"Why?! But me and Misun planned to go shopping for the upcoming dance!”
"No more buts, Chung Ae! I already made the appointment and it’s impossible to cancel it! It’s not like you’re going to have a lot of trouble taking care of her, she usually just sleeps all day. Just listen to whatever she tells you and don’t you dare show this attitude to her.”
For some reason, my mother decided that I must take care of my grandmother tonight because she has another appointment with one of her clients. Misun, my new friend invited me to go shopping with her for the school dance that is approaching. But seeing my mother like this, I don’t think I can find a way to get out of this ‘responsibility’ she gave me.
My family had lived far away from my grandparents, so I don’t really know much about them. We just decided to move from Seoul to Busan when Uncle Jung shik moved to the U.S. and someone had to look over halmeoni since she’s really old now and I also heard that she had Alzheimer’s disease. It has only been days since we moved and my mom and dad just had to transfer their work here so they’re still as busy as before.
Mom told me that halmeoni and harabeoji used to live in Seoul as well but when they retired, they decided to move to harabeoji’s hometown in Busan. Harabeoji passed away two years ago so I never got to know him at all. By the time I received the news that he passed away, it has already been a week and only mom and dad got to go to his funeral since I was in a training camp for volleyball that time. It’s really a shame that I didn’t know them at all when most of my friends in Seoul got to see their grandparents once in a while and I didn’t.
Halmeoni’s house is just next door so I quickly went there after I mom left. I found her watching TV while sitting on her rocking chair. I noticed that her shirt is inside out and she’s wearing some colourful ribbons on her hair. I went to sit on the chair beside her and watched some shows with her.
She turns to look at me and said,
"Are you here for the party?”
"Uh, neh.” It sounds like she decided that there’s going to be a party today.
"You look lovely. Aren’t you the one that lives under the garden?”
"No, halmeoni, I live next door.”
"Oh, right, you live under the garden.”
I just released a long sigh and continued watching the TV. It seems like she enjoys the commercials more than the show itself. She laughs at every one of them but nothing is really funny. I look around and found some pictures of my mom and dad smiling with a younger version of halmeoni. The man beside halmeoni with his arms around her shoulders seems to be harabeoji. He looks really handsome and playful. I really hope I had met him before.
I went to the kitchen to get some water. I never thought I’ve been staring at the picture for too long and it got me a little thirsty. I found some orange juice and quickly had a glass and put the container back into the fridge but after closing the door, I saw halmeoni on top of the counter trying to reach something. I seriously panicked since I know that if she falls down, she would probably break a bone, and then it would be really bad. It could also kill her!
"Halmeoni, please come back down. It’s dangerous!”
"Oh, hi! I was just trying to find the…” There was a pause after that. "Wait, so why am I up here again?”
"Halmeoni, just please go down, I will help you… here.” I took my hand out as if I’m going to catch her. She holds my hand and slowly went down. As soon as I felt that her feet were on the ground, I let go of her realizing that my hand is already around her waist. I sighed in relief as I now look at her taking out a cake that she seemed to have made earlier from the fridge. I think it was a goguma cake.
"I made this cake for the party. But it looks like you’re the only one that came.” Halmeoni said, looking a bit disappointed. I needed to cheer her up so I quickly looked for something to entertain her. I found a piano and I got an idea.
I thought of a party song to play and the first one that popped into my head was happy birthday. So I played while singing. She went beside me and had a quick change of emotion. She had a really wide smile on her lips and she was clapping.
"Wait! We need hats. It won’t be a real party if we didn’t have hats.” Halmeoni exclaimed.
She looked really determined to have a real party. With hats.
I had to do something so I stood up and looked for something I could make into a hat. I found some paper plates in the kitchen cabinet and some stickers in my backpack so I called her over to the kitchen table.
"Halmeoni, we could make some hats out of this! Come make some with me!”
She went over excitedly and we filled the paper plates with stickers. I also found some strings so I tied one on her head and even I had a hat as well. We went to the piano again and this time, she sang and I just played.
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Yo~ong
Happy Birthday to you
I wonder who Yong is? As I finished the song, she clapped loudly with a satisfied face.
Mother came back and she saw halmeoni lying on the couch with some icing on her face, smiling.
"Mom, who is Yong?”
"Well apparently, halmeoni decided that there was a party tonight and the party was for Yong.”
She looked really surprised.
"What’s the date today?” She suddenly asked.
"It’s the 22nd of June. Why suddenly ask mom?”
"Your halmeoni used to call your harabeoji Yong when they were still young.”
"So the party was for harabeoji?”
"Yes, and his birthday is… today.”