I never caught her first name. We do not speak the same language, so I guess it doesn't really matter. I only know that my wife's mom, Mrs. Kim, is one fine lady. We arrived by taxi at her house on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, in the early afternoon. It was absolute joy at the meeting of mother and daughter. It had been eight long years, and far too few letters back and forth since they had seen each other. Since my wife, Ok Hwa, is deaf, telephone calls do not do her much good. They are both lazy about writing, so they do not hear from each other much. Ok Hwa tells me that in Korea, when a man and woman marry, the wife does not take the husband's family name, she keeps her own. So, Mrs. Kim married Mr. Choi, and together they had five children. There was another daughter before Ok Hwa was born, who died in infancy. Sad business. There is an eldest son, five years older than Ok Hwa, the golden child of the family. I do not know his name, but, I met him once. He visited Mrs. Kim while we were there last time, and stayed for all of five minutes. A very busy man. I saw the wedding pictures of him and his wife while we were there this time, and also, met his wife and sons while we were here before. Ok Hwa's brother, and his wife are both incredibly attractive human beings. It doesn't seem to have done them much good in life. From what I hear, they both work very hard at average jobs, and struggle to get by, just like the rest of us. Ok Hwa has two younger brothers. She, and these two brothers, were born hearing, but, at different times in their childhood, they contracted some illness, or, fever which caused their deafness. More sad business. So, Mrs. Kim has had a hard life, dealing with all these tragedies. Her husband, Mr. Choi, was a railroad man, in addition to farming, house building, and wheeling, and dealing. Ok Hwa tells me that her father built a succession of ever nicer, and bigger houses. They would live in each of them, until he built the next one. Then he would sell the house they were currently living in, and, move into the new house. All the while he would work the fields to grow their food. The family also kept chickens, rabbits, and pigs, all for food. On the railroad, he was the guy who helped couple the cars together, and signal the engineer that all was safe to pull forward. When Ok Hwa was twenty two, and living on her own in Seoul, she got a message from her mother that Mr. Choi had been injured in an accident of some sort on the railroad. She rushed back home to see him, and, I think, was able to see him before he died. He must have been hurt pretty badly coupling those cars together. Anyhow, more sad business for Mrs. Kim. After Mr. Choi died, Mrs. Kim takes what money they have, sells the house, and buys a small hotel, maybe twenty rooms. This is her livelihood for the next several years. She tried to get Ok Hwa to stay in Gangneung City, and help her run it, but, Ok Hwa had other plans. Throughout all of this triumph and tragedy, hard living and good times, Mrs. Kim has kept her cheerful, positive attitude. I've spent a couple of weeks with her, a couple of different times, now, and she's been nothing but kind, generous, cheerful, and, loving. She's remarried, now, to a good old fellow. I never did catch his name. She is eighty-one years old, and he is eighty-six. They live a simple, good live, up there among the farms, and mountains. She gets a monthly stipend from the railroad now, presumably because of Mr. Choi's untimely, accidental death. So, now, Ok Hwa and I are hoping to be able to make it back to Korea sometime in the not too distant future. Mrs. Kim will be waiting for us there for a while longer.
Here are a few more pictures of Mrs. Kim and her home:
The official website of the Republic of Korea: http://www.korea.net/.