In Korea, when people die, they are buried under small hills or little mountains. I guess it depends on your level of wealth and social status. In May, my father is going to Korea to try to buy the hill/mountain that his father is buried under, before it is developed into a condo, mall or parking lot. This seems like a rather large and expensive undertaking to me.
See the thing is, he never knew his own father. He passed away while my dad was still in my grandmother's belly. He left my father nothing, because in 1940s Korea, you only left money to your sons, and my dad was not yet born. What if he had been a girl? Thus, my grandfather's entire inheritance was left to my dad's older brother - my uncle. A terrible man, who lived like a king, while my dad starved and stole bags of family rice to pay for school. A terrible man whose own children would not even visit him on his deathbed. Strangely enough, my mother was the only one with him when he died.
My father's entire life has been touched by this early, devastating loss. He carries it with him - a big, black mark upon his soul. He lives like he is waiting to die. As a child, it was difficult to hear this constant refrain. "One day, I will be gone, and you will know what it is to be without a father. Your life is my life. I am only happy if you are happy." No child wants to think about their parent dying. Can a child even comprehend this? It used to anger me. I did not want so much responsibility. I did not want to think about dying.
A few years ago, around the same time that my dad published his book of poems, I asked him to tell me about his life. He told me about the loss of his father. The poverty in which he grew up. The humiliation he felt. The sadness he carried with him everyday.
As he told me his story, I began to understand his history. How his past informs his present and his future. I felt the weight of this story, which is the story of my past and present too. I could feel it's patterns encircling me, enfolding me, beckoning me.
We are our parents. We carry all of their sorrow, pain, joy, happiness, despair and disappointment within us. I feel this more profoundly everyday. But rather than angering me, as it did in the past, I realize that I can break out of these patterns, and in the process, free us both.