Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy together until the end

I was flipping channels when I came across this on KBS World. Initially it caught my attention because it was talking about a young woman getting married in South Korea. Since I am very curious about South Korean marriage customs, I decided to remain on the channel. Only later then I realized that it was not about the granddaughter but about the old couple sitting behind them who were the feature.
She asked the cameramen to capture this beautiful day
The husband is 94 years old and the wife, 87 years old, very old but still sprightly. They are married for 73 years and so droll together, sometimes wearing traditional clothes of matching color. They live in a little house in rural Gwangdo province, and accompany each other when they go about their chores. I was a bit sad when I saw the old lady wipe down her now empty kimchi jars, because she was too old to make kimchi. She wiped one of them with especial love because the jar was previously owned by her maternal grandmother then her own mother. She said that even thought the jar did not have a handle when her mother received it on her wedding day, she kept it all the while and passed it down to her. I was thinking, why is her jar still with her and not with her daughters? I am guessing that nowadays, most Koreans won't bother to make Kimchi in traditional jars. I mean how to keep them in modern apartments (I keep mine in a glass jar, which I store in the fridge. Unfortunately B1 only eats Napa Cabbage kimchi and not the daikon and lotus root kind which I know how to make, so I seldom make them). It's sad really.

I thought it was so sweet that the husband help his wife in the fields. The wife dressing her husband warmly to prevent him from a bad cold like he did a year ago. Then the two of them hunch over the daikon radishes in the fields, cutting off the leaves off and tying that in neat rows for winter eating. The husband huffed and puffed as he was digging a hole as requested by his wife, to bury the daikon to prevent them from freezing. He later carried her tub to the stream for her and helped her down the slippery rocks so that she could wash her clothes over one. So typical of the selfless old, that they want to save the electricity bill their youngest son pay and endanger their old bodies, just to save the water and electricity from using a washing machine.

Despite it being a cold Autumn day, he sat nearby her as she beat the clothes with a stick, and commented that he was there to catch her in case she fell into the water. They still play together like young lovers. The old husband cheekily threw a pebble into the water near his wife, so that the water would hit her face. He later helped her hang up the clothes and even blew on her hands after asking them whether they were cold. It was so sweet, that when she complained that her fingers felt the cold the most, he remarked drolly that they wouldn't anymore because he was blowing on them. He commented that her hands were smooth, wrinkled but smooth (she tickled him when he said that).

When asked about the success of their 73 year marriage, he said it was a man's duty to make sure that the wife does not run away. He said if there are problems, just talk to her once, and if not just talk twice (I am thinking he is trying to suggest that you should nag someone into submission like someone does). If by the third time she doesn't listen, do away with her. His wife laughed at that. He also said that a man should have enough pride to earn enough to support his woman, if he doesn't have, then he should not even marry in the first place. She said simply that she was incredibly shy and ran away from him everytime before marriage and that she knew that she was married to him only after the wedding. She said she was happy that he said she was pretty.
It was morbid but touching to see how they mulled over the fact that they have reached the end of their lives together. The missus commented that when she was reborn she wanted to be married to her husband again  because he was so good to her and made her happy. He said that he was happy they shared this life together. That's when I started crying.
They are staring at their future burial plots. Wtf.
Updated!!! So 4 years on from that heartwarming show, local TV was featuring this documovie called "My Love, Don't cross that river". It was about the old couple. A movie director had watched the same KBS feature and went to their house pleading to be allowed to film them. Time had come to pass and the old husband had passed on. It was devastating to watch him slowly fade and became feeble. It was even more devastating to witness the sad acceptance and desperation it wrought on the wife.

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