(Coincidentally, July 20 is Friendship Day.)
Dear My Friends,
Thank you for such a wonderful drama that will stay with me for a long time, or maybe as long as I live, no exaggeration, because the lessons from your lives will serve as a timeless guiding light.
Here are the things I have learned from you:
Respect elders: At one time or another, you felt that society has forgotten you, that even your children did not care about you, and that you could only rely on yourselves. I felt Heeja imo’s depression and why it crossed her mind to jump off a building because she thought her children were better off without her, or Choongnam imo’s abject resentment when no one would take her calls when she was sick–not those artists who she always supported nor her nephews that she had raised, not even her trusted friends. Your stories made me take a second look at my own life and my own family, how I deal with my mother and her sisters and friends, and how I miss my grandparents so much. As they say, respect is earned not given, and you should be respected not only because you are older (and wiser) than the rest of us, but because you may be battle-scarred but that has not deterred you from continuing the fight in this journey we call life.
Treasure your friends: Looking at how your friendships have survived not only time, trial and distance but huge fights that changed lives and broke past relationships, I can only wonder if when I reach your age, I could still count the number of friends I have around with one hand. Being able to stay as friends despite everything that each of you have been through together or individually is certainly an enviable feat. Having the loyal and patient Young-won (it doesn’t hurt that she’s rich and famous and can pull strings), the feisty Nanhee, the gentle Heeja, the strong Jung-a and the independent Choongnam, plus the tough as a ginseng grandma Ssangboon, is indeed a blessing in life that only friends can offer.
It’s never too late to go back to school: I’ve come across so many inspiring stories like this in real life, and in your story, it is embodied by Choongnam imo, who did not let pride and her age stop her from trying to get into university. I enjoyed watching her interactions with her nephews and her fellow students who loved to tease her, but one can actually sense their fondness for the single stylish rich ahjumma who has spent her life taking care of her family members, and who wants to major in English Language and Literature so she can take her friend Nanhee to Paris (Young-won: “unnie, if you want to go to Paris, you need to major in French Language and Literature, not English.”)
It’s never too late for a divorce: It took Jung-a 50 years to leave her husband, but she got there, and in the process, taught him that misogyny in this day and age is uncool and outdated. Suk-kyoon was a typical example of a chauvinist pig but he managed to redeem himself later by giving a peek into how society has shaped his thinking and attitude. It’s a sad reflection of real social mores that are still present despite global advancement. But Suk-kyoon offered another lesson from your story, that it is never too late to change, for the better.
It’s never too late to rekindle an old spark: I find it sad and ironic that Young-won, a famous actress, has ended up alone in her life after several lost loves. But her story also showed that it’s never too late to make up for the lost years, even if in the end, she had to let go. The same is true for Nanhee, encouraged by her daughter Wan no less, to give happiness another chance, even if it’s just through harmless dating. Or for Sung-jae and Heeja.
Cancer is not the end of your life, it is a chance to appreciate it more: Young-won’s fighting spirit was not only encouraging but admirable, always not failing to remind the others who were better off health-wise that they were lucky. She continues to enjoy life and try to make amends for the hurt she has caused, especially to her friend Nanhee, and shares her gratitude for still being alive by helping others. Behind that brave smile though is a graceful soul that has accepted her fate and does not question it, instead, she rolls with the punches and inspires those around her.
Physical disability does not disable you to love: I get Nanhee’s view on how disability is a burden in a relationship, seeing how this has affected her own younger brother. I also get why Wan chose to break up with Yeon-ha for her mother’s sake, her mother whose world revolved around her. But In-bong samchoon and Yeon-ha showed that physical disability is not a barrier to love someone, it is the mental state that disables people to look at them as capable human beings who deserve, not pity, but respect and love.
Everyone deserves a slice of the happiness pie: Yes, even the utterly flawed Suk-kyoon, or In-bong and Yeon-ha with their disabilities. Even former lovers Sung-jae and Heeja, who at old age, are making up for what they didn’t have in their younger years. Happiness is a desired state though getting there may be different for all of us.
It’s true, regrets always come later. But come to terms with those regrets by doing something about it, like what Choong-nam imo did, or Jung-a, Suk-kyoon, and each of our beloved characters. Write that book, like what Wan did. Fly to see your lover sitting on a wheelchair across the world. Go on that adventure and get more out of life. Age is just a number as they say.
Life? It’s nothing special. This is what Ssang-boon told Wan, and grandma who has lived nine decades on this planet should know better than most of us.
Kamsahamnida dear my friends for sharing your story with us.
You have made life more interesting.
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