Over at Dear Elena, there is an article on identification, and it set me to thinking about who I am. As my life has progressed, who I am has changed. During my life, I’ve had two identities which have really defined who I am.
The first is when I was a child, I was always one of the “twins”—having been born with an identical twin, David. As I grew older, I was always still known as one of the Kim twins. I was often called David, and he was often called Daniel. We thought it was great fun to switch places, and to see how long it took people to notice.
When Dave went to California, to go to school at UCSD, he told his friends about his two brothers… his older brother and his twin brother… What he didn’t explain very clearly, was that they were the same person. When I went out to San Diego to visit Dave for the first time, he had managed to introduce me to one group of friends as his older brother, and different group of his friends as his twin brother. By then, because of our hobbies, clothing preferences and hairstyles, we didn’t really look all that identical. I overheard some of his friends talking, and they were excited because they had heard that both of Dave‘s brothers were out visiting. We managed to keep them believing this for about three days… I’ve never laughed so hard in my life—the looks on their faces when they finally figured out that I was his older twin brother were priceless. They were ready to kill Dave for his part in not clearing things up.
My time as Dave’s twin ended, or so I thought, when Dave was killed by a drunk driver in 1987. I was wrong on this, as Dr. Raymond Brandt was good enough to point out, when we spoke for in 1994. My friend, Dr. Brandt, was the founder of Twinless Twins International, a support group for twins who have lost their twin in some way. He used to tell me that just because my twin wasn’t around, didn’t mean that I was no longer a twin—that we are born a twin and will die a twin. He was right. I still get e-mail addressed to me, but that say “Hi Dave,” in the e-mail body from people who never knew Dave—I guess that the identity of my twin is still somehow stamped into me, and always will be.
The other identity that I think helped define who I really am is that of being Gee’s husband. When I used to go down to the chemotherapy clinic, the nurses all knew me as Mr. Gee Kim. Gee and I used to joke and say that I had taken her name when we got married. In some ways I think that may be true.
My friend Woo, who I inherited from Gee, as they were best friends in college, once told me that one of the reasons she was friends with me was because of how I took care of her best friend, Gee. When Gee first tried to tell Woo that she had gotten engaged, Woo said, “You can’t be engaged. How can you be engaged—I haven’t met him yet.” or something to that effect. Woo’s main worry was how could Gee get engaged to someone she had only known a bit over two months. So just after the New Year in 2000, Gee and I went to visit Woo. After meeting me, Woo sent me an e-mail that said that she approved of me, and could tell by just looking at how totally devoted I was to Gee.
When Woo’s mother asked her why she and I were friends, she said she told her how, whenever things got tougher, I just stepped up and was there supporting Gee and being there for her. She tried to explain this to her mother, who, being Korean, doesn’t seem to understand how Woo and I can just be friends. I love Woo dearly, she is a good friend, and one I don’t see often enough. I guess our friendship was founded in a common love for Gee.
I told Woo the first time we met, that ever since I met Gee, she had been my first and most important priority. Being Gee’s husband was something I knew was the right thing for me to do. I know a lot of people who would have walked away from her when she was diagnosed with her cancer. It wasn’t an option for me. As I told her father, when he asked if I wanted to cancel our engagement, “Gee’s illness doesn’t change who she is, how I feel about her or what she has come to mean to me. And why, in God’s name, would I abandon the woman I love when she needs me most?” Although Gee is gone, My Life with Gee continues in many ways. I have no regrets about my time with Gee, and just wish that we could have had more time together.
All of our lives, we go about picking up or creating identities. Some we don’t care to have—some we hold quite dearly. I have three questions for my readers to think about:
- What identities do you have?
- What identities have you lost?
- What identities define you?