I dreamed of my grandparents this morning. It is high time that I pick up where I left off 2.5 years ago, to continue to write about my childhood in Changchun. To refresh our memories, here are the two previous posts: Overview and Neighborhood.
My father’s parents had the same age. They were originally from Laoting, a small town about 150 miles southeast of Beijing, not far from the sea. I don’t know when their families migrated to the Northeast part of China, but I remember them telling me stories of that difficult journey.
Grandpa was a super nice person, easy-going and warmhearted. He worked at China’s first automotive manufacturer that is still around today (First Automotive Works (FAW) Group). He usually left home around 4 am in the morning and came back early afternoon. Then his job became taking me to a particular park for my daily carousel ride and buying me candies and snacks.
Grandma was illiterate but very smart and capable. She was in charge of a workshop at our street corner, making small carton boxes. A dozen people worked there, most of them handicapped. They cherished the opportunity to earn some money and contribute to the society. Sometimes I ‘worked’ there as well, for fun of course. I was most impressed with a heavy duty paper trimmer (big cutting knife) but I was strictly forbidden to get anywhere near. I waddled and talked and tried to help, I’d like to think I brought much excitement and laughter to that workplace.
Grandpa had a green thumb and our home was filled with plants and bonsai, all prospered under his care. There was a time when Clivia (君子兰) was very hot in Changchun, when people were willing to exchange a TV for a ‘pure’ breed specimen. Grandpa had some very nice ones and was always willing to give others precious pollen or seeds, which made him quite popular among neighbors. Grandma cooked meals, washed clothes, did other household chores, and complained often about not getting help from her hobbyist husband.
Time flew by. I was fortunate to be in their lives for two decades. They witnessed my growing up and accomplishments and life events. We alternated a few times between living together and apart due to circumstances, but I was never far. I visited them at least once a week and enjoyed meals together, until the last few months of their lives.
They both passed away in 1997, five months apart, when they were 76. I was in Beijing at that time and wasn’t around for either of them. I always felt sad and guilty about it, but what remains in my memory is always their smiling faces and abundant unconditional love. I wouldn’t have been who I am today without them.