Where's My Superhero?

Debbie Kim

© Copyright 2010 by Debbie Kim


Photo of a korean child setting the table.

As a kid, the superhero that I looked up to was Wonder Woman. Not only was she a woman that knew how to kick her opponents’ arses, but she was also radiant with pure beauty and charm. With her jet black hair and beady eyes, those characteristics only sum up to one conclusion. She had to be Asian. Unfortunately, I received the news of the true nationality of my heroine, outer space. After the exposure, I never grew to dislike her, I happened to live with the truth. However, I always wanted an Asian Wonder Woman, a role model in my life.

Goodbye hero

She’s gone.”

What do you mean she’s gone.”

Grandma passed away last night.”

My mind went blank. I couldn’t believe it, I wouldn’t believe it. My grandma was now dead. Why?! She was supposed to be at my wedding. She was supposed to raise my babies. I never thought about her situation. She was way passed her 90s, dying from a painful death, my grandma needed to go.

It was utterly surreal. I couldn’t possibly handle the fact she left me. When I saw her face in that coffin, it hit me. She was gone. Nonexistent. I couldn’t control the tears and wailing that came from my heart. After my grandmother’s death, after her funeral, her children talked about the legacy she left in them. Through these stories I found how incredible this woman was. Far later in my life, I realized the Wonder Woman I always wanted was here, my grandmother.

First Fight against Trouble

Living under Japan’s control, Kim Jook Suk wasn’t your typical woman in her era. Her cousin was a freedom fighter, where she inherited that fighting spirit. My grandmother was born in 1915, during her time; arranged marriages were the normal way of finding a husband. At an extremely young age, she was assigned to marry this gentleman. She didn’t play the obedient daughter when it came to deciding her future soul mate. Being modern for her time, she declined, yet she didn’t do it at a minimal scale. On a late evening, my grandma dressed up as a man and sneaked to his house addressing the letter to her future fiancé saying how she didn’t want to participate in this marriage. She didn’t have another lover, so the only reasonable explanation was that she didn’t see potential in this man. The next day, he cancelled the arrangement with complete disgust. Her family was horrified by her actions. With this reputation, nobody would want to marry a woman like my grandmother. As years passed, now 18, her parents were now hopeless for their daughter to find a man. Luckily, her brother was the matchmaker for this event. When Kim Hang Chi (under Japan’s regime was Byung Do) my grandfather asked her hand in marriage (still arranged), she was honored to be his future wife. Even with a 10 year age difference, they were able to stay in love.

Two Koreas

With her new life, who would have imagined she would have to deal with more struggles? Not only was Korea finally declared an independent nation, but now there was news of a civil war. Being married to my grandpa was one of the wisest decisions my grandmother made. Working in the military, he found out insight about a war approaching. He was given recommendations to move to the South. Coming from an affluent family background, my grandmother left all her belongings and her money. None of her loved ones thought it would have been permanent and this mishap would eventually come to an end. Her immediate family stayed in the northern part, while her new family she created fled to the South. Her family living under the democratic regime, but her other half of her life lived under that terrible communist rule. How she must have worried about her parents, her siblings yet she created a new beginning with the ones she now had. Hearing this story, I was glad to hear how she escaped. If she never ran away, would I be North Korean? Would I have been born? But leaving her family must have been devastating. Now, she lived a life with no luxury with a family to take care of. My grandmother would always say to her grandchildren to go find the buried treasure she left in Korea. I bet Kim Jong Il already took it.

Flaws and All

Every superhero has a weakness. Superman was Kryptonite. With my grandmother, it was her perfectionism and her aging. With her obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) my sister was able to see a glance her defect.

When grandma asked me to help her set up for dinner, I was delighted. After I would put plates on the table, she would correct my placement and made it neater. All my efforts weren’t good enough, but who can blame me, I was only 4!”

After becoming poor from the Korean War, my grandma didn’t have the luxury to afford clothes. She would make clothes for her children. After one wrong stitch, my grandma would completely start all over. You may see it as a little bit insane, but she wanted to give her children the best of her capabilities when she couldn’t afford many of the lifestyles they would have wanted.

My grandma wasn’t able to last forever. She’s human. She was extremely old. She lived passed her husband and she was growing lonely. Barely turning 1, I never saw my grandma’s lover. I never considered the man. My grandma would welcome me with open arms, never shunning me. In my eyes, she never seemed to age. I found out my grandma fell down the stairs multiple times during her elderly stage. She was put in many nursing homes. The final blow was dementia. Not only did her brain deteriorate, but also herself. She couldn’t hold on any longer, but we all knew she would finally be happy. Grandma was going to her husband, her Superman.

Wonder Woman Legacy

Looking at my grandmother, I would have never thought how courageous and remarkably strong this lady was. She gave birth to 6 beautiful, healthy children. She was able to live past her 90s. She was able to live seeing her first grandchild being married and the births of her grandkids. I only saw her as this amazing grandma any child would have wanted. She was always so encouraging, warm, and a Tic Tac giver. She would always make me feel special when I felt worthless. She saved me from myself. Through her children and grandchildren’s memories, I found out stories I never imagined to come out of this tiny lady. She was always the Wonder Woman that I needed to look up to, but I was too late to thank her. All that I have now is a little piece of memento from my hero. A coat she made herself. When I was younger, I was embarrassed to wear it in public due to its murky brown outerwear yet secretly I loved how refreshed the clothing made me feel. Now, I wish I could flaunt this handmade coat, but I happened to be too small for it now. As I pass the coat down to my child, the story of my Wonder Woman will continue to soar.

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