My dad is not Mr. Halpern, he’s not a sage that cloaks painfully common wisdom in hilariously vulgar blurbs. My dad didn’t really know how to teach me lessons beyond forced and stilted sentences with little to no segue.
I was 18 at the time, going to community college and working at my dad’s window tinting business on the weekends. As my dad was driving us back from another day at the tinting shop, and after 18 minutes of riding in absolute silence, my dad asked:
Dad: Joeun-ah. Do you do drug?
Me: No dad, I drink sometimes, but I don’t do drugs.
Dad: Thats ok. Just don’t do driving while drinking.
Thinking that was the end of that, we get past a couple more stoplights before my dad goes…
Dad: Joeun-ah, do you do girl?
Me: Um, what do you mean?
Dad: You know, you meet girl, you think she pretty, you like girl, you do girl.
Me: Oh. No, not yet Dad.
Dad: Oh, ok. No probrem. Just when you do girl, you do protection.
Me: Um…I know, Dad.
Dad: This is serious Joeun, I too young to be granddaddy.
And that’s what my dad imparted on me about the wiles of sex and drugs, at age 18.
Another time, I was walking out of the house to go meet up with the fellas. My dad decided that the time was ripe to point out a few things to work on.
Dad: Joeun-ah, where you going?
Me: I’m just going to go meet some friends, Dad.
Me: You know, Richard, Tim, Chris, Paul, James, the fellas.
Dad: You know…you hang out with lot of guy.
Me: I know, Dad.
Dad: You don’t like hanging out with girl?
Me: Um, it’s not that-
Dad: You need to be friend with more girl.
Me: Thanks Dad, I’ll keep that in mind.
Dad: Stop playing with so many guy. You already guy. You need more girl.
Around the time I got my driver’s license, my dad was giving me spare tips on road etiquette as he drove my mother and I to church. During one of his impassioned lessons, he inadvertently cut off some Indian driver. This made the Indian driver angry, who proceeded to honk the living lights out of his car and pull up next to ours.
Dad: Joeun-ah, don’t cut off, but if you do and guy get angry, you do this.
And with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen my dad make, he pulled out his middle finger. He held it for awhile, even as the guy was honking louder, my mom was hitting him on the shoulder, and I was laughing my ass off in the back seat.
As I entered a newly elevated stage of grown-ass-mannerism, our entire family went to go visit my sister’s family and their newborn daughter. After introducing myself as the always-scruffy and cigarette-smoking uncle to a child who always cried around me, my dad and I went to go have a drink with my brother in law at the Chicago Brauhaus.
My brother in law had some business calls to attend to, and my dad was deep in conversation with the main bartender. The Brauhaus has been a family-owned institution for more than a century, and that’s something that old Korean men really romanticize. It made me conscious of how much my dad really sacrificed to send me to college and let me pursue whatever I wanted, instead of building a business and assuming I’d take it over. He must’ve known I wasn’t meant for the tinting game after I broke my 4th straight window during my first spell as the shop bitch.
While my dad was talking with the bartender, I was watching a news story about two brothers who were caught for drug possession and murder. Chicago has experienced a spike in murders, so I saw a lot of news stories revolving around crime. During the news segment, my dad taps me on the shoulder and goes:
Me: Yes dad?
Dad: We should sell drug.
Me: …Um, why dad?
Dad: Because, drug is ULTIMET PEMILY BIJINESS.
My dad then finished the rest of his beer and went to join the old white folk in the polka dance.
Even though my dad didn’t really teach me in sage one-liner lessons like Mr. Halpern did his son, I like to think that my dad raised me right. I can’t remember wise words or a lesson that he imparted that I hold dearly, but I do remember a man who was always there for me and my sister.
My dad and I still struggle to communicate effectively. Behind his broken English and my borderline-retarded Korean, we rarely get the chance to share ideas or tell each other our feelings. But we always did have a way of joking around with each other.
He didn’t have to teach us to be adults, he had faith that we’d figure that out on our own. To some that might be considered bad parenting, but I like to think that my sister and I turned out more than OK.
Besides, who needs life lessons when your dad teaches you how to flip the bird while driving?