Thank you for reading our bio. To tell you how we started on this journey is to go to the beginning. Hi, this is Henry Park. I’m the father and the “head” of household you might say. But as my wife Andrea would say sometimes she is the “neck” that controls the head. HA!! But in all seriousness how this all came to be was about 9 years ago. And when I actually thought about it, it was always there my whole life. You see growing up I had a father who was always working. Coming from Korea he struggled financially trying to learn a new language and providing for his family. My dad started as a gardener and joined the military so he could come to the United States. My mom was a travel agent working for Korea Airlines. They met in Guam and that was where I was born. Shortly after I was born, they moved to Hawaii since my dads side of the family moved there and that was where my brother was born. After that we moved to Los Angeles so you can see by 5 years old I had already lived in 3 different places.
Growing up we always struggled financially. My mom became a waitress at a Japanese restaurant after me and my brother was born. My father ended up working for my aunt/uncle as a cashier at a Shell gas station. Back then minimum wage was $3.25 an hour so that’s what my dad made. It was at that point, there was a turning point in my life. All the Shell dealers were required to open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Since my dad so desperately needed the hours he would work at the gas station 7 days a week. At night since it was slow, my dad had a little makeshift bed where he would sleep at night and that was the last I saw of him for a few years. I remembered hating life and wanted to see my dad, even hated the gas station for taking my dad away!!
My dad somehow convinced me that he was working for the family and I believed him. You see we were poor, living in a 1 bedroom apartment called Hawaiian Gardens. It was a HUD low income housing apartment. Don’t get me wrong some of my best childhood memories was living in that apartment. But when you come from nothing, all you want is the best because you have nothing.
Well anyways, my dad eventually went to night school to become a mechanic. He went to Cypress College and became an ASC certified mechanic. He became a mechanic and i loved those years. We would go fishing, camping on the weekends, basketball. I loved it.
But then one day my dad had an opportunity to buy a Shell gas station of his own. I guess he knew someone who was selling theirs and my aunt who by now owned 3 Shell gas stations and who was rich in my eyes was someone my dad looked up to. He sat us all down one day and told us that he was borrowing money to buy the gas station. We were excited but also didn’t know what that meant. He said we all needed to help out. I was down for the cause. Our whole family was. And so from the age of 12 me and my brother worked as cashiers after school and weekends at the gas station.
I didn’t mind at first. But then my dad had come up with a crazy plan. You see my dad had borrowed a lot of money to buy the gas station. And it came with a hefty interest payment every month. My dad wanted to pay that loan off quickly so here was the crazy plan. You see 99% of all “garages” are closed on Sunday’s. So my dad’s genius plan was to open Sunday so he can capture all that business. From a business perspective it was great!! But that would mean I wouldn’t see my father again. But he convinced me and my brother who were now 13 and 14 years of age still living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hawaiian Gardens that we would one day be able to afford to live in a house. Maybe even one with a pool. So we went along with the plan.
In my opinion now as a 50-year-old father that was one of the worst decisions ever!! It seemed like the only time I could spend time with my father was working at the gas station. I hated that gas station with a passion. My dad did eventually buy a small house a few years later and by the time I was 18 years old he bought the house of “our” dreams (pool included) in Cypress. I kind of felt though it was “his” dream because by the time he had bought the house it was time for me to go to college.
So you see for me I didn’t want to make the same mistakes my father did. I was going to make money fast and quick and a lot of it. I eventually made a lot of money. Millions in fact. But I was going to do it right. I knew I wanted to have kids but I wanted them to have the house and everything so they didn’t suffer while I was making money. I wanted to spend time with them and play with them and do the things my dad did when he was a mechanic like camping and fishing and so I thought the only way to do this was by marrying someone a lot younger. Don’t get me wrong I love my wife even though she is 7 1/2 years younger. We both sacrificed. Saved money. She drove a Daewoo and I drove my 1997 Toyota Supra lol. We never spent money. Always saved. Didn’t have kids for almost 10 years after we got married. And then right when we were planning to have kids with millions in the bank 2007 hit. And with it went all our hard earned money. We went from living in Huntington Beach 2 blocks from the beach in a beach home we bought to shopping for groceries at the 99 cent store. It was really that bad.
You see all that saving went nowhere. We tried to save our mortgage company. We never got to really vacation. Never got to enjoy anything really. I felt so devastated. So we decided we weren’t going to wait anymore. And so in 2008 our daughter Katie was born. And then Preston 2 years after that. And then Dylan. And then Audrey. Last of all was Dominic. But trying to support 5 kids was a lot of work so before I realized it, I got sucked back in to working crazy and long hours. You see the mortgage business is like real estate it’s a commission business. And all that would have continued until I got the call one day from my mom.
My mom called me that summer of 2014. I was at a Secondary marketing conference in San Francisco. All I remember was I was in the middle of a meeting with some bankers and the phone kept ringing and ringing. I finally excused myself and asked my mom. Mom, what’s going on?? You see I had just saw my dad with my kids just a few days before.
All I remember my mom saying was that my dad had stage 4 pancreas cancer. I was like WTF? I didn’t even know where the pancreas was in the body? How could this happen? You see up to this point I never knew anyone who had cancer before. All my uncles and aunts were alive. I mean I heard of people getting cancer but not anyone i knew or cared about. It was always some neighbours moms cousin. So you could see how shocked I was. I remember my hand trembling as I googled: life expectancy stage 4 pancreas cancer. It said 2 months!!! I just about lost it. I kept crying uncontrollably. You see I was going to redo everything with my father. I had to show him his son was successful!! Had money and was going to be a good father. A better father!! But little did i know I was following in his footsteps. Don’t get me wrong. I used to think my dad was horrible in business. You see my dad owned a gas station in Norwalk. And his customers were primarily older white people and Hispanic. And every single time my dad would fix someone’s car he would tell them to buy a Toyota. He said they make the best cars and the parts are cheap to fix.
I remember asking him when I was younger, “but if all your customers bought Toyota’s you wouldn’t get any business?” I just remember him beating the crap out of me that day and told me that I needed to learn to be a good person. I didn’t understand then but I do now. My dad was probably the most honest man I know.
But remember not having a lot of money twisted my soul. I mean when it came to making money I was good at it. Maybe too good. I wanted to be like Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street growing up, not knowing who I became was not who my dad was proud of.
Anyways so finding out my dad was going to die, I was in panic mode to relive my past. Kind of like the movie bucket list I needed to right every wrong. But I learned the hard way unfortunately that life was not sometimes but ALL the time this way. And that is that there is no rewind button in life. There are no do overs. Whatever time is lost is lost. You can only fix the present and the future. My dad had a kind soul. He meant well. But he realized in the end kind of like the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler that there is no redo. And who was I to rub it in his face?? Anyways the cancer spread quickly and soon….the inevitable happened.
1 month after finding out he had cancer.
2 months after finding out he had cancer.
The next two months I spent every day with my dad. Word of advice: when a loved one is in hospice care the best thing you could do is make them feel comfortable. I don’t know what I was thinking and I was so stupid now that I reflect back but I wanted closure. I wanted to know all the things I already knew my dad to be. He loved me. He really did. He made mistakes but it was almost like I wanted to beat the answer out of him. I should have had been more courageous but I was the little boy again in my eyes. In the end I DID get the apology i wanted which was like a knife to my heart. He told me in his dying days just be a good person and spend time with your kids and love them. I always loved you. I wanted the best for you and your brother. Coming from Korea back then being such a poor country I didn’t want you to suffer. So I worked hard for the family. And somehow I got you to hate me and for that I am truly sorry. It just killed me when he said that. I knew he loved me. I knew.
So there is this pain in my heart. I’m so guilt ridden. After my dad died, I went back to working. I tried to somehow reshape my past but realized the past is over. I kept thinking of what my dad told me. “I don’t care how much money you have son, just be a good person.” I kept asking myself what was he talking about?? My kids go to private school. They live in Newport Beach. What does he mean?? And then one day I came home exhausted from work. Me and my wife had worked till 1 am again with our Hispanic nanny putting the kids to sleep. I just turned on the t.v. and there was this show Keeping up with the Kardashian’s. And i just kept thinking and thinking. Why in the hell am I coming home so late? What happened to me putting the kids to sleep like I promised myself I would do when I was a little boy when I one day became a father. And why in the hell am I more concerned with what the Kardashian’s are doing in their life when I have my own life to live. And so that was how the concept of keepingupwiththeparks was born.
I was going to become a different person. The one my dad was telling me on his death bed. He gave me a gift. I couldn’t change the past but I can change the future. So now I’ve become re-born. Not the same person. I’m going to try to be the best husband and father to these 5 kiddos.
Thank you dad!! I get it now!!
I love you with all my heart!!
Day 1. Let’s begin!!