The Silk Painting

June 16, 2011
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The relationship I had with my grandfather was an original one. Best friends someone could say. Even though he was clearly six and a half decades older than me, he still thought he was my age looking through his eyes. When I would visit him in his small Laguna Hills home, we would sit by the fire he would make for us every night on the patio. Under the cool California evening sky we would roast marshmallows and we would have conversations for hours about various stories he would tell me about his life. Such as how his 1955 Austin Healey was taken away from him due to his habit of having a lead foot, the time him and his friend bought a car for only fifty dollars when they were fifteen, or the time when he dated a Bond Girl and that she would always put her bare feet on the dashboard that he just cleaned and how it would irritate him. It was always a different story when I saw him or when I talked on the phone with him. When my mom received the call from my uncle that the cancer had metastasized all the way up into his esophagus and he was now at a much more peaceful state, I didn’t know how normal my world would be. I knew there were much more stories that he hadn’t yet shared with me and I wanted that entertainment and friendship back.


I played guitar at his memorial service. He would always come find me to ask if I could play for him, so I just felt as though it was appropriate. “Ben, take out that guitar and play for us by the fire!” he would say to me almost every night. Now there was no one to play to. My family went back to his house and went through his things to take what we wanted and distribute it through everyone in my family including my aunts, uncles, and cousins. This is where I heard more of his stories and where I continue to. Even though he didn’t get to tell me the other millions of stories he had stored in his brain, he left them for me to find in his belongings. Almost a dozen old cameras starting with a video camera from the 1940s, model 1955 Ford Thunderbirds, his old fishing rod he used when he was just a boy, a harmonica from Germany that might be close to a hundred years old, but one items that sits amongst my collection of my grandfather’s things is a silk painting he received in the Korean War. During the time he was in the war he was mainly stationed on a ship, handing off heavy ammunition to the large turrets used to shoot down enemy aircraft. However, one of the only times he and his company went on land was when they were instructed to rebuild an orphanage. It was attacked and almost completely demolished by the North Koreans. The orphans’ and the owners’ lives’ were saved; they wouldn’t have to find another place to stay and they were again safe from the bombardment of people from their own country. In return, they gave my grandfather a beautiful painting on a white silk rectangle. The painting is of the Korean National Flower called the Mugung Hwa that grows on a warm colored brown branch. In the top left corner it says “KOREA” in sky blue letters and on the right side of the painting itself there are a cluster of Korean characters that I have not yet figured out how to translate. The word “mugung” in Korean means forever or everlasting. He helped build them an orphanage that would be everlasting once again and now I will keep his painting and make sure that it lasts forever. He may not still be here, but his voice and memory still echoes throughout my room from all of his belongings, and as for the stories I’ve never heard? I heard the rest of them when I went through all of his belongings that one last time.





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