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Recently I find myself often being left alone at home. All my three children have grown up, got married and left us (me and my wife). My mother who has been living with us passed away years ago at the venerable age of ninety-one. (My father had died early before of tuberculosis during the Korean War when I was just an elementary schoolboy.) My wife, who has been a faithful keeper of the house all her life, seldom stays at home these days. She goes out often to have her own time with her friends. She knows I can well take care of myself at home during her absence.

     I am quite well accustomed to the silence of the house by now. At first, for some period of time, I felt somewhat uneasy for being left alone in the empty apartment house all day. I had experienced the same feeling early in my life when I came home from school to find out nobody at home. But the silence of the house I have now is not the same one in its kind and intensity. It is most likely to increase and intensify as time wears on. I feel the weight of it. Evidently it will persistently stay with me until I die. In it I am growing old day by day silently and invisibly to my death. Sometimes I am afraid of it.

     I look around and find that not only my direct families are absent from my view. Nearly all of my senior relatives, close and distant, have disappeared from this world. And all of my teachers, who taught me and whom I remember with fondness and reverence, from my elementary school through highschool to college, have also all gone to the other world. Now I find I have only my peers around, but they are also very old, weak and sick, and have begun to leave the world. Many have already left. To my great surprise and sorrow, I have no elders in the world to turn to in the time of difficulty. Now I am on my own in all matters of life. Often I see myself metamorphosed into a lone leaf hanging on a naked old tree whose leaves are all blown away by the cold winter wind but few that still remain trembling on it. The dead leaves are lying on the ground huddled and quiet, no longer blown hither and thither in the wind.  

     From time to time the deadly silence of the house is shattered by the unexpected ringings of the telephone bell and my heart leaps with piercing joy, but I know that they are from a real-estate dealer inducing me to invest in a new development project, or from a pollster surveying the public opinions on some political issues, or from a saleswoman promoting some new products. The truth is that all alone at home all day I rarely and seldom have any telephone calls coming in for me. Nobody calls to ask for anything of me any more. They know I can do nothing for them now. I recall the time with wistfulness when there were too many telephone calls to answer. Some of the calls made a big difference in my life then.

     Sometimes, on an impulse, I decide, plan and prepare to go out somewhere in the morning. Like a man who has a very important business to deal with, I take a bath, shave meticulously, check my shirt and tie, but soon realize I have no person in particular to meet and no business to do, and I give up the great enterprise of going out and decide to stay home as usual. Like a bird accustomed to the ease and comfort in a cage, I have become lazy and weak. I am afraid of going out and of meeting people. The stairs in the subway are too steep and my knees are not good enough to climb them up or down. Going out has become a great adventure for me.

     Still I miss the time when I was required to wear a shirt and tie. I am no longer invited to weddings, to birthday parties, and even to funeral services. Most of the people whom I know have married off all their children, celebrated their parents' (and their own) sixtieth, nay the seventieth birthday, and observed funerals of their parents. These formal occasions or ceremonies in which I was supposed to attend in my full dress, once so frequent, are the things of the past. I miss the good opportunity of dressing myself up. I am sad to see my suits, still quite new and fresh, white shirts and ties are getting old in the chest unused and unworn. I am tired of wearing only the casuals every day.

     To spend some span of time in silence and loneliness is a must, an unavoidable as well as a painful process in one's life. You may think otherwise, but sooner or later you will come to terms with all the contumelious conditions imposed upon you by the omnipotent time. Fortunately I have gone through all the stages of life and come to the last phase of it, safe and sound. I have travelled the great cities in the world, climbed high mountains and seen the wonderful views and descended. I have come home. The journey is ended. The time has come for me to be lonely. I must be satisfied.

     Still, intermittently, however, the heart aches me, whispers me not to stop, and instigates me to continue and seek something out, but very fortunately my practical feet question 'how, what and where?' Reluctantly though, I decide to yield and go with the drift of things, and bow and accept the end of season and love. Now let the night be dark for me. Let the night be too dark for me to see into the future. Let what will be, be.
      (January 25, 2012)



Mike McManus님의 댓글

Mike McManus 이름으로 검색 작성일

Dear Professor Lee,
Your article moved me strongly. If your spoken English is close to how you write, it is almost poetic.

Indeed, I am a stranger to you, but I would like to meet you. Maybe I have an assignment for you that would help us in Korean American higher education, and give you some additional enjoyment.

My name is Dr. Mike McManus, President of the California International Business University. You can see some info on our website

We are launching the Sejong Institute of Language and Culture at CIBU. I am a 65 year old guy rather atypical for my age and status. I have lots to do here in Korea and in the world and need big help. Maybe you could help me and this greater project. If any of this makes sense or is of interest, you can phone me 9am thru 10 pm any day here in Seoul thru end of February.....010-6344-3882

I do sincerely hope I hear from you. Thanks for writing an amazing op ed piece! I am hoping you found lots of great reactions from people to the piece in KT and hope you have time to allow us to meet.
Mike McManus





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