Mom arrived in Seoul a little earlier than planned. She had been up early since morning, packing and preparing more food to bring to Yoon Seo. That girl can save lives but cannot cook to save herself. The last time Mom visited, she was appalled to see only packs of ginseng drink and some fruits that had shriveled beyond recognition in the refrigerator.
Having prepared enough food to feed a battalion, Mom realized she would look a little strange hauling all these boxes to the restaurant. She had gone to the salon to set her hair the day before and bought a nice new coat for the occasion, she was not about to ruin the stylish and dignified look she planned to have by carrying all those food boxes. This was after all the first time she was going to meet Dr Park, her future son-in-law. Mom gasped at the thought. Although Yoon Seo had only told her that she was seeing someone and would like to introduce him to her, she knew her daughter well enough to know that this was serious. She should be over the moon at the prospect that her precious daughter has found a man at last but one thing clouded it all. He was autistic. She had vaguely heard the term. There was this friend who had an autistic grandson but she hardly talked about him compared to how she had happily showed photos of her other grandchildren.
When Yoon Seo first brought up Dr Park’s condition, Mom tried to dissuade her. Yoon Seo insisted he was normal but different. What on earth was that supposed to mean? Mom called Yoon Seo many times and when she stopped answering, she left messages. Finally when the girl stopped answering her messages too, she took upon herself to go to Seoul and sprung a surprise visit on Yoon Seo at the hospital. Dr Park was away but Mom sat her daughter down for a good talk. However, the stubborn girl refused to listen. Mom had hoped Yoon Seo would come to her senses soon or that the relationship would succumb to the harsh realities after the initial headiness of love blows over. Then she received a phone call from her daughter last week to come to Seoul and have dinner with Dr Park. Instinctively, she knew what it meant. Her mind was soon overwrought with anxieties. Will Dr Park succeed as a doctor? Will Dr Park be able to take care of Yoon Seo? Will Dr Park be able to father children? And horror of horrors, will autism be passed on to their children?
Now, standing in front of the door of her daughter’s apartment, Mom took in a deep breath. She would soon meet Dr Park in just under an hour. If Yoon Seo is in now, perhaps she could have a talk with her first. Mom pressed the bell and then she remembered it was not working. She decided to try her luck and keyed in the number code. She was not surprised when the door opened. That girl has never thought of changing it ever since she moved in. Mom stepped in and was about to call out for Yoon Seo when she saw a half-naked man bending over her daughter. She screamed.
Yoon Seo bolt up immediately, she struggled with her blouse as one hand was out of the armhole and she could not find that dastardly thing. Should she pull it down or take it off completely? Thus partially undressed, she found herself staring right at Mom. At the corner of her eye, she was conscious of Si On half-naked, standing there with his mouth agape at Mom.
“Mom! What are you doing here?” Yoon Seo quickly pulled down her blouse and slid off the table. At the same time, she threw Si On’s shirt at him but it landed smacked at Mom’s feet instead. Could this get any worse? She moved at the speed of light, picked up the now crumpled shirt and flung it at Si On as if the shirt would snapped onto his body at will. “Pali! Get dressed!” she hissed at Si On. All this time, Mom stood frozen on the spot. Yoon Seo attempted to recover the situation.
“Oh Mom, this is Dr Park…..eh…..Si On, this is Mom.”
Si On was frantically buttoning up his shirt to the collar and immediately bowed in greeting “Please to meet you, Mother.”
“Mom, why did you come to Dr Park’s unit? Weren’t we supposed to meet at the restaurant?”
Mom was not paying attention to Yoon Seo, her gaze remained fixed on Si On. It’s easy to see why her daughter fell for Dr Park. He was handsome with perfectly chiseled features; very tall, easily over 6 feet, broad shoulders and lithe body. When she first saw his back bent over her daughter, she thought he looked really strong. But now, he stood before her a little stooped, his head slightly lowered and he was not looking at her in the eyes. His hands were really fidgety, his fingers constantly scratching the back of his hand. He looked normal yet different. She could not put her finger to it. Suddenly, she felt as if the room was swaying like a ship in the ocean, black spots cloud her vision and her legs felt like jelly. She heard Yoon Seo shout “Mom!” but she sounded so far away. Before everything went pitch black, through her heavy lids, she made out Yoon Seo and Dr Park’s frightened faces as they lunged towards her.
Yoon Seo screamed as Mom swayed on her feet and collapsed. All the boxes she had been holding crashed onto the floor. Si On managed to catch Mom in his arms on time preventing her from hitting the floor. They quickly checked her breathing and pulse and Si On carried Mom onto his bed. Mom’s eyelids fluttered and she tried to open her eyes. She wanted to say something but no words came out.
“Let’s get Mom to the hospital, Doctor. Pali Pali”
Yoon Seo nodded her head and helped Si On to get Mom onto his back. As Si On ran to the hospital as fast as he possibly could, Mom was regaining her consciousness. Her body was hot and flushed yet it felt cold and clammy at the same time. She was sweating profusely and by now quite keenly aware she was being carried on this young man’s back. Suddenly, her senses came flooding back to her. It was a strange feeling, almost déjà vu. She was reminded of the time when her Tae Joon had carried her home because she sprained her ankle. Then aged 18, it was the first time she had been in such close physical proximity with a man. She remembered that night 40 years back as if it was just yesterday. Tae Joon was not as tall as Dr Park but both had the same slender frame. Surprisingly, his back felt strong and powerful as she clung onto his body. Most of all, she remembered his smell. The intoxicating male scent combined with a faint smell of clean perspiration. “I must be mad!” Mom groaned inwardly as she struggled to get herself together.
“Stop! Put me down!” she wanted to shout but only managed a whimper out of her lips.
“Mom, Mom! Hold on! We are reaching the hospital soon!”
Mom felt giddy and nauseated as she bounced up and down on Si On’s back as he tried to run faster. She closed her eyes and the next time she opened them, she was already lying on a hospital bed, hooked onto drips, machines and the works.
Her lips felt parched but she couldn’t keep her eyes opened, much less ask for water. She could vaguely make out 2 nurses standing at the edge of her bed. They did not seem to notice that she had awakened, they were busy chatting.
“You mean she is Dr Cha’s mother?” one of the nurses exclaimed,
“Yes, yes! She was brought to the A&E on Dr Park’s back!” the other giggled and both started to giggle together. These girls! Mom thought to herself annoyed. Shouldn’t they be doing their work instead of gossiping and giggling?
“Pssst….I heard Dr Cha and Dr Park are getting married, is it true?”
“Yes, isn’t it fast? But I can’t blame Dr Cha, Dr Park is so…..” the nurse broke into another giggling fit.
“Hush! You are going to disturb ahjumma.” Her friend nudged her and both turned in Mom’s direction. She immediately closed her eyes. Satisfied that she was still asleep, both continue to giggle and chatter.
“So yummy? I know, right! He is so tall, so handsome and sexy…”
“His dimples are to die for …..and he is soooooooo cuteeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” both cried in unison before giggling hysterically. If Mom could roll her eyes with her eyelids shut, she would. She felt like sitting up and give these two impertinent girls a tongue lashing.
“Aissh…it is too bad he is taken. Dr Cha is so lucky to get such a wonderful man.”
“I don’t mind if he is autistic. It makes him special.”
“I agree. I found him weird at first but now he is just too adorable.”
“And did you hear that he even managed to become the blue eyed boy of Prof Kim?”
“Really? You mean that hard-to-please Prof Kim of Pediatric Surgery?”
“So Dr Park is going places, isn’t he? What more can you want in a guy?”
“I heard from the nurses in Pediatrics that he is also a wonderful person. The staff love him, the children adore him too. He is incredibly patient and kind-hearted.”
“Does such a perfect man exist?”
“I guess fairy tales do come true. I don’t know much about Dr Cha but I heard she may look tough and a fierce task master but she is a very nice person too…”
“So it’s a match made in heaven?”
Just then, Yoon Seo and Si On stepped into the room and the nurses hushed up immediately. After giving the updates and readings on Mom, the nurses excused themselves and left the room.
“I am glad it’s not a stroke. She should have been more careful, you know.” Yoon Seo started before Mom could open her eyes and tell them she is all right. She then decided to continue pretending to be asleep. Si On and Yoon Seo sat by the bedside.
“Don’t worry, she will be all right.” Si On comforted her.
“Did you see those crazy boxes of food she brought? I know she must have spent days preparing them. And does she listen to me? I told her umpteenth times to take a cab but I am sure she took the train and walked. With those food too! She is just too stubborn.”
“Your mom loves you…” Si On said but Yoon Seo continued, “She is getting on in age. She should have been more careful. Stop fussing…just come and have dinner.”
Yoon Seo bit her lip and took Mom’s hand in hers.
“Doctor, why don’t you go for your duty and leave Mom to me?” Si On told Yoon Seo.
“How about you? You haven’t had a rest too? And your duty starts in 6 hours…”
“Don’t worry about me. I will just sit here and rest a bit. At least Mom will see a familiar face when she regains consciousness. She should be anytime soon. So I can call you when she does.”
Yoon Seo sighed as she stood up, “I will go then. Call me if there’s anything.”
Mom heard Si On getting up too and she tried to peer through her eyelids. Both were standing at the bed’s end and facing each other.
Si On put his hands gently on Yoon Seo’s face.
“Don’t worry, she will be all right.” He said softly and pulled her towards him. He hugged her gently and caressed her hair. Yoon Seo closed her eyes and let herself be comforted. Then as she pulled away, ready to go. He held onto her for a second and whispered “I love you.” Yoon Seo whispered back something but Mom couldn’t hear. Then she left. Mom quickly shut her eyes tightly as Si On moved back to the bedside.
Mom lied there thinking how she should sit up and what then would she say to Si On?
“How are you? You must be Dr Park Si On?” or “Pleased to meet you and thank you for carrying me on your back?” or “What were you doing to my daughter on the table top!”
Minutes passed and she realized that Dr Park had become very quiet. He was not even moving his feet or scuffling in the chair like he did in the beginning. She took a peek through barely closed eyelids. Oh, Dr Park has fallen asleep in the chair.
Mom moved a bit to see if he got roused by the noise but he seemed really fast asleep. Satisfied, Mom sat up in bed. She took a close look at this man who her daughter had fallen head over heels in love with. He had a headful of tousled hair framing his small face. His skin was good and glowing even though he had probably been up on his feet for the whole day. His thick but naturally shaped eyebrow signified character required in a man. His eyes were closed now but she remembered how beautiful and kind they looked when he gazed at her. He had amazing eyelashes for a guy. His nose was straight and his lips were full and perfectly shaped. Thankfully, his strong chin and jawline gave the face a more masculine look to offset the softer features. Her Yoon Seo was beautiful. Together, they are going to have beautiful babies, won’t they? Mom caught herself thinking. Then she signed softly and smiled as she mused, “A match made in heaven.”