Com­pany

陪伴

Special Focus - - Contents - Gao Jiany­ing 高建英

When my fa­ther was 87 he walked with a slug­gish gait, could hardly force a morsel of food down, and was very hard of hear­ing.

His daily rou­tine con­sisted of the TV, the news­pa­per and sun­ning him­self, but when not do­ing that he would space off and fall asleep. Af­ter be­ing cared for by my sis­ter and me for a time, he took on a new habit– wait­ing for me to get home. He got to know ex­actly when I would get off work. In the win­ter­time, he would be sit­ting by his win­dow, in the sum­mer­time he would be peer­ing through the door­way in an­tic­i­pa­tion. One day I got off work late and didn’t come to check on him. The next day my sis­ter told me that he had been lay­ing there by the door star­ing off into the dark­ness. I wasn’t sure if it was that my fa­ther was wor­ry­ing about me or just miss­ing me. There were so many times that I would walk through the door and call his name, then sit by his side for a spell and go. When I was leav­ing I could feel his des­per­ate gaze, like knives stab­bing me, plead­ing for me not to leave, like he wanted me to stay right there by his side for­ever and ever, keep­ing him com­pany.

Some­times he wanted me to lis­ten to his sto­ries about Yan Xis­han, one- time war­lord of Shanxi Prov­ince, or Fu Zuoyi, who was once a Kuom­intang gen­eral but later be­came a pow­er­ful politi­cian for the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China. He told sto­ries of scorched earth and how the Ja­panese or ban­dits came to his vil­lage rob­bing, pil­lag­ing, plun­der­ing and burn­ing down ev­ery­thing in sight. He couldn’t hear him­self speak and thought that I couldn’t either, so while he was telling his sto­ries his voice got so loud I thought his wind­pipe would burst. There were so many times that he would get con­fused and keep call­ing peo­ple by the wrong name. I couldn’t help bust­ing a gut, but at the same time my heart twisted into knots. I know it was just that he was get­ting

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