DD Chapter 10
Early in the morning, Yeonwoo left the motel near the Hwaseong terminal. After stopping by a convenience store to buy soju and paper cups, she took a taxi to the village she used to live in.
Her grandfather’s grave was in her hometown. She wouldn’t be able to stop by for a while, so she figured she’d say goodbye before leaving.
The rural village where she lived with his grandfather had changed a lot.
Originally, it was a small rural village where farmers lived, but as the development fever blew up, the number of farms decreased, and the factories increased. As a result, the topography and road were remarkably different from those eight years ago.
She got off the taxi on the main road. The wind that came down carrying the cold from the north permeated through her coat collar.
Yeonwoo dragged her suitcase, and she kept her coat closed, left the main road, turned into a side road, and stopped.
She stepped on dry grass caused by the winter wind and walked the barren garden where her grandfather was buried.
It was a sunny place in the mountain behind the village. Yeonwoo’s grandfather was buried in a place overlooking the land where he had been farming all of his life.
Yeonwoo took a tissue from her bag and wiped the dusty tombstone. Moonguk’s tombstone was well-maintained, but it had collected dust due to the blowing winter wind.
Jaesik had hired one of the villagers to take care of the grave.
Yeonwoo wiped her grandfather’s grave with her hands. The yellow grass gently brushed her palms.
Even though he has now returned to the earth, the presence of her grandfather brought warmth to Yeonwoo’s frozen heart.
“Grandpa, I came early this year because I don’t think I will be able to come this year.”
She took the bottle of soju and placed a paper cup in front of her grandfather’s grave before pouring the soju with both hands, placing her forehead on the floor, and bowing twice.
“You told me not to worry about you, Grandpa. Is it comfortable there?” Yeonwoo asked, sprinkling soju from the cup on the tombstone.
Fearing that one cup would not be enough, she took out another cup, sprinkled it on the mound, and sat facing the village.
“I went to college and got a job at a large corporation because the Chairman took good care of me.”
When he was still alive, Moonguk told Yeonwoo to go to college in Seoul, get a job at a large company, and wear high heels. He must have meant not to be a frivolous farmer like himself.
“I worked hard just as you told me to, but I wanted to take a break for a while and left my job yesterday. I’m trying to do what I want to do before it’s too late. You said that I’d be fine whatever I do. Please watch over me.”
Yeonwoo stared at the cloudy sky over the village. Come to think of it, her grandfather passed away on a similarly cloudy winter day.
It would have been nice if she only recalled the good memories, but when she thought of her grandfather, she remembered him bleeding in a wrecked car before he passed away.
‘Don’t worry about Grandpa, my Yeonwoo… Grandpa will watch you from the sky, so everything will be alright…’
Even though his lower body was completely broken and he was bleeding profusely, he took Yeonwoo’s hand and smiled as he passed away.
As she leaned against her grandfather’s grave and closed her eyes, the events of that winter rushed to her mind quite vividly.
Eight years ago, on the day the world seemed to end…
It was one day, less than a week after winter vacation started.
The snow that had fallen a few days ago had melted, leaving the ground damp. Yeonwoo, who left the house with a bag containing her workbook, looked at her feet and groaned. Her clean sneakers were ruined immediately.
“I don’t want to go to the library today…”
She was about to become a senior in high school. Although the university Yeonwoo was aiming for didn’t have a high cutoff, she wanted to get a scholarship. So she went to the library every day to study hard and reduce the burden of tuition.
Grandpa’s blue one-ton truck was parked in front of the greenhouse next to the house. Moonguk had piled up Phalaenopsis orchid seedlings in the truck’s cargo compartment and wrapped them tightly with plastic and insulation.
Coming up to the truck, Yeonwoo helped Moonguk by pulling the wet vinyl with her bare hands.
“Grandpa, I need to sell at least one more. What if I bring this to the Chairman?”
“My smart girl, you’re nagging again.”
Moonguk was one of the best breeding experts of Phalaenopsis orchids in Korea. He bred the largest number of Phalaenopsis orchids in the country, completed applications for varieties, and ran a large-scale farm in Hwaseong.
Phalaenopsis orchid, named after a butterfly for its similarly-shaped flowers, was the most popular flower to give as a promotion or opening gift until a few years ago.
However, due to the economic downturn, the consumption of flowers decreased and the illegal solicitation ban was enacted, and the price of gifts went down to less than 50,000 won, which directly hit farmers.
“We have already sold 80,000 worth, and the people who said they’d buy some have already bought some. So, we’ll have to bring some to that person. No one likes phalaenopsis as much as him.”
They couldn’t meet the production cost of Phalaenopsis Orchids because they had to be heated in winter and cooled in summer. In addition, sales of Phalaenopsis orchids in the flower market declined exponentially as imports of Southeast Asian houseplants increased.
Moonguk, who could no longer maintain the farm, decided to close it.
Yeonwoo looked anxiously at Moonguk, who finished loading Phalaenopsis orchids and climbed into the truck’s driver’s seat. It didn’t feel so good to see the sky so dark in the morning.
It would be better to go to Seoul on a clear day, not a day like this, but Yeonwoo climbed onto the passenger seat to go with him.
“Will our Yeonwoo go, too?” Moonguk’s eyes widened.
“Yes. I also want to breathe some Seoul air after a long time.”
Moonguk looked at Yeonwoo on the truck. She woke up early, cleaned the house, and prepared to go to the library, but now she got into the truck carrying her bag, saying she was going to Seoul with him.
“Grandpa, what are you doing without looking in front of you?”
“My granddaughter is so pretty, I can’t help but look.”
“You can’t do that. Drive safely.”
So the two got on the highway to Seoul.
Yeonwoo’s mother was the daughter of influential people in Hwaseong. The family, which produced many lawmakers, opposed Yeonwoo’s parents’ marriage, telling them they wouldn’t marry their daughter into a farming family.
Moonguk also advised his son to reconsider his marriage because he shouldn’t bring other’s parents to tears.
And so the two left their homes and lived alone. They thought their families would separate them if they knew where they lived, so they cut off ties with them.
Then, five years later, Moonguk received a phone call. The house caught fire, and both his son and wife died, and only his granddaughter survived.
Even though they were poor, the couple relied on each other. That night, Yeonwoo’s mother turned on the electric blanket and electric stove since they had no heating, and fell asleep while putting Yeonwoo to sleep. Then, the stove fell and caused the fire.
Yeonwoo’s father, who was coming home from work in the early morning, ran into the fire and was burned with his family.
In that house, the couple died, and only four-year-old Yeonwoo survived and lived in the intensive care unit for over three months.
Moonguk took Yeonwoo home and raised her himself. He regretted that he didn’t accept his son and his wife, so he made up his mind to raise and treasure the child they left behind.
“You’re going to Seoul tomorrow, so why are you going today? It’s too cloudy for it.”
His granddaughter grew up to become quite nagging.
If Moonguk wanted to have a drink with the local farms, she would tell him it’s bad for his liver, and if he worked alone in the scorching sun, she would bring sunscreen and apply it to his face.
Each time, Moonguk smiled and stared at his granddaughter.
As he watched Yeonwoo nagging him about leaving despite the weather, he said, “The oil for heating the house ran out. Chairman Lee’s house has great heating. Even his greenhouse is heated.”
Seven years ago, Moonguk and Lee Jaesik, the Chairman of Mirae Construction, formed a relationship. Jaesik’s wife was particularly fond of Phalaenopsis orchid, and he came to the countryside for her wife, who was battling terminal cancer.
Jaesik wanted to build a greenhouse at home. He hoped that his wife, whose doctor had said she didn’t have long to live, could see her favorite flowers to her heart’s content without going far. So, he asked Moonguk, one of the country’s leading experts on Phalaenopsis, for advice on breeding an orchid.
There were no companies that made greenhouses with heating facilities for private homes at that time.
At Jaesik’s request, Moonguk flew in heating and cooling facilities from Japan for a small greenhouse and took the lead in the greenhouse construction. He drew a blueprint for the glass greenhouse to make it easier to grow Phalaenopsis orchids.
“Still, the Chairman is a person of great character. Seeing your longstanding relationship, he also seems to have a good eye for people.”
“Of course. That’s why he can run a big company like that.”
Yeonwoo held the sunset-colored orchid that Moonguk loaded on the truck’s front seat. The orchid, which Moonguk personally bred, was named ‘Im-soon.’
“Is this the orchid named after the Chairman’s wife?”
“Yes. When we were building the greenhouse, I met the Chairman’s wife, and she welcomed me into their home. Even though she was terminally ill, she supervised the greenhouse and went back and forth more vigorously than the workers.”
Moonguk smiled as he remembered when the Phalaenopsis Orchid was at its most popular, and many people visited the country.
The Chairman’s wife, who used to make coffee and cut fruits while going back and forth between the house and the construction site, passed away half a year after the greenhouse was finished.
A month before she died, Moonguk said he wanted to repay her kindness and presented a new Phalaenopsis orchid. He would apply for its variety and name it after her.
Her favorite coral-colored Phalaenopsis orchid was this ‘Im-soon’ plant.
“That grandmother must have been very nice. That’s why her husband loved her so much.”
“That’s right. When Im-soon was in full bloom in May, she closed her eyes in the greenhouse surrounded by flowers. She was smiling until she passed.”
“It’s sad when someone dies, but I think her deathbed is a little different. Should I call it romantic? Just hearing about her makes me feel that she would have been happy.”
“Yes. She said she was.”
After that, Jaesik did not forget Moonguk, who made his wife happy until the end.
He also invested when Moonguk expanded his cultivation facility where he bred orchids, and even when flower farms started suffering difficulties, he helped a lot behind the scenes.
The kerosene, which heated the farm until the end, was also sent by Jaesik. Moonguk hurriedly closed the farm because he was embarrassed to receive such help.