Today I remember my dad, Suk Yong Kwak – April 11, 1936- December 11, 1996

In his spare time, he wrote for a weekly Korean language paper in Toronto, starting in the early 1970s. Actually he didn’t have spare time, but he made time to write. The articles were compiled and published as a book, “People who travel on the 401” after his death. My mom finished the project and wrote the foreword. Although I was aware that he wrote articles for the Korean paper, it never occurred to me to ask what he was writing about. I have this book. It’s a mystery. I don’t know enough Korean to pick it up and make any sense of it. I did ask my mom to read and explain to me what she wrote in the foreword to the book. That was a couple years ago. I understood a portion of what she had read, and she explained the rest. She had written about the last years of my dad’s life, lived with grace. These are the impressions that stick with me.

In the last years of his life, he had come to a place of peace and gratitude for each day. Truly living as if each day could be the last, with appreciation for each new sunrise and the enjoyment of the simple pleasures of taking a walk and the gift of each new day. 

I want to know what is written in those pages. I want to write in response. I feel like I barely got to know my dad. He didn’t live to see any of his children married or meet any grandchildren. I know he liked Casey. Before we were married, he suggested I go along with Casey when he was planning a month long bicycle touring trip. We were still wanting to hang out with each other after that, so that was a good sign. The last thing I remember him saying to me as I was leaving the hospital one day was, “What about Casey?” I don’t know what the rush was, but the question was left hanging. It sounded to me like, so are you going to get married or what? Kind of like the way I remember he would watch tv. He would often predict the ending of a show at a commercial break. Rather than being a spoiler, at the time, I was a bit confounded as to how he was so good at this.

I have some ideas about where to start, but I’m open to suggestions. How does one get a book translated from Korean to English? First I have to find the book! It’s in my house somewhere. I’d hoped to include a photo of the cover. Instead, here is a photo of me and my dad when I’m about 8 months old in Ontario. Maybe in London, Ontario.

Spring 1972

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