17.9.09

detroit trip and newly-met family.

The Associated Press file photo, july 26, 1950, youndong, korea.

pant pant pant. much stuff since the last update. or episode. a brainsplatter. meanwhile i met up with one of my favorite persons from banff who now is in toronto (yay!!!), i have gone and came back from suburb of detroit, michigan, to meet aunt/uncle i saw may be twice in my life, trying to organize my life (such as arranging for addresses for banff move, packing boxes, banking, still need to get to laundry etc), and squeeze my brain out for an idea for dad's birthday (which resulted in buying nothing.. gawd),

i dont even really know where to begin. well, let's start with family. or distant family. in korean culture, you count relationships by distances. okay so how does it work: like this!

husband-wife: the bond distance is 0. because when you are together, you are together, but you may become unrelated by a simple process of divorce. so from married couple to total strangers: distance 0 to infinitely far. ouch.

parent-child is distance 1 and i think siblings are also distance 1. so if you are taking about your cousin, it goes like this: child-parents-sibling-child = distance 4! then i think grandchild to grandma is distance 2: child-parent-parent. from you to your uncle/aunt: child-parent-sibling is distance 3. so on etc.

my detroit fam is my grandmother's brother's children. so they are cousins of my dad. so in this case it would be something like distance 6. funny enough, i know my maternal extended families much better. well, it's probably because my dad's family isnt built on my dad's siblings (he does not have any) but of my grandmother's siblings, hence, they are one grapevine further... also two of them were out of the country even before i was born and some of them were far from my own age. and i did leave the country in 1992. i was almost 13. however, i went back once: in 1997. so unfortunately, i dont really know them.

my aunt, the han family side, i saw her and my 'secondary' uncle in 1994. my dad drove all of us to what seems to be an eternally long drive (funny it wouldve been the exactly the same drive i have done, even closer as they were living closer to detroit itself while they are now in canton, out of the city dump, but in suburbia pax americana). i remember henry ford museum, going to mcdonald for very first time and seeing so many poor people- unfortunately most of them minorities. houses and properties with signs for 'just one dollar!' the crumbling wasteland. i bet it's even worse now.

my granny and dad lived with these cousins and granny's in-law sister. during the korean war, they had to abandon the city (seoul) and granny was without grandad (being male, he was in hiding, hoping to survive). her brother with weak kidneys, unfortunately passed away. sister in law was left with 5 children. young ones. granny's mother, unfortunately, was not very mobile, so they (two young women with six children) left. the youngest one didnt survive the war trail. so end of the war, it was five kids (dad and cousins) and two ladies. granny set up a shop and worked as seamstress then as a tailor. sister in law stayed home while the kids are young, then eventually worked at u.s. military base as laundry help. the five kids grew up in the same household. dad, however young, never called his aunt by anything else but elder-mom (in korean, it would be 'big' mom, often used to for female stand-in mother figures instead of the biological mother). granny often came home after midnight and dad, a little kid, would be asleep.

there are too many war stories. and i was asked and told many many times by granny that i should never ever say anything more about the past. she is still scared and worried of men in uniform. military man. police man. small government office workers. i think the stories may not be unique- there are so many war-influenced family histories, but this is the one that matters to me i suppose. but i will respect the old lady and wont say much more.

anyways, so these detroit family, far from me, is actually quite close to particular people of my family- granny and dad. and granny's old- she's 85 now. we initially thought of flying but that would actually be even harder. since it was only 4.5 hrs of drive, i dropped her off and my bro is going to pick her up later. while driving up there, i had no idea what to expect of this family meeting. is it a family meeting? i felt like a puppy whose going back to the kennel it came from. only thing it knows is that it mustve came from a litter of some sort.

i stayed just a night. drive was fine. the stay was alright too i suppose. it was weird seeing her, seeing family resemblance with my granny. in a big macmansion right adjacent to the man-made pond in middle of the golf course. saved all their life, pinched every penny. aunt han and uncle kwon came to the states as 'skilled worker' (he's elec engineer). couple decades later: american dream came true.

a macmansion (it really is huge) right by the golf course. club memberships. two daughters and four grandchildren. comfortably retired. aunt han is 64 this year.

in comparison, my dad had his 60th birthday yesterday. more on that later when im a bit more sane i think. let's just say that i feel really badly that i cannot provide for my parents yet. i wonder, if ever? am i a failed result of faded immigrant dream?

ah. too much negativity. well, it just wont help me to think any better. i have to keep monkey head straight. too much deadweights, elephants in this room. so may as well look at the simpler things in time of... well, nuttiness. so im going to cheer for my aunt and uncle. who have MADE IT. cheers. and for this weird blood ties- that whether i know or not, it's there and that i wont be a total free-radical but belonging to something else as well. drama days.

i still have to pack. damn.

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