Therese Park

A crawdad bridge between generations

Grandmothering today’s American kids is not a small task, but when the grandma was made in Korea in an earlier century, the task is doubly difficult.
The generation gap is one thing, but when the cultural gap between the grandma and the kids is as wide as the Pacific Ocean, one has to look at both sides with a fair mind.
My grandmothering techniques and insights came from my own grandmother, who lived with our family a few months a year. As a Confucian scholar’s daughter, she ruled us with her quiet certitude, besides being a loyal mediator between our dictator parents and us the “oppressed.”
In her gentle-yet-firm manner, she always pictured our parents as ideal adults with sublime intentions for their offspring, often using the ancient proverb, “Saplings need good hands to be pruned and trimmed.” But when we got out of her hands, she would say, “A stubborn young donkey grows horns on its butt.” None of us wanted to see horns coming out of the wrong ends, so we behaved.
More than six decades later, I find myself clueless sometimes on how to be a grandma to my carefree American-born grandkids — two boys and two girls — whose fathers are American. I sometimes wish I could lecture them on the proper demeanor of the young before elders or use the proverbs I grew up with, but how could I? I only see them when their parents are present.
This is the reason my husband and I take a short vacation with them each year, without their parents, in a cabin in northern Ohio amid thick pines, to reform them under the Confucian codes. But they don’t let me. In fact, they try to reform me into an American grandma, by correcting my accented English and lecturing, too.
“Grandma, you called ‘kayak’ kayaky,” Oliver, 8, said and laughed.
“It’s not ‘forgettable,’ Grandma,” Emma, 10, said. “It’s ‘forgetful!”
Alex, 14, who, as a young boy, used to correct practically everything I said, doesn’t do it anymore; he only gives me a certain look, which tells me, “Come on, Grandma! You can do better than that!”
For this year’s three-day vacation, I showed up with a bicycle helmet, besides boxes of food, goodies and toys. The previous time, a sneaker flew in my direction while I tried to settle an argument between two sisters. Luckily, it didn’t hit me. Who was the thrower of the shoe? I’d rather not say in an attempt to protect her reputation. What’s important here is the fact that I wasn’t going to let anything land on my head. The thrower thought my precaution silly. She said, “You worry too much, Grandma. Seriously!”
Maybe I worry too much. Nothing flew in my direction this time. God bless America!
Whether this grandma can speak proper English or not, one thing my American grandkids mutually agreed among themselves was the solemn fact that their Korean grandma can catch crawdads as well as they or even better. The shallow end of the Grand River in the Hidden Valley Park near our cabin was heavily congregated with crawdads in all sizes. We spent a whole afternoon at the stream with a single goal — to catch. According to Oliver, who knows much about living creatures on this planet, crawdads could move forward or backward, very quickly. With this in mind, I mastered my catching skill in no time, and by the end of the day I claimed one third of more than 40 critters in our bucket as my prisoners.
American kids are humanitarians. Korean kids would have taken their catch home to show off, but my grandkids kindly released them back to the river, saying, “Goodbye, guys. We’ll be back!”
Good times always fly too fast, true? Before we parted, Sarah, 7, said to my husband and me, “You’re the only grandparents I know who can put up with wild kids. None of my friends’ grandparents do any fun things with them, like you do with us.” Knowing Sarah, who loves to argue with me and challenge my Korean Grandmotherly authority, I took her words as a compliment.
No matter what I say to them, they’ll always be Americans, and no matter how many times they correct me, this grandma will never speak perfect English as long as she lives. But I know they will remember how courageously their Korean grandma caught crawdads in that stream on one July afternoon this year.

The Kansas City Star
"Heartland Honor Flight is all about showing our gratitude to those who fought for our country's freedom," the president John Doole says.
During the Korean War, long segregation in the U.S. military ended.
"To win, you must know your enemy," wrote Chinese Ancient General Sun-Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
...their beloved country in whose honor they defended my helpless homeland in the Far East six decades ago has become my own beloved motherland.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, their pastor is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784," Pope John Paul II said during the canonization of 103 Korean Martyrs in 1984. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ..."
During the trip to Korea together, our mother-daughter roles were reversed. My daughter seemed to think that I needed her care, not the other way around.
The Kansas City Philharmonic enriched the lives of many during its 49 years.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Messages on Violence
A Korean Grandma and her American Grandkids
Average people made the world we live in today.
Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing…for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
Pilgrims are everywhere here on the square of the Basilica of Our Lady, some are walking on their knees and some are kneeling at the glass-walled Chapel of Apparition where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Woodcarvers find fun, therapy and friendship
Behind a tough cookie, there's a culture that nourished her soul
Not biting is a sign of appreciation
After Tucsan shooting rampage
Without a healthy brain, one cannot live a healthy life
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "In War, there is no substitute for victory."
Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues but the parent of all others.
Our home became a church when homeless priests and nuns moved in with us.
Victor Hugo's view of his old age
Forgetfulness comes with aging
Learning is for all ages.
Mixture of feelings about seeing Amercans' departure from my country Korea
Foreigner's view of today's China
The "Wake up call" isn't only for Chinese parents but for all American parents.
The Korean War isn't "Forgotten"
I once had compassion for all caged birds. But since I became a bird-owner, my opinion about them has changed.
South Korea today gives thanks to all American troops who fought to preserve its peace at the cost of their lives.
The Kansas City Star Commentary 9/20/14
My first visit to Fort Leavenworth as a guest of LTC Kim Kwang-soo, South Korean Liaison Officer to the U.S. Military
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit South Korea in 1984--to canonize 103 Korean martyrs
The seeds of the Church is the blood of the martyrs.
Column/ Kansas City Star
Father Emil Kapaun: recipient of Medal or Honor 2013
The U.S. government purchased Alaska in 1867 for only $7.2 million dollars from Russia, that includes 500 million acres of land with 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for bears, moose, mountain sheep and more.
The Best Times
He liberated music from a cloistered form set by earlier composers...
The racial discrimination the white American inflicted upon their black neighbors.
Magazine Article
Traditional Chinese medical doctors have been using bird-nests for centuries to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, to rejuvenate skin, and to boost energy for both young and old.
It takes courage to deal with the human condition called "aging."
Feature article
Inchon Landing was one of the most successful operations in modern military history.
Magazine Articles
Korean War Prisoner-of War Story