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only this.

My dad died in a car accident thirteen years ago. The lasting effect of that loss is that I have a very keen awareness that bad things can happen to me and mine. Some people, having lost, turn to faith. But I’m not religious. Instead, I look to ritual. And so, over time, I’ve adopted a habit of carrying around a cautious respect for the possibility of harm, hoping that respect will keep the wolves at bay.

I learned the hard way. Before I lost my dad, I’d absorb others’ tragedies with sadness, but from a remove. Bad things happened to others, but could never happen to me. The night I got the phone call about my dad, I was at college, out with friends, celebrating our impending graduation. I giddily told my friends that we were lucky, that we were going places, and that nothing bad could happen to us. I distinctly remember those words, because of what was to come. Three hours later, in the middle of the night, I got the call from my brother, who was 19 and so young.

A small part of me still believes that my dad was taken away because of my hubris.

I no longer assume the best. I just try to prepare for the worst. Now that I have kids, the anxiety is almost omnipresent, and the stakes are so much higher. My blogger friend Joan wrote movingly about this phenomenon in a recent post.

Last week, Tate had routine surgery to have his second set of ear tubes put in and his adenoids taken out. I say routine, but no surgery is routine in my world. Bad things happen, even during routine surgery. And how can surgery ever be routine, when the patient weighs 25 pounds, most of it noggin? Friends checked in throughout the day, assuring me that things would be fine. And they were, but I stopped breathing when they wheeled Tate away from me, and only started up again when I saw his eyes fluttering awake, 45 minutes later.

In that bustling, beeping recovery room, I felt a rare calm run through me, like that first sublime moment when an epidural kicks in. And then, there was only this. This cheek, this tiny hand. A moment to be grateful– for my child, delivered safe; for the time I had with my dad; for every other sweet, good thing that I have ever known.

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25 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your words ring very true. My heartfelt wish for the health and safety of you and yours.

    March 30, 2012
    • thank you, i’m glad i came through clear. have been enjoying your blog…

      March 30, 2012
  2. So honest, so moving. We all learn as we go and develop ways to deal with life as we know it. Keep it up your an insanely strong person coping as you go.

    March 30, 2012
    • on any given day, only as strong as necessary. yes, i think of all my coping mechanisms as hard-won badges. thanks robyn.

      March 30, 2012
  3. Courtney #

    Moving post, Yoona. It’s definitely true that once you have kids you are vulnerable in a way that you never have been before.

    March 30, 2012
  4. gulgun #

    So insightful and honest, as always. Thanks for making us who live with fear feel less alone. And reminding us to be grateful for each happy moment. There are so many and yet they are so easily overshadowed by dread.

    March 29, 2012
    • gulgun, it’s not crazy if others feel the same–my motto. here’s to keeping the dread under control…

      March 30, 2012
  5. So glad to hear everything went well with Tate. Having kids is what made me painfully aware of my mortality, and my parents’ mortality. All we can do with it is make the most of it while we have it.

    March 29, 2012
    • learning how to accept loss is a big life goal of mine. but i’d prefer not to have to learn it. thanks katy.

      March 30, 2012
  6. Fia #

    I used to have ear tubes when I was a kid. If it’s those you have to avoid otitis?
    Glad to hear that everything went well 🙂

    http://bitterfia.wordpress.com

    March 29, 2012
  7. Beautiful Post. Always Reflect, take a moment, but don’t dwell. Pass along to your children the same love that your father had for you, pass the memory without so much as a tiny regret.
    Enjoy the precious moments with your little one that only you are privy too, and hold his hand in love, and know you, a mother, are simply the best thing that has ever “happened” to your child.

    From one Mother to Another….

    March 29, 2012
    • thanks markella, for the reminder that you can reflect, without driving yourself insane with fear about the future. i’ll toast to that.

      March 29, 2012
  8. So sorry for your loss. I’ll pray things go better for you. Really all we do need is grace through faith (mercy). I got through all I did in my life too, terrible sins.. My dad died March 16th. I have faith that God had mercy on him before he left us. I believe in God. I trust him with all of me. If I don’t what am I believing in?

    March 29, 2012
    • i am so sorry for your recent loss. you are blessed to have your faith to see you through this time. sending good thoughts.

      March 29, 2012
  9. Hi Yoona. What an arresting, touching entry. You’re very brave and clearly a wonderful, doting Mom. I’m glad your son had a trouble-free surgery.

    Years ago, I had open-heart surgery just before turning 6 — too young to fully comprehend, but old enough to pick up on emotions and feel scared — and my parents were wonderful throughout, even though I’m sure they were freaking out inside. I’m telling you this because my mother also lost her father when she was young (and I have no idea what must have been going through her mind) yet she and my father were quietly joyful and reassuring around me. (They also kept an autograph book which my family and all the hospital staff signed, so I could remember the experience positively as I got older.) I have more positive memories of that 8-day hospital stay than I do bad. Focusing and projecting that quiet confidence saps the dark power out of a bad time. And I would never believe you were punished for the hubris of youth — you have a right to happiness and security. Take care.

    March 29, 2012
    • laura, thank you for this perspective. can’t imagine what your parents went through. but how awesome that your memory of the experience centers on positive feelings–how they were able to reassure and calm you. i think about the traumas i feel and can’t help but be thankful for all the scary moments my parents went through for me. you take care, too.

      March 29, 2012
  10. Hubris is part and parcel of of the human condition, especially the young. Release that small part of you, sweet Yoona, that still feels guilty for taking your father for granted. In some ways, I took my mother for granted right up until the day she died a little more than a year ago, even though she was old and ill and I knew it was coming. (I just thought it was coming much farther down the road.) I have come to look at it as an inability to imagine the absence of someone so essential, so precious, to us. (Isn’t that why we call our great losses “unimaginable?”) And I still grieve for my mother, but I am learning to embrace it, to look at it as a gift, because only a love that great could result in a loss felt this deeply.

    So glad Tate made it through with flying colors. These “routine” but scary encounters fortify us for the next stretch of unknown territory.

    Beautiful post.

    March 29, 2012
    • “fortify us for the next stretch of unknown territory.” yes. thank you joan.

      March 29, 2012
  11. BiteSize #

    I’m glad Tate’s doing fine.

    I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since Mr. Park died. He was the nicest neighbor ever! (Your whole family was). I still remember the day we all found out. Mom came back from your house after spending hours with your mom and with tear filled eyes told Kirk and I what happened. I must have been 12 and realized how scary the world would be if I ever lost my dad.

    I don’t think the accident was because you were celebrating. You know how proud your Dad was of you. He always was proud of you. And we (the neighborhood) wold have celebrated your success too. Plus, LOOK how successful you ended up!

    March 29, 2012
    • jenna…thanks for the note, darlin’. i don’t know what we would have done without your mom during that time. tickled to see you as an adult (buying a house!). go forstroms!

      March 29, 2012
  12. I’m so glad your beautiful little one did well in surgery. I couldn’t agree more about just how scary it really is when it is your own child. Take good care of yourselves.

    March 29, 2012
    • thanks christine. there’s so much more to being a mom than we thought, huh.

      March 29, 2012
      • Indeed. Happy recovery!

        March 29, 2012

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