Utterly Human

Child with parent at the beach

I used to think my parents were perfect, as many children do. This feeling of adoration was directed especially to my dad. Throughout childhood he was a hero to me. It was as if there was no task too big for him to accomplish. He could fix pretty much anything: pianos (my parents owned a piano school back then), TVs, chairs, irons, phones, you name it. He was also the most talented man I knew; he could sing, play piano beautifully, orchestrate a massive choir and brass band into a holy harmony of praise, play sports like a professional, etc. To a little girl who thought her dad was the best and the smartest man in the world, a single “it’s okay” from him would help heal any kind of sadness, trauma, or physical wound.

That was 15 years ago.

I now see that even my parents are vulnerable to time. They don’t look as big as they once were. I see that they, too, are human, and that they, too, can be weak. This is not anything to be surprised about, but I guess I haven’t given myself the chance to consider my parents as anything less than perfect. I have been away from my parents for several years, being on my own as they moved back to Korea after eight years of living in California. Maybe this has kept me in the dark about the little details about my parents.

Now that I’m visiting Seoul, Korea and living with my parents for the first time in a long while, I see so many more characteristics in them than I had before. One clear realization I had is that my dad is getting old and I am seeing how human he can be. I admit, I still do have the “my dad is the best” attitude to a certain degree, but Mom and I sometimes joke about how much of a kid Dad can be as we witness him getting upset over something minute.

It’s kind of funny and almost cute that he can’t eat a proper meal without my mom. Mom and I laugh and take liberty to go on generalizing how childish men are. But we always conclude that men and women are just structured differently, and that men are given the capacity to do whatever task God has given them, as women are equipped for tasks built for us. Mom usually says that it is the women next to men (meaning herself in most cases) that need to support them (meaning my dad) by filling in the void that the men can’t fill on their own.

I don’t know exactly what to feel about the fact that I haven’t noticed such human qualities of my parents earlier; or perhaps I had chosen not to see them. But yes, my dad does get angry, my dad can get hurt, and my dad can get emotional. I could either apologize for having thought he was perfect while he wasn’t, or I could just laugh about it and move on with my life. But in any case, I feel that spending this time here in Seoul with my parents, after such a long time of being unable to, is giving me a chance to really be involved in their everyday lives. They tell me stories and they show their inner

feelings. I understand that this is nothing extremely special to most families. Sharing feelings is commonly done in every human relationship, but my parents and I have had to be content with doing that through phone. Living together for more than a summer break has not come around for a while, and probably will not come around again.

I think it means you’re really growing up when your parents tell you things that they would not have told you before, or when you actually understand the things they say from their perspective. Things like the hard times they went through, instances of emotional breakdowns, conflicts they had with each other or family, and so on. Now that I’m at the age at which my mom got married to my dad, I guess it’s good to really see my parents in human terms. I appreciate even the fragile and the ugly, the shattering of a fantasy that made me think that my parents were infallible and fearless people. “People” is the right word. They are not gods; they’re only people, sinners and all at the mercy of our Lord.

I am thankful that I was able to think of my parents as invincible once. I still do look up to them without question. Dad is still the man who can fix not only the things around the house, but hearts and souls through powerful sermons. He is still that stern authority figure and a fun dad all at the same time, and he can make espresso that makes me close my eyes and go “mmmmm” with every sip. But now I know that he, too, goes through problems like I do. He, too, experiences fatigue and he, too, cries. I am glad that he knows how to. I am glad that he can be a child sometimes, because after all, we are all children of God, and it is perfectly fine to be weak in front of Him. What a relief.

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