My dad tells me that he was granted leave at one point. He had not heard from my mom since they were separated outside Pusan, when he was forcibly enlisted into the army of the Republic of Korea. So he decided that during his leave he would try to find her, and my sister, and my grandmother.
The only place he could think of to look was on an island off the coast of Korea where refugees were living, in tents. When he arrived, there were masses of people. The lives of everyone had been affected already by the war, and many had uprooted themselves, like my family, and fled. The tents were orderly, but everywhere.
All my dad could do was walk the lines of tents. He didn’t really expect to see my mom or my sister, a baby at the time, or my grandmother. The odds were too great.
And yet, as he walked toward one tent, he saw my mom emerge.
My dad ended that part of the story there. I continue in my mind’s eye, though, and imagine a happy reunion, an embrace laden with relief and joy and tears. I imagine that after a moment, my mother ushers my father into the tent. They sit, silently. What is there to say when your life has become completely unrecognizable? And then something happens to jolt them back into the world. Perhaps my sister cries, not knowing who my father is and needing my mother’s attention. Perhaps it’s a noise from outside, the sound of a nearby refugee neighbor.
Perhaps it’s nothing at all, but just the recognition that it is not possible to sit for too long in any one spot in the midst of a war.