Someone Is Waiting
In 1937, my grandpa, aged 20, went out rambling from Hefei to Wuhu without a stitch of extra clothing or a creature comfort to his name. It was just him and the road. Luckily, a girl named Cao Guangrong took him in and found him a job at Zhang Hengchun Pharmaceutical Factory in Wuhu. Cao Guangrong was a senior worker at the factory, and her colleagues usually called her Madam Cao. She and my grandpa started getting along very well with each other.
My grandpa was a thrifty man who would save every penny of his income. Madam Cao was a heavy smoker. Whenever she saw my grandpa, she would say to him, “Li Shouming, please buy me a pack of cigarettes.”
“You mean to give to you for nothing in return?” Grandpa asked.
“I don’t have any money to give you, but are you going to buy them or what?” was Madam Cao’s curt reply.
Sometimes, Grandpa would spend nearly half a month of his salary buying cigarettes for her.
Once, when Grandpa advised Madam Cao to cut down on smoking, she told him her story. She used to live in Peking (today’s Beijing) until she was 16, and her family was relatively affluent. Later, a rebellion broke out, and all of her family’s possessions were confiscated. Her father took her away from Peking, but he died on the journey. Her father left nothing to her except for the cigarettes in his pocket, which was how she learned to smoke, and later, she made the trek to Wuhu all alone.
It suddenly dawned on my grandpa that Madam Cao must have realized that they were both alone in the world so she kindly took him under her wing.
Soon, Grandpa won the recognition of the factory owner, and was promoted to be his attendant. On the day of Grandpa’s promotion, Madam Cao bought a new coat for him.