My Grandfather

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I always used to dread Sunday mornings. It was the day that my father would call my grandparents long distance to Korea. My father had a rule that my brother, sister, and I each had to talk to our grandfather and practice speaking Korean. I remember turning over in my bed to face the wall so that my father couldn't see that I was awake. Even though I tried my best to feign a deep slumber, his stern voice commanded me to wake up and set a good example for my younger siblings. Groaning, I would stumble over to the telephone and mumble a couple of memorized phrases, knowing that my grandfather always said the same thing to me: "Work hard at your studies and learn to speak Korean." And for many years, when I thought of my grandfather, I pictured a man far away who always had boring things to say and who prevented me from sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

However, in I993, the rather fuzzy mental picture was replaced with a tall, intimidating figure, with surprisingly alert eyes that seemed to chisel through to your innermost thoughts. That was the year of the Big Trip. My family set aside the summer to travel back to the "homeland," Korea. For me, meeting my grandparents was the farthest thing from my mind. Visiting Seoul was more exciting. But it was just my luck that my grandparents lived in the small city of Chunju, all the way down the peninsula, and hours away from fun. At first, it was awkward, I really didn't say much to my grandfather because he seemed like a stranger. I had assumed that he played no role my life and so didn't bother trying to start a conversation. Instead, my brother, sister, and I made my grandparents' newly built house our new playground. We purposely spoke in English, blasted the radio, and used the intercom as a toy, singing songs into it while pressing the talk button. I thought that my grandfather was ashamed of us because he always had this disapproving look on his face. I was surprised to find out from my mother that the contrary...
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