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The Core of Don’s Life

August 3, 2012

From Don’s writings:

Shortly after our engagement, we were at Neiman Marcus one day. Dai Sil was trying to find something or other. As we were wandering the aisles, who should we bump into but my psychiatrist, Dr. Fred Hilkert. He was a decent, sober, quiet man. I’d seen him once a week for a little over a year to deal with a depression that started in Bremen, Germany in 1973, when I was engaged in archival research and feeling utterly alone. (I know I had been depressed before Germany, but this one was severe enough to warrant a therapist.) Dr. Hilkert concluded that the source of my suffering was not having anything at the center, the core, of my life. In Neiman Marcus that day, I told him that I was getting married and introduced Dai Sil. He beamed calmly and said, “Well, at last you found the core of your life. You don’t have to come see me anymore. The depression won’t automatically vanish, but you will be able to deal with it without my help.” So I had my last therapy session at the department store with Dai Sil by my side.

Yes, I remember bumping into Don’s therapist at Neiman Marcus in 1979.

Me, the core of Don’s life? It scared and delighted me then. Needless to say, he was the core of my being and will always be. My father, who was not happy about my marrying a white guy, changed his mind about Don soon enough. Don wrote about his experience of meeting my family and about my father’s approval of him.

I didn’t meet the Kim contingent until after we were already married. We flew to Toronto and attended a lavish banquet at one of the brother’s homes. It was certainly festive, with enthusiastic drinking starting early and continuing late. At a certain point, copious amount of food were brought out and quiet was called. Before we feasted, Dai Sil’s father delivered a homily directed at me. He welcomed us all and then admonished me, saying that I should reject American culture and embrace the superior Korean traditions and mores. He added that I should not, under any circumstances, make his beautiful daughter into a common American wife. He did all of this in English. (Dai Sil later told me that he had gotten up at five in the morning for several days to prepare the homily all by himself). I smiled.

Don writes much more about that Toronto experience but for him the climax took place at the airport.

Far and away, the most memorable moment for me of that entire trip took place at the Toronto Airport, as Dai Sil and I were about to head back home to Washington. Just before we said good-bye, her father rested his hand gently on my shoulder and said, “You are a good man.”

That meant the world to me. He had accepted me into his family.

Don had another thing going to draw my father’s attention. I will write about it in my next post.



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