Father’s Day

This is a tribute to my father, who I’m sad to say I didn’t know very well because he passed away when I was six years old. He had cancer in his stomach that went untreated for too long because he worked almost nonstop. But I want to talk about his life.

His name is Kil Sung Ahn and he was born in 1942. He grew up in a very small, rural village; a cousin of mine liked to mention that it was literally a one-horse town. My father’s father was a political dissident during the Japanese occupation of Korea. He was taken away from his family when his children were pretty young. Women didn’t really work or get educated in her village at the time, so my humiliated grandmother had to scrape and beg to support her family. Her husband was never heard from again.

Though it’s likely that my parents’ marriage was arranged, they look reasonably content in early photos together. (As a rule, Korean adults don’t look happy in old-timey pictures. They broke this habit long after the Western world did. Peace signs abounded.)


I once sat down and tried to list every memory I had of my father, and I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t quite hit ten. From the few pictures I’ve seen of us together as a family, though, it’s clear that he really liked being a father.


I’ve never really celebrated Father’s Day in any meaningful way before, so apologies for this somewhat bummer of a post. But I want to end on my favorite picture of my dad.


This was taken at the wedding of some cousins of mine – his side. I love the expression on my dad’s face; he’s clearly telling a funny story but he also seems to be holding back, letting the funniness creep into the narrative a little at a time and relishing it. But the best part is that my uncle, the groom in the foreground, is laughing his ass off. And his bride next to him doesn’t look quite as pleased; perhaps the fun is at her expense? I just love that my dad would tell a story like that at a wedding.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all!

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