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“The Stalwart Tree”

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One of the most regrettable occasions of my life occurred in Seoul, Korea, in Samsung Hospital’s Room 307. I had flown home for Christmas break. Winter—its chill was everywhere—ruled everything: the outside, my emotions, my ailing Grandpa’s life. On the day my family visited Grandpa in the hospital, the icy wind blew right through our coats. Grandpa had been suffering from lung cancer for three years, and I had been forewarned by my mother that his health condition had been sharply worsening for the last two months. This was the first time I had seen him after his health condition grew worse.
The very thin old man in the adjustable bed had no hair and no fingernails. He must have lost at least fifty pounds because of the intensive anti-cancer treatments he had been going through. The previous summer, when I saw him before returning to America, he looked strong enough, but he could have fooled me. Grandpa had a radiant personality, and though he was suffering from pain, he pretended not to be sick in front of us. He always told us he was doing well and that he felt fine. I can still remember the image of my strong and vibrant grandfather; the man in the bed was not him. It hurt me too much to look at his face. I could not even look in his direction. If I were to look in his face and talk to him, my tears would have been unstoppable. I believed that for Grandpa to see my emotions leaking through my eyes in large teardrops would only have filled him with sorrow.
To be honest, my opinion of Grandpa is strongly biased in that I considered him the most generous and thoughtful grandfather on Earth. I suppose I pictured him as a stalwart tree, forever giving and forgiving in his love for his family. During my younger years in Korea, every weekend included a hamburger day. Grandpa lived only a few blocks away from us, and my brother and I would walk the short four blocks to that world famous restaurant to meet Grandpa who was waiting for us to buy hamburgers. When we grew older, my brother and I, as teenagers often do, became lazy. Instead of going to McDonald’s ourselves, our parents would go for us. They would ask us to ride along in the car, but we came up with plausible excuses, such as too much homework. Little did I realize that we had cut Grandpa out of this food circle. One of the reasons he bought us the hamburgers was so that he could see us and hug us. Although we were too immature to realize his motives, his love for us did not end. When I moved to America, he wrote encouraging letters to me and sent me fifty dollars every month.
No longer can I look into Grandpa’s deep and loving eyes, but I wish I could. From that day when I last saw my grandfather alive, Room 307 has ceased to exist in just one place. That room, with all its dimmed light, hushed sounds, and rubbing alcohol smell, has taken up a permanent residence within me. Sometimes I open that door, and when I do, my eyes become damp and sting with tears. Then the regrets come: I regret that I barely looked at his face and that I did not hug him as much as I should have. No, I did not talk with him nearly enough. No, I did not give enough of myself. All of these are regrets for me, especially when I think back that Grandpa never forgot his grandchildren, making sure that we received our allowance from him until the day he died.





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