To my mother, who, (like so many other moms), is one of the most understated human beings around.
My mother embraced a new country as a young adult. She worked hard to learn the language and the customs. For her, coming from South Korea to America was probably even harder than our move from San Francisco to Arizona. Probably.
She couldn’t drive, so she walked. A lot. She was alone must of the time, because my father was working and going to school simultaneously. My sister was born 11 months after me, so you can imagine how challenging her life was at this time.
She learned to love pan pizza and Michael Jackson. She listened with open ears and heart to our “rock music.” Boy George fascinated her (“Really, he’s man? Not woman?”) She had – and still has – an eye for style and fashion. She can sew better than any professional I know.
Yooni emulated naughty boys we saw in the malls and amusement parks. They threw up their middle fingers and muttered expletives. At times, she wanted to express her frustration and anger so she would raise her fist (with no finger projection) and yell, “Fist up!”
My mother eventually learned how to drive and she drove us to cello, piano, violin lessons and concerts. She drove us to our Tae Kwon Do lessons. She cooked amazing meals and did all the cleaning. She wanted to hold a “real” job, but it never happened.
But she has held several volunteer jobs. The most recent one was as an assistant at an Alzheimer’s home. She pushed wheelchairs, changed bedding and spoke with residents. These residents rarely remembered anything day-to-day, but because my mother treated them with kindness and respect, many would light up when they saw her. They would hold her hand and call her friend. My favorite story is about one man with severe Alzheimer’s who never had visitors. Not a single friend or relative ever came to see him. He didn’t have many clothes and his undershirts were starting to yellow. My mother went to Macy’s and bought him several undershirts. Her co-worker told me this story. My mother never brags. It’s a special person who would do this for a “stranger.” But to do this for a stranger who won’t remember her or her kindness? My mother is an exceptional human being and I am so grateful for her.