March 26, 2015

TBT: My Aunt. Year Unknown. Seoul, Korea.

 // The back of the photo says March 29 but the year is written a little weirdly.
It looks like it says "42 Pi". //


Remember my favorite cousin, Jong Ae unni, I was talking about last week? And I mentioned her mom, who is my aunt, and my mom's older sister, from Incheon? Well, this is her. In her younger years. The baby in the picture is her son, Jong Bo, who is Jong Ae's older brother, and my other favorite cousin. 

I remember visiting my aunt in Incheon as a child. I categorize those times as one of my favorites but honestly, I don't remember much. I just remember a fond feeling. Does that make sense? 

This is terrible but we all used to call her "ddoong ddoong ee {fat} eemo {aunt}." It was a nickname actually started by my mom. You know how adults make up nicknames so their children will remember which aunt and uncle they are talking about? Well she was "ddoong ddoong ee eemo" because in her later years in life she gained considerable weight. But we used it as a term of endearment and not something where we were poking fun at her. I hope that makes sense too.

I don't know much about her husband. I just remember seeing a picture in their home of fighter jets and I recall my mom telling me a story about how he was a pilot. And how he had died but to this day I'm not sure if it was during combat or not.

You know in Korea, especially during our parents generation and maybe even perhaps now in some households, being married for a woman comes with all sorts of hardships. People hardships. You face the scrutiny of your mother-in-law and all the sisters of the husband. And it just so happened that my dad has many many sisters. So I think when my mom took me and my brother to Incheon to see her older sister, it was sort of her get-away, a time for her to unwind and be in the comforts of her sister. Maybe that's why I liked it here so much because I would always see my mom so relaxed and laughing all the time. Here doing the dishes and cooking wasn't a duty as a daughter-in-law, they were just doing the dishes and cooking as Mija {that is my mom's name}. 

Last year when I was skyping with my parents, my dad told me that ddoong ddoong ee eemo passed away. He told me the news so nonchantly but I was shell shocked. I asked my dad how he could be so calm about passing on the news of a death of a family member. He kind of nodded and didn't say anything. I think about it now and I can only presume that for my parents it's just a matter of fact. They are all getting old. It's just a natural part of life.

My mom was next to my dad when he told me the news, which Jong bo oppa* called to deliver. My mom goes back and forth with her episodes and this was one of the times she did. She just repeated "Gone. Gone," and flicked her hand upward, maybe to denote the she was up in heaven or whatever she believed to be up there. There was really no emotion but I think she was trying to suppress it. I quickly changed the subject because sometimes when we linger on sad or controversial topics her episodes get more serious and she gets angry and then secludes herself for days.

I never got a chance to talk to my dad separately to hear more about ddoong ddoong ee eemo and her funeral. And I won't get a chance to see her again. That last meeting in Pusan was our last. 

*Oppa is an honorific used by younger girls to their older brothers {again not necessary just within the family but in other circles as well, in school, among friends, etc.} - boys would say "hyung" - although many years later I learned that some girls do say "hyung" instead of oppa. Maybe some tomboyish girls would use it, but for me I switched after being involved with progressive Korean Americans as I learned that people, women, involved in democracy and human rights movements in Korea did this. But for the purposes of this story, I decided to write oppa instead of hyung since I always did call Jong Bo, oppa as a child and that's how I remember him.

 // Linking up with Want / Need

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