I wrote in a post this spring about my mom’s re-connection with her college friends after 45 years. She said it was so heart-warming to see six 70-year-old men running on the platform hurrying to greet her as her train pulled into the station. They had a great time together.
Not every class from back then would have reunions like this. During the Cultural Revolution, especially in the beginning, there were usually lots of slandering, back-stabbing, beatings and persecutions among people from some classes that it was almost impossible to reconcile even today. For many others, those college years were full of pain and misery that the last thing they want to do now is to see those faces from this past life and relive the nightmare.
My mom’s class was different. They were relatively low-key and civil, and there were hardly any permanent bitterness among the classmates. Much credit should go to one man, the head of their class, who tried his best to resist the pressures from above and protect his classmates. Let’s just call him B.
For example, two people from their class were arrested due to some anti-revolutionary remarks. Instead of giving them a hard time by denouncing them publicly as expected, B secretly unlocked their cells at night and invited them to his place to have a good meal. Or when some misconducts from his classmates were reported to him, he would go remind them to be more cautious instead of sending them to the authorities to boost his own position. As a result, B received much criticisms over the fact that his class was too lay-back and lacked passion for the great revolution. He somehow smoothed those over and kept doing things his own way.
B was a good man. However, it was he who brought so much stress to my mom and almost ruined her. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer and knew he didn’t have much time left. When his old classmates went to visit him, he said to them, “If you ever find her (my mom), please tell her that I am very sorry. I am afraid I won’t have the chance to say it myself.” So they passed his words on to my mom during this reunion. I can imagine it must have been an emotional moment. I am sure my mom has forgiven him – carrying the guilt all these years was a punishment in itself.