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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

importance of Grandparents

I'm fortunate enough to have all four of my grandparents alive and well, much thanks to my parents getting married super early. It's always fascinating to reflect on how much age dynamics matter in who you ultimately become, as I'm a firm believer that your youth determines a majority of the rest of your life, but more on that in a different post. Being the oldest child of the oldest children who married quite young, I remained the only child not only in my immediate family but also my extended family for quite some time, which inevitably results in a highly-focused me-centered loving environment during a child's upbringing. This could have unforeseen consequences like being spoiled (which by nature I was thankfully not as materialism is not on my long list of character flaws) and egotism (definitely a key personality trait, which I'm not ashamed of), but the biggest positive byproduct of such family dynamics is the core belief that "I am loved and people are on my team." I'll admit the cringe here and this is not something that people openly talk about due to sensitivities surrounding the complexities of family situations, but I'm very proud to acknowledge that I grew up in a loving environment during my childhood and the effects have carried on to my adulthood.

After immigrating to the United States following the conclusion of 1st grade, of course unknown to my conscious as I wasn't reflecting on family dynamics at age 7, it probably was a drastic change for me to go from being exclusively loved by at least 6 adults to 2 (and the two being occupied by moving to a brand new country and attempting to run a business in a foreign land). It probably didn't help that we decided (perhaps not collectively) to add a new member to the family (I love you Ian!) and the attention was further diverted. I do think that I was old enough that this change didn't fundamentally affect the stability and self security that I had before, but I'm sure 7 year old me missed the spotlight as well as its intensity as I transitioned into this phase of my life for the American Dream. Do note that early on in our immigration career, both sets of grandparents (the grandmas, anyways) made frequent trips over the Pacific to help take care of Ian and bring over food not available in the area, but as all of our fellow long distance relationship experienced people know, it's not the same.

Flash forward 15 years and my dad brought his parents over to Orange County and they now live closer than we've ever been to them (in Korea we were ~30 minutes, now it's 2). It's been about two years since this development occurred, with much of that time laced with the complexities of COVID - for those that know some level of global matters, Koreans take COVID very seriously. It did give me the opportunity to be home and be with them when I should've been in Chicago, but much of last year was spent being "careful" around them, which in reflection I'm sure was the wise decision to do so (at the time I didn't really understand what wearing a mask in front of them and limiting my time with them was going to do, seemed rather counterintuitive to the idea of spending time with my grandparents - my COVID opinions reserved for later). Now that I'm fully back and we know more about COVID (we're all vaccinated! please don't get upset!!!), I've been active in spending any time I could get with them. I'm ashamed to admit that at times this is "forced," as in I'm making a conscious effort to do so. In deep reflection, it pains me that a majority of my life that was fundamental in who I've become have not been shared with the same people who kickstarted my life, and the time I have left with them is inevitably limited. This is not to say, as bluntly as possible, that I wish to spend every single moment with them nor is that something they'd want either.

If anything, something that's quickly hitting me recently, I can't fathom what my parents must individually feel regarding their parents and the time they weren't able to spend with them and the little they have left with them. Of course, my mom's situation is worse given her parents being in South Korea with no intentions to move here on top of all the COVID restrictions still in place (her brother is a doctor who seems to be very sensitive with the pandemic - understandably so, kind of). I don't want to turn this post into a me complaining about how COVID is exaggerated and how I want Newsom recalled so I'll move on (hope everyone voted!) I do think part of this is me still at the age where I depend on my parents more than them depending on me - it's also further minimized by the fact that all 4 of my grandparents are very healthy for their age, financially well off, and have another kid at their home country supporting them also doing independently well with great families. I'm sure severity is at a different level for those with any of those circumstances at a different place than where I'm at and I'm happy to acknowledge that privilege. However, it does seem unsettling to think that my parents have now been living away from the parents they were so close to for now a third of their life, and as time runs out on both ends, I can't help but think this is sometimes top of mind for them before they head to bed.

I don't intend this post to be a sob story - there's nothing wrong with my family nor am I actively thinking about these things 24/7. My parents don't express (at least explicitly) that their lives are saddened by being in the states away from their parents and they're all technically versed enough to Facetime at least once a week. I do want to make this post a spark for those reading to reflect on the sacrifices our parents make and recognize that our mom and dad also have moms and dads, and their identity as a child is longer than their role as a parent in their lifetime. I love you all! (those reading sure, but I'm talking about my family)

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