Mr. Michael

By
It was the perfect job: no dress code, no W2 forms, no time card to punch. My job was to care for attention seeking, vibrant, bright, four year old Madison and routine seeking, active, extremely literal, two year old Connor. The first time I arrived to watch the kids, Mrs. Kwon, their mother, seemed anxious to get out of the house. After she gave me quick instructions, Dr. Kwon amiably thanked me for coming. While they were out, the kids were energetic and easy to work with. As Madison colored, she explained to me all of her pictures and Connor obsessively played with his cars. They were extremely polite, using phrases such as “excuse me, please, thank you”, and calling me Mr. Michael. The parents arrived home after the kids went to sleep, and Dr. Kwon drove me home for the first and only time because Mrs. Kwon had wine at the party. As soon as we sat down in the car, Dr. Kwon contracted an immense case of the hiccups which we both found hilarious. As he was laughing, he assured me that he was not intoxicated. “I promise I did not drink at the party; this is really embarrassing.” He soon laughed the hiccups out of himself. We talked the whole ride home about sports and many other topics. I continued to enjoy my frequent responsibilities of feeding, entertaining, and caring for Madison and Connor.
That role changed suddenly on a Monday in August when my mother informed me that Dr. Kwon had committed suicide. My first reaction was denial. Dr. Kwon was an intelligent, nice, and happy man who enjoyed life. Later I learned that the Sunday before Dr. Kwon committed suicide, Mrs. Kwon told him she was filing for a divorce. I tried to be unbiased and understanding of Dr. Kwon’s cultural views. Because he was Korean, he believed that divorce would have been a disgrace to his family. He felt that suicide was the honorable thing to do. However, my own values left questions. How could he give up seeing Madison get on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten or coaching Connor’s T-ball team? How many more lives could he have saved as a renown Yale brain surgeon?

Months after, Mrs. Kwon asked if I would baby-sit for Madison and Connor again. Although apprehensive, I returned. There was no mention of Dr. Kwon. Everything appeared the same but felt drastically different. The kids still acted politely, but Madison was moody and fussy over anything. When she colored, she no longer explained her completed work. She seemed more isolated in almost every aspect. The children were very difficult at bedtime, refusing to go to sleep. Although Mrs. Kwon was filled with grief and guilt, she tried her best to move forward and be positive for them. Mrs. Kwon showed a new appreciation for me and everything that I did. When I washed the dishes and cleaned the counters after dinner, she said that she was really impressed. I had transformed from a teenage baby-sitter to a major male role model for the children. I felt more responsible for their well being and future.

After a few months, Madison started randomly telling me stories about her dad. One day she came up to me and said, “Mr. Michael, my Dad is dead.” At first, I was speechless. I had no idea how to respond. I tried to comfort her by saying, “I know Madison. I knew your dad when he was alive and he was a really nice man.” Another day, Madison told me about the morning she found out that her dad was dead. “I woke up in the morning because my feet were cold, and I went to ask my Mommy for socks but she was crying so I hugged her and told her, ‘It’s okay, Mommy; don’t cry.’” Madison was able to say this without crying or even seeming upset. I wondered if she was traumatized or unable to understand the seriousness of death. I do know that Madison loved her dad, and she also knew that he was never coming back.

Suicide can leave others with regret and guilt. I wish I had told Dr. Kwon how Connor looked up to him or how Madison bragged about how strong he was. It has also made me reflect on my life, my values and all I want to accomplish. I have learned how one act can affect so many people, and how precious life is. Making serious decisions and plans requires careful contemplation about the consequences of our actions, especially when they affect the ones we love most. I have a greater appreciation for my family, friends, and opportunities. The perfect job turned out to be a valuable life lesson.





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school counselor said...
Sept. 1, 2008 at 2:47 pm
A great publication, Michael. I laughed. I cried. I can see how these events have inspired you to be the thoughtful young man that you are.
 
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