The other day, I was at my parents’ house. I was walking out the garage door to the car when I saw a brand new cap sitting on top of one my father’s old-fashioned speakers. My father doesn’t wear baseball caps—he wears visors, like most Korean men his age who spend 5 out of 7 days golfing. It was made of stiff cotton camo and had bright yellow stitching on the front: ”Korea-Vietnam Veteran.” I put it on and walked out the door. I went to Walgreens, Bed Bath & Beyond, Starbucks. The clerk at Walgreens asked me if I had served in Korea and I almost laughed in her face at the absurdity of such an idea. My brother made fun of me the rest of the day: “Why are you wearing that? It’s not yours.”
My dad has never talked to me about his experience in the war, other than on the morning my grandmother (his mother) died. He has never said that he was afraid during his deployment, but I suppose he must have been pretty scared if his most vibrant memory is that of his mother, trying to keep apace with the train that eventually took him to the war. He said that he could hear her praying as she ran, even as she grew small and invisible behind the great cloak of snow that arrived that morning. It wasn’t until a couple of days after I took that cap home with me, back to my apartment in the city, that I learned that Daddy was there as a translator. All those years I watched my father study the Oxford Dictionary to keep up with his American daughter’s frustratingly precocious vocabulary and I have never heard him speak Vietnamese.
I wrote this the other day on my writing blog and then decided to add a visual aid.