Dad could no longer move well. As he spent most of his day sitting or
lying, muscle atrophy, especially of the hips and around the core, made
simple activities such as getting up from bed painfully slow. He could
not squat deep and rise without holding onto something. It was
horrifying to see and reminded me of Maxwell's statement that getting
up from the floor was critical for the old.
In July, he was hospitalized for three weeks for various complaints. One
was swelling lower legs which was not fixed until Mr. Zhao doubled the
doses of one medicine after they left the hospital. He couldn't even
chew and Mr. Zhao solved the problem by blending his food. That seemed
to work and his nutrition might be even better than before. My cousin
brought him protein powder to take with regular food. It was a good
idea, too. Slowly, he was recovering.
I don't know about dad but am thankful for all the help.
I liked my cousins but mom and aunt were sworn enemies when they were
alive. Aunt was seven years older and, with their widowed mother, took
care of dad in his formative years. The tougher the world around them,
the stronger the bond holding the three together grew. In fact, I think
it became too strong for dad's own good. The two women, out of their own
miseries and insecurity, must have branded the abomination of ingratitude
in his mind. To put it bluntly, their love was not free and they demanded a
return on their investment. The only male heir of the family, dad must
have carried a lot on his young shoulders when he entered the work force,
teaching at a high-school hundreds of miles away. Even after he married,
a larger portion of his paycheck went to his mom and sister's insead of his
own family, which became a constant fuse for fight between him and mom.
To justify it, he used to claim that aunt funded his education but mom
never bought the story.
Today, 80 years old, dad had a good memory and I liked his tales.
Monday evening, he reminisced about the early days, how he tried twice
to get into middle school, how his family status (anti-revolution) was
revealed only in the second year there and he was nearly dismissed for
it, etc. He was the first in the village to go to college, he told me with
pride, and then blurted that life was easy afterward as aunt gave him five
RMB out of her monthly salary of 35. "That was not exactly what you let
on, was it?!" I realized in a shock as, until then, I had never gave it much
thought. As a rule in his days, dad's under-grad study was fully paid by
the government. Aunt certainly beat tithing but her contribution might be
best called an allowance or pocket money. OK. At least I know now.
No, I don't hold grudges. These days, if something can make dad happy,
including getting together with aunt's offsprings, I would often do it.
This is partly out of guilt. Toward people who raised me, I seem to have
inherited some of dad's sense of gratitude and the idea of the young taking
care of their own old still sounds right. Moreover, it makes sense to me
(as I read on this very trip), that you only escape the bad part of the
past by adding something better to it.