Christmas Day at Home

We came home early from New York City and spent Christmas at home alone (with Luna). The kids were excited to open all of the presents that were under the tree, as they originally wouldn’t have been able to open them until after we returned from Colorado in January.

Thanks to all our family for the generous gifts.

NYC for the Holidays – 2021

We finally had planned to spend the holidays in NY to be together with family. This was technically a Park Christmas, but my mom would be with Jen and the Haus would all be around. I hadn’t been to NY since Eemoh’s 80th birthday over three years ago. We planned to spend the first half of the week in Manhattan. Grace wanted to minimize walking, so we stayed at the St. Regis vs. the Essex House or Mandarin, which are more towards Columbus Circle.

We met Dave for dinner on the first night. My mom came down from Jen’s to hang out with us on Monday. We went to Rockefeller Center to check out the tree. It was pretty crazy down there. We had our first celebrity sighting when Olivia noticed Gaten Matarazzo from one of our favorite shows, Stranger Things. I told her to ask for a photo, but she hesitated. My mom was the most aggressive in getting close to him and in the end Liv wanted one, but we missed our opportunity.

We had a late afternoon snack at the St. Regis before heading out to go skating in Central Park at Wollman Rink. It was a bit of a zoo down there, but we had fun and no one got injured. We had dinner at Quality Italian with Dave, Jeanah and my mom. The last time we came here together, my mom took a really bad tumble on the last couple stairs and broke her knee cap and wrist. We rode the elevator this time.

On Tuesday, we went to the MOMA with the kids. They weren’t really in the mood for a museum and were being very teenagery. Grace did a little shopping on her own while the kids and I had another snack at the hotel. All the food and service there was excellent by the way, especially breakfast. That evening, we had dinner with Zoë and Jeanah. We hadn’t seen her since SJC.

By Wednesday, things were getting a little crazy with COVID-19 in Manhattan. Our Christmas plans were becoming very uncertain and it looked like we weren’t going to see extended family, including my mom, and Grace’s parents, who didn’t even come in from Michigan. Although the kids were very sad to miss spending time with Cameron and Dex at Addy and Charles’s house, we decided to head home early on Wednesday.

We took a PCR test before we left, got home safely, and all received negative results. We survived and Luna was especially happy to see us arrive home early vs. being gone for two weeks straight. We were supposed to fly directly from NY to Colorado, so those plans had to be rearranged.

Until next time, NYC!

Lake Tahoe with Mom and Jen

We capped off our Thanksgiving holiday with my mom and Jen in Lake Tahoe. I’m not sure if it counts as a staycation when you drive 4-5 hours each way, but it is somewhat routine for us. We wanted to give them the full treatment, which included a stop at Il Fornaio in Roseville for dinner. Blue came along and they were nice enough to let him sit with us in the restaurant (instead of on the patio, which would have been chilly).

Grace was thinking that this would be somewhat of a ski trip, except it was in the 60s and the only snow on the ground was from October. I think at that time they were optimistic for an early start to the season, but it has been quite dry since then. It turned out to be fine because we could just relax and show them around.

We were all able to fit nicely into a 3BR at the Ritz-Carlton. We started Saturday morning with brunch in the hotel. Olivia wanted to skate so we took the gondola down to Northstar village, but the rink was closed until the evening. We drove half way around the lake to South Lake Tahoe. It was a perfect day and in the 60s. My mom hadn’t been to Lake Tahoe in 33 years and back then she didn’t see much.

When we got to Heavenly, it was a lot more crowded. Lucas has been wanting to do the bungee thing since he missed out in Jackson Hole. And, to Olivia’s delight, the skating rink was open over there. I took my mom up the Heavenly gondola, which has stunning views of almost the entire lake at the observation level. By the time we got down, Olivia, Jen and Lucas were all skating.

The main event for the evening was the Big 10 Championship game. This was supposed to be an early birthday celebration for Jen. There was a lot of planning of dinner around this game, including a dog sitter for Blue. In the end, we just ordered room service and watched the game in the room, which turned out to be perfect. Also perfect was our blowout, decisive victory. Everyone was happy.

Sunday, we just had brunch again at the hotel and got on the road to return home. It was a short trip and a long drive, but worth it to experience Tahoe all together. Lucas is doing ski team at Northstar this winter, so he and I will be making this trip often.

Brunch in HMB with Mom and Jen

Even though we might have still been full from Thanksgiving, Grace arranged brunch at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay on Sunday, November 28th. We’ve had mixed experiences with brunch there over the years, but in the past they were the big ones during Easter or Mother’s Day.

This brunch was in Navio and allowed sampling anything off the tasting menu for two hours. Olivia ordered the scallop three times. Lucas did not get his money’s worth, but did enjoy a Wagyu slider. Most importantly, Mom and Jen had a great meal and we got some nice photos at the coast. We were also able to pick up our Christmas tree on the way home.

Thanksgiving with Michigan Grandma, Aunt Jen & Blue

It had been two years since my mom and Jen have visited using California due to the pandemic. My dad had been wanting to come visit us and see our new home. That was one of his main intentions he had at the end of his life and I’m sorry for both of us that it didn’t happen. This was our first holiday without him, and his absence was felt more now than just being apart, which was normal.

This was also Blue’s first visit with us and his first encounter with Luna. No one expected it to go well, but there were dreams that they would be cuddling by the end of over two weeks together. It didn’t happen.

There was some discussion (among the cooks) that maybe we should just order out Thanksgiving dinner and give everyone a break. Olivia insisted that was a terrible idea. We decided to divide and conquer and our team effort all turned out great.

I had to redeem myself from my last turkey on the Big Green Egg. We all learn from our mistakes. This year it turned out great and my mom said it was the best turkey ever. I think she’s just saying that.

Many of the sides were upgraded, which sometimes is a downgrade from what we had since we were kids (i.e., fresh potatoes instead of frozen hash browns). Really, it was all delicious and we didn’t have crazy leftovers.

We all still have so much for which to be thankful, despite our losses this year. Mostly, I’m thankful that we could all be together and spend the holiday together. To many more…

Michigan Grandpa’s Visitation

We received many family and friends to Michigan grandpa’s visitation on Tuesday, October 12th. Many people surprised us by traveling great distances to support us. It was comforting to be surrounded by their love.

Thanks to Clarence for taking pictures for us.

Michigan Grandpa’s Memorial

Michigan grandpa passed away peacefully just after 8pm ET on Thursday, October 7th, 2021. Aunt Jen and I were able to get to the hospital a few hours before he passed. He was surround by good friends and passed away just after they left the hospital.

These are the words I shared at his memorial:

Our father and husband, Hak Inn Rhee, was born on December 28, 1935 in Kwangju, Korea. His father died when he was only 3 years old, and thus he and his younger brother were raised by a strong, single mother.

He attended Korea University and served in the Korean Army before coming to the United States in 1961 to continue his education. He first arrived in Chicago, his US hometown, where he took classes and worked in the library at the University of Chicago. While I knew he studied political science later in his academic career, it wasn’t until recently he told me he was studying library science there. He was primarily trying to learn English.

He didn’t realize how expensive private education was and worked summers in steel mills to pay for his tuition and living expenses. Seeking a more affordable master’s program, he moved to Michigan to complete his masters at Eastern Michigan University. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment came early, when he convinced my mother to leave her relatively comfortable life in Korea in 1965 and join him in the US. Perhaps his second greatest accomplishment was convincing her to stay. They were married the following year and remained so for the next 55 years, through better and worse, and in sickness and in health.


Jen (then Jenny) was born later that year in Ypsilanti. After completing his masters at Eastern, the three of them moved to Detroit where my dad enrolled at Wayne State to pursue his PhD, studying Political Science. He started working part-time at Silver’s, a family-owned office supply business in Highland Park, to support the family. He told me the only job he could get with a PhD in Poly Sci was a professor. My mom told me he said he was doing well at Silver’s and could just work there full time and make a life. He did just that after about 2 years. I was born in Detroit in 1970 and in 1973, the family moved to West Bloomfield, where Dad lived in the same home for the remainder of his life.

In the early 80s, I remember him coming home and proudly showing me his business card, which had “Vice President” printed on it. I was too young to really understand what it meant, but it marked the ascent of an immigrant green card holder who started out on the stock floor and ended up running their commercial operations. This business, however, was run by a father and son, which ultimately left no where else for my father to rise to secure his family’s future. Dad told me the owner’s son, who I understood loved my dad, cried when my dad resigned.

Thus, in the mid-80s, seeking more for his family, Dad set out on his own and started a retail and commercial office supply store in Farmington Hills. Jen and I worked there after school, on weekends, and during summers. The business was called “JR & Company.” To this day, it’s still not clear if it was named after Jennifer or Jason Rhee, but Jen often reminds me that my initials are JJR, which is a fair point (Jen has no legal middle name).

As I was informing friends of Dad’s passing, almost all of them reminded me that they had worked for my dad at the store at some point or another. One cried, not just for my loss, but for theirs. A few years ago at my high school reunion, a friend with whom I was not close asked me how my dad was doing, which surprised me because I didn’t know how he would know him. He told me he was in a job program at school and my dad hired him through it. I have a pretty good memory and him working there escapes me because it was completely independent of me. He said my dad was awesome and that he was thankful for the job. In college, a van-load of fraternity brothers helped move my dad’s store to a new location. He took us all out for dinner afterwards. One of them reached out to me this week and recalled helping that day. I’m so glad so many friends got to know him as more than just my dad. Through his work, Dad probably touched a lot more people than we realized.


Outside of work, Dad had a lot of different passions and interests, which he was never shy to express with his friends and family.

His primary passion was for politics, and in particular, human rights in his home country of Korea. He got this from his mother, who was a formidable human rights activist in Korea. He valued fairness and equality, and always rooted for the underdog, whether in sports or in life.

In addition to his human rights campaigning in Korea from afar, he was also passionate about the Korean-American community in Detroit and was involved in many different ways. He was a board member of Sae Jong Society of Metro Detroit. Later, he volunteered at the Korean Cultural Center in Detroit. More recently, he volunteered as a translator for non-English-speaking Koreans dealing with immigration or legal issues. His dedication inspired me in my own service to Sae Jong Camp, which is now loved by Lucas and Olivia, too.

He was always up on current events, being very well read and informed. He could pass any amount of time, reading the paper, a magazine or a book. More recently, he spent a lot of time on his computer, reading news about Korea and getting spammed by way too many progressive causes.

I mentioned sports before and Dad loved many of them, including football, basketball and baseball. He rooted for the Bears and the White Sox, his hometown Chicago teams. He also rooted for U of M, which is consistent with his affinity for underdogs.

Dad also enjoyed golf and poker with his friends. Though he wasn’t very boastful ever, except about his own intelligence and cleverness (Sorry, Olivia and Lucas, it’s genetic), I do recall him flashing me wads of cash winnings from the prior night’s game. Ultimately what he loved about these activities the most was his time with his friends.


He had many friends and kept in touch with college and even middle school friends here in Michigan. As one of the earliest Korean-American settlers in the Detroit area, he met most of his friends here.

Spencer left me a beautiful message the other day and reminded me what a good friend Dad was to his dad. The truth is they were good friends to each other and I’m glad they will be laid to rest next to each other as they had planned.

Because Dad’s family was so small and that his younger brother preceeded him in death by many years, his friends were his family. As long as I can remember, our holidays were shared with the Yoons, Parks and Nams, and later also included Dr. Rhee and our beloved Mia.

We shared a beautiful moment together at the hospital where the Nams, Parks and Dr. Choi and Dr. Choo came to his bedside together with us. Dad passed away peacefully just about 20 minutes after they left and only a few hours after Jen and I got to the hospital. He held out just long enough to see those closest to him and didn’t linger long.


As for our times together, as father and son, I used to wonder how he knew how to be a dad when he didn’t grow up with one himself. I have fond memories of him doing dad things with me. I remember the first time we went fishing together at Orchard Lake one day after work. I caught a sunfish and we put it in a fishing pail, which is still in our garage at home (the pail, not the fish). I played little league when I was younger and he would often play catch with me after work and come to my games.

It wasn’t lost on me how markedly different Dad was from most other Korean fathers I knew. His English was excellent and he spoke it to me exclusively my whole life. He also swore a fair amount. He was pretty funny, again relative to most dads. He liked to joke and tease, the latter not always being fun or funny. Once, when we were swimming in the ocean in Japan, he thought it was funny to throw jellyfish on me, and I had all these sting marks on my body. Funny, but not that funny.

He also had a warped sense of fun when it came to his grandchildren, where his teasing often ended in their tears. I would see him dangling their beloved loveys just out reach, shaking my head. They probably don’t remember that, but the trauma may have seeded their more recent annoyance with “Michigan Grandpa”, with his constant questions and re-telling of the same stories. His sweet spot with them was when they were babies and toddlers. He was great at strollering them around town, taking them to the park, and driving them to and from school.

He didn’t discipline me like other dads. I don’t really remember being spanked, except for a couple instances. Most of the time he just talked to me. When I did something really wrong, he just told me he was disappointed, and that was enough for me to learn from those mistakes.

It was also easy for him to tell me when he was proud of me. After speaking to so many of you yesterday, sounds like he told you, too. I knew he was always rooting for me. Recently we purchased our first home and he told me he was happy for us and that we deserved our good fortune.

Perhaps being raised by and married to strong women, he always treated Jen and me equally. If I was the favorite child, it wasn’t because I was the son or the youngest. It was probably because he and Jen were too much alike: stubborn, strong-willed, and opinionated. But, they also shared a love of all the sports I mentioned before.

He wasn’t a hero to me like some dads are to others. He was human, and made mistakes as we all do. Some of his were big ones, and for those, he also taught me indirectly about forgiveness and grace.


In 2004, he had a heart attack and quadruple bypass. He was pretty sick at the time, so I viewed his time with us since as a gift. He was able to attend my wedding the year after. When he came to see his first grandchild, Olivia, he cried as he was leaving from his visit. I’m so glad that he was able to spend good time with Olivia and Lucas, and helped to take care of them during his extended visits to California. I know he really enjoyed being a grandparent to them and was proud of them. More recently, he enjoyed spoiling Jen’s dog Blue from the dinner table.

It’s really my mom who deserves the credit for keeping him alive all these years, particularly the last few when his health issues started piling up. Mom, thank you for taking care of him for us. Almost every time I spoke to him, he told me how much he hated dialysis, which is understandable. When I talked to him after his last couple hospitalizations, he would pick up the phone and exclaim, “I’m alive!” and he told me, “As long as I’m alive, I’m going to keep fighting.” I’m glad he is now free from the fight and the struggle. May he rest in peace, knowing he made a good life, together with my mom, for his children and grandchildren.

We’ve only begun our journey without him. He will be very missed by all of us. We love you, Dad.

Summer Trip to Michigan – 2021

Our family made our first trip to Michigan together since 2019. I was thankful to visit my parents back in June. We also haven’t seen Jen and Blue since then, so it was a great reunion for our family.

The first week, we spent some time with Grace’s family in Ann Arbor. Delaney was still in town for school and Addy joined to help her move apartments. Grace and the kids spent time at Youngjoo and Il’s house, where they had the best time on the lake.

We didn’t get to see too many friends on this trip, though we did have a nice dinner with Frances and Jon in Ann Arbor. We had a great weekend away in Chicago at the end of our first week. The following week, my aunt and cousin’s daughter, Sara, joined us in Michigan. This was also the first time my mom has seen her sister during COVID-19.

We were super happy that SJC was back on this summer, though it was quite different experience, starting with the drive-through drop off. It was great to catch up with lifelong friends at Dairy Queen before heading our different ways for the week. Thankfully, everyone has been surviving the pandemic and now our kids were spending a week together as second-generation campers.

Grace and I headed straight from Higgins Lake to Traverse city. We dropped off Jen at her friends Jen and Dan’s house. We checked into Grand Traverse resort and got in about 10 holes of golf before heading in to meet Jea and Eddie’s family. While it was great to finally meet their newest addition, Bella, it turned out she wasn’t welcome to stay at the resort, so our couple days of golf and hanging out were blown up. We had a quick dinner together before the mosquitoes came to eat us alive. We were mostly able to avoid the rain and got in a couple rounds and a nice dinner at the resort before leaving for home. We met Jen and the Lipfords for lunch in Traverse City and then drove home before the Haus started arriving.

Myung and Millie arrived in style as Myung piloted a single engine plane from New York, with a stop in Ohio. They took went flying around Michigan and up to Mackinaw Island and now have been to more places than me. Andrew and Clarence drove from NJ. We spent some time exploring Detroit and reminiscing about how our uncle terrorized us in the glass elevators at the Renaissance Center.

Halle, Liz and Mochi flew in on Friday. The main purpose of their trip was to show Halle U of M and show Andrew what he missed out on. We will probably never let him live that down.

On Saturday, Clarence and I went to pick up the kids at camp. We brought Zoe home with us and dropped her at her grandmother’s house. It turned out that everyone, including Lucas, had the best week/year at camp. I’m so glad Olivia and Sara were able to spend this precious experience together. I hope she’ll be back.

It was now a full Hau-Rhee family reunion, like so many we had in the 70s and 80s. We made full use of my parents’ back yard with some serious kickball and whiffle ball. This is the last time we’ll ever be able to do this as my parents will be moving next year.

My mom shows her love in many ways, but especially through cooking. While we told her to take it easy, she was set on cooking her delicious food for us. We went on yet another tour of U of M. Clarence and I overlapped while he was in graduate school and we had a lot of fun reminiscing about our time together. He knows a lot more about electrical engineering than I do. We gave them the full experience with a stop at Zingerman’s and the Big House.

We took a lot of family photos and had one last meal together at Benihana. We celebrated my Eemoh’s birthday and the big ones we weren’t able to celebrate together during the pandemic. We had such a great time together and it would have been even better with Lou and Sandor’s families. Hopefully we’ll all be together again soon.

Weekend trip to Chicago

Although we’ve taken some trips during COVID-19, my parents have been pretty locked down. While we were all home in Michigan, Grace wanted to take a trip with everyone to give them a change of scenery. After considering some destinations, we decided on Chicago as we haven’t been there together in forever and the kids have never visited.

My dad is on dialysis and his treatments are M-W-F, so we left directly after his Friday treatment. All 8 of us (including Blue) fit nicely in our rental Suburban and we made the trip to downtown in good time. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, which is not only beautiful, but in a quiet and accessible part of town.

Our first dinner out on Friday was at Prime and Provisions, which was kind enough to let Blue eat indoors with us. It was loud, but the food and service were great and I think everyone enjoyed their meals. Olivia especially enjoyed taking in a new big city.

On Saturday, we went on an architectural boat tour, which I think is the best way to see and learn about Chicago and its beautiful skyline. The kids enjoyed it and learned a lot. We spent a little time at Navy Pier before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening, Jen’s friend Kim came to the hotel to sit for Blue. My cousin Sunyong and his family also met us at the hotel for a visit and we went to dinner together. We haven’t seen them in a long time and I’m certain the kids don’t remember meeting Noah when they were all very little.

On Sunday morning, I took Olivia and Lucas to meet her school friend, who was visiting his sister in the city. The Starbucks reserve on Michigan Avenue is a sight to behold, but I don’t really recommend trying to eat there on a busy morning. Our last meal was at Joe’s, which reminded us of our meal there together in Miami.

After lunch, we picked up Jen and got right on the road. We were home by dinner time. Everyone had a great time on our excursion, especially my mom, who appreciated the luxurious time away.

I also shared this in a different post:

When my dad immigrated to the US in 1961, he landed in Chicago and spent a few years studying at the University of Chicago. He has always considered it his home town, despite living in Michigan for over 50 years. He roots for the Bears and the White Sox. Jen, Grace and I also have lived in Chicago post-college. We spent a quick weekend eating, touring, and reminiscing our way through the city with Olivia, Lucas, and Blue. It was us vs. 400K Lollapalooza attendees.

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