My grandma gave me my wedding gift a month ago. You may think that’s sweet and thoughtful. I would think so too, except I am not getting married. At least not yet. No wedding invitations have been sent out because well, I am not engaged.
I don’t know why, but my relationship with my grandma triggers a lot of emotions. I love her and when I see her I feel like I should do more. I want to hug her longer and listen to her stories. At the same time she drives me nuts sometimes. I know she comes from a different time so when she told me as a freshman in college that I needed to find a husband because I was worth gold, I laughed along. But I think deep inside those words did something to me. The next year she told me that I was worth silver so I was still valuable and worthy. The year after that she did not equate me to any metal. I think it was too shameful for her to say. She would only urge me to find a good man, more specifically, a doctor and get married. I didn’t meet her expectations and I wouldn’t for the next 10-plus years after college. In those 10-plus years I have learned a lot about myself, struggled with disappointments, envisioned where I want to go in my life, and cried out to God for direction. I have so much to say to her but our conversations are very short due to our broken communication. Broken because our words get lost in between her Korean and my explanations in English. Often my feelings are too complex to explain in my limited Korean vocabulary.
Now that I’m in a serious relationship my grandma has high hopes that I’ll get married to this man that she has yet to meet. She’s frail and I know it but sometimes I think she is dramatic. She gave me a wedding gift because she thinks she might not make it to my wedding and this saddens me deeply. For some reason a part of me feels guilty that I couldn’t give her what she wanted in her timing. I don’t know why my relationship with her triggers so much emotion and why so much of my identity hangs on what she thinks. Though I laugh when I talk about my grandma and try to brush it off like the words that she says to me are no big deal, I actually think about them a lot.
So I’ve been asking myself why this wedding gift bothers me so much. Maybe it’s my sense of responsibility because in some subtle way I feel like I have to fulfill her expectation to get married and to do it fast. Or maybe I’m just really hurt that my identity has always been attached to being something else, something that I couldn’t be for a long time. I’m not sure if I’m looking for her to tell me that I’m okay just for being me. I’m not sure why I have this complex relationship with her. But I love her. And every time I think about her I think about all the good food she would prepare for me when I would come home from school. I think about her walking me to my bus stop early in the morning and how she held my hand and kept me warm on those walks. She scolded me when I’d pull the sleeves of my sweater over my hands because she said that was not ladylike.
What am I worth? I go back and forth. I would be lying to you if I said that the words people say to me don’t hurt or bother me. I’ve come to realize that there are cultural, generational, and familial expectations that I may not be able to fulfill, but that is okay. There is One who calls me worthy and in Him I have the strength to be patient, to love, and to serve, even when it’s difficult and emotions aren’t translated correctly and when wedding gifts are received way before a date is set. Even when sometimes the people you love drive you crazy.