- Lessons from My Grandfather
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One morning, while my mother was getting me ready for school, my grandfather offered to walk me to kindergarten. My mom was more than happy to have some time to herself, so I got ready, gave her a kiss goodbye, and started out the door with him. After a few steps, my grandfather squatted in front of me and asked me to climb on his back. I had just gotten used to him and my grandmother living with us, and so this was a big deal for me.
“Come, let me carry you to school,” he said when he saw my hesitation. “Who knows when I’ll be able to do this again.” [End Page 19]
I was only five years old, and even though I didn’t fully understand what he meant, I still felt the importance of the request and I said, “Okay.”
I carefully climbed on and he carried me for the ten-minute walk to school. I felt comfortable, and wondered why I was so hesitant before. I rested my head against his shoulder and tried to match my breathing with his.
We didn’t talk much on the way there, and even though after that day our relationship never went deep enough to talk about how to stand up to a bully, or how to deal with putting a broken heart back together, at least he could talk to me through this, and with every step he took I realized he was teaching me. He was telling me everything he wanted to tell me.
He told me stories about his mistakes and victories.
He told me about the joys he shared, and the tears that he wiped away.
He told me he was happy.
He told me this moment made him happy.
And before it was too late, he wanted to tell me he loved me.
As we reached the front doors of my school, I gave him a hug and said, “Thank you Grandpa, I’ll see you at home.”
It’s been twenty years since that morning, and he was right. That was the only time he carried me. And I realize, even after all these years, he’s still teaching me lessons of what it means to live a humble, honest, and loving life.
The Aged Father1
Long, long ago, when a man passed the age of seventy it was the custom to take him out to the mountains and leave him there to die.
One day a man carried his father, who had passed seventy, out into the mountains on a pack carrier. When he thought he had gone far enough away he put the old man down and abandoned him [End Page 20] there with a certain amount of food and the pack carrier. But when he turned to return home, his son, who had gone with him, picked up the pack carrier to take it back home. His father scolded him and said, “You mustn’t take that home. It must be thrown away too.”
But his son answered, “When you are old I will use this pack carrier to carry you away too. So I think it would be silly to throw it away now.”
Then his father, deeply moved by his son’s words, lifted his aged father on his back and carried him back home. And from that day the evil custom itself was abandoned. [End Page 21]
1. Told by Sŏ Zu-Sig; Ŏnyang (1916) in Zŏng In-Sŏb, Folk Tales from Korea (New York: Grove Press, 1979), pp. 186-7.