Getting to Know Good Man from 7,000 Miles Away

I came to Korea alone to become closer to my mother- and sister-in-law. (So far, that seems to be working.) What I didn’t anticipate was how much more I’d learn about Good Man just by being here.

I’m staying in Good Man’s old bedroom. It’s been converted to an office, but it still has traces of him. I wake up and see three copies of a Rails web development book (why three of the same title, Good Man?). Thick English dictionary sit on the shelves, as well as President Obama’s book.

Mother reaches into the shoe cabinet, pulls out Good Man’s shoes, and says, “Amanda! These shoes are expensive. Bring them back home with you!”

One rainy day, Mother pulls out all of Good Man’s old school journals and we flip through them. First grade drawings, in heavy crayon. I search for birthday entries to see what he did. “Hooray, hooray, hooray! One more year has passed! It’s my birthday!” I find notes about attending English hogwons and learning computer programming.

I put something in a drawer, dig around, and find two of Good Man’s dojang (name stamps). I’m chatting on the phone with him. I pick something up and read, “02—” He stops midsentence and finishes the number for me. He’s just rattled off his military ID number, because I’ve found the dog tags.

Sister and I flip through old yearbooks together. I search for him, pick him out of group photos. Sister shows me one of the girls she knows Good Man had a crush on in high school.

Mother and I go for a walk and she shows me two of the schools Good Man attended, the field where he went ice skating and caught frogs and dragonflies. She points out the corner store where he used to play video games, hunching her shoulders over, mimicking him.

I’ve heard some of these stories from Good Man, but always through his filter. Now I’m learning about him through his mother and sister’s filters. I’m learning more about him by the things he’s left behind. It’s an odd experience, being surrounded by bits of him when he’s 7,000 miles away, in the home we’ve created together.