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Don’s Birthday

August 10, 2012

Don writes about his seventh birthday, August 15, 1945.

Poignantly, in retrospect, I celebrated my seventh birthday on August 15, 1945, the day World War II ended in Asia and the day Korea was finally liberated from Japanese rule. But I don’t remember any of that, of course. The end of the war didn’t register. Nor do I recall my seventh birthday for that matter. Yet that day was of singular and profound importance to Dai Sil. She heard the Emperor’s voice and her father’s voice in joy. That day was also important to the world, and it must have resonated with my parents. My father’s best friend had been killed at the Battle of the Bulge just a year earlier. Years later after Dai Sil and I were married, her father marveled that my birthday fell on Korean Independence day. It used to piss off her brothers that their father couldn’t remember their birthdays but he did mine!

When I was growing up, our family didn’t make a fuss about birthdays. For one thing, there were too many of us—six boys and two girls. On the whole, in Korea, birthdays were not made big deals in those days, except for two: the first birthday and the 6oth. The first was significant because the infant was able to live for a year, hence giving much hope that his/her life will go on. The 60th was considered worthy of celebration because if one lived for 60 years, that was a long life well lived. Reaching age 70 gave a joyful occasion for feast and celebration.

My father didn’t remember birthdays of any of his children. If he did, he never let us know. But he was thrilled that his “round eye” son-in-law’s birthday fell on Korean Independence day. So Don was the only one in the family who received a white envelope with $100 bill on his birthday! Don was thrilled with this coincidence.

I often wonder if my father still gives him a white envelope to Don on the 15th of August in the world yonder.


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  1. I’ve been surfing online more than three hours as of late, yet I never discovered any interesting article like yours. It is pretty value sufficient for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content as you did, the web will be a lot more helpful than ever before.

    • Hi, I was touched by your response to my blog, especially the one about my late huband’s birthday coinciding the independence day of Korea.

      Whatever I write in Shoulder Friends blog is based on facts, which does not mean that my writings are objective and neutral. Actually, most of my writings are often emotion charged and deeply felt. One thing, my writings are honest in that I do not let the readers know that I am subjective when I am. But I do respect facts.

      I would feel honored if you get my book, Looking for Don: A Meditation. Further, my late husband’s memoir, Iowa Sky: A Memoir will be availabe in a couple of weeks. They can be ordered at or

      Again, thanks.

      Best for 2013

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