Kim Sun Yung and Garth's Tuba

Kim Sun Yung and Garth's Tuba

One operation, two operations, three operations. When my sister arrived from Korea, she was fourteen, had problems with her legs and her lip. She was born with a cleft lip, and the operation in Korea was not a success.  Each leg was broken and reset, and her lip was fixed. This is a brave feat for any teen, now add the new family, language, and culture and think about throwing all yourself or at your teen. Seems like a lot right? I don’t remember tears or complaining from my brave sister; I remember laughter and well-suppressed laughter with all of us trying not to laugh.

For her lip operation, she had the strict rule…no smiling…no laughing. We got orders from our Mom to be more serious and to not make her laugh. This was a challenge imagine especially for my brothers.  It wasn’t any of us who got her laughing to a point where she had to hold her face letting out huge gasps of suppressed laughter; it was Garth, our neighbor and I don’t think he ever knew about it. Garth, also a teen, had joined a band and had a tuba. He was new to the tuba and decided to go in his yard to practice. It was as if there was an explosion of weird sounds coming from their backyard and I think my sister imagined Garth as a cartoon character blowing that tuba and it gave her the giggles. To this day she will laugh if you say ‘Garth’s Tuba’ as will any of us will, unbeknownst to Garth.

I always say it’s all about the attitude, you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can accept your fate and learn from it. Just listen to Mary Poppins…Just add an element of fun and snap the job becomes a game. 

My sister got through all of her operations; she found jokes and fun. My memories of her operations are more of laughter and giggles and us goofing around with her. I am sure she will remember the pain, but she sure did an amazing job of hiding it, and to this day she never complains. 

—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife