Be a 50, Not a 100

Kaitlyn Choi

       “Jee Won, will you come over here for a second?” 

A voice crackling with mucus calls for my presence. I can’t tell if the static is coming from the dusty old TV or his throat, which is even older and probably dustier than the TV. Laying out a sigh, I sluggishly get up, drag myself across the living room, and head to my grandparents’ room. Hope they didn’t hear that. Last time that happened they told my mom that she’s raised such a rude child. Smile, Kaitlyn. You can do this, I tell myself as I knock on the door twice. No more, no less. Only twice, ever so gently.

“Did you call?” Uh oh, I should raise my voice a tone higher. Lying down on his side in front of the TV, as usual, my grandpa barely turns his head to glance at me.

“How’s school?” he asks as he turns his attention to peeling what seems like his fifth tangerine.

“I got 100’s on all my midterms except one!” I tell him, my smile turning into a smirk for a split second.

“Hm. Don’t study too hard, you know. As long as you do somewhat average, it’s more important that you get married to a good husband later on.” Little does he know that I’ll get 100’s on all of my finals that year, nor that he was my greatest inspiration.

“By the way, how are your parents getting along these days? Any progress?” Ah, here we go again. 

“They’re always the same, I guess.” So don’t get your hopes up. Thankfully, I swallowed the other half of the sentence down my throat.

“How about you tell your mom that you want a baby brother? Don’t you want one too? Maybe you don’t get it yet because you’re still too young, but once you grow older and your parents eventually pass away, you will feel lonely for not having a family to rely on.” The things you tell your ten-year-old granddaughter.

“I will! In fact, I’ll go tell her that right now! Thank you so much!” I bow slowly, for extra politeness points, turn, and walk away as fast as I can. No running though. That’s rude.

“What did he tell you this time?” My mom opens her arms wide, and I crawl under the blankets and into her embrace.

“He told me to tell you that I want a baby brother. But you know that I don’t already, right?” I pause as a lightning of thought suddenly strikes me. “Are you not getting another baby just because I don’t like it when you actually want to?” The corners of my lips tremble half of fear, the other half to stop my tears. I bury my face into my mom’s chest as a desperate attempt to dry them away with her warmth.

“Kaitlyn, you’re the only child I want and need. Even if you did tell me that you wanted a baby brother, that wouldn’t have changed my mind one bit.” It takes a few more years for me to learn about physical autonomy and sexism, and a bit more for me to join my college feminist magazine club. For now, I just let out a sigh of relief, knowing that I will forever be her most beloved.

“Don’t listen to what he says. You’re letting him win. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think so. By the way, you know what else he told me? To not study too hard and get married to a decent guy. I’m just going to ignore that too, you know. I’m going to live however I want.” I say as I hold the peace sign next to my right eye, probably my favorite pose at the time judging by my old photos.

“That’s the spirit!” says my favorite person, as she hugs me even tighter.

That is the spirit that I have been carrying with me ever since. That is the spirit that will keep me company even when I grow older, even after my parents eventually pass away, and even when I lay alone on my deathbed, cold and husbandless.