with 2-3 bottles of Tylenol + Nyquil. He'd say, You're sick? Let's go to the hospital right this instant. Those were his words of love.
My Abba has the heart of gold. He made sacrifices for his family in so many ways. He shaped and molded all my morals and values. He taught me to have courage & be kind. He taught me to always forgive. He taught me to work hard. He gave the good in me.
Thank you, Abba for your patience, kindness, love, and my life. My goal is to live everyday with a selfless heart like yours. I only hope I can teach the same to my future children. I love you. Happy Father's Day and cheers to all the father's that have given us everything and never asking for anything in return.
Your baby girl