The 96-year-old Care­taker


Special Focus - - Contents - Yu Ji­acheng 俞佳铖

It is a chilly early au­tumn day in the moun­tain­ous vil­lage. 72- year- old Ren Caimei sits in a wheel­chair, look­ing far into the panoramic hills in the dis­tance. “Caimei, a bit cold?” An­other white­haired old woman briskly fetches a coat and cov­ers her. Then the old woman helps comb Caimei’s hair into a cen­tral part­ing style, the same as her own, us­ing a wa­ter- dipped wooden comb while hum­ming songs.

This white- haired old woman has been tak­ing care of the par­a­lyzed Ren Caimei for the past 28 years. Her name is Sun Yin­cong, the 96-year-old mother-in-law of Mei.

The Bond Be­tween the In-laws

Sun Yin­cong lives in Tai’an Vil­lage, Guwei Town of Ruicheng County in Yuncheng City, Shanxi Prov­ince. She lives a sim­ple but happy life. She’d never imag­ined the dis­as­ters that piled up in the lat­ter part of her life. In the win­ter of 1989, Sun Yin­cong’s hus­band passed away be­cause of an ill­ness. Ten days right af­ter the fu­neral, her 47- year- old son Gao Jian­jun died of a gas leak­age in his home. In an age when she was sup­posed to en­joy the peace of life, the 68- year- old Sun Yin­cong suf­fered from the loss of both her hus­band and son within two weeks of one an­other. The dou­ble tragedy hit her and con­fined her to her bed tem­po­rar­ily. At the same time, Ren Caimei, her daugh­ter-in-law, also fell ill af­ter the shock.

In such mis­er­able days, Sun Yin­cong and Ren Caimei had only each other to count on. But Ren Caimei did not have the same men­tal for­ti­tude as Sun Yin­cong. Her son and daugh­ter in their early twen­ties were work­ing far away and rarely re­turned home. The sud­den loss of her hus­band struck her deeply. She re­peat­edly mur­mured, “Mom, life can’t go on. I no longer want to live.” They would then hug each other and cry.

Sun Yin­cong al­ways com­forted her daugh­ter- in- law say­ing, “Don’t be so sad. As long as I am here, our life will not col­lapse.”

As time went on, Sun Yin­cong slowly re­cov­ered from her pain. She got back to her old rou­tine, tidy­ing the house and mak­ing meals. She was as deft as be­fore. In con­trast, Ren Caimei’s phys­i­cal and men­tal con­di­tions were get­ting worse day by day. One morn­ing, Ren Caimei ran to the river with fal­ter­ing steps, shout­ing in a trance that she was call­ing her hus­band for break­fast. She al­most drowned in the river. Sun Yin­cong only re­al­ized then that her daugh­terin-law was men­tally un­sta­ble.

Sun Yin­cong helped Ren Caimei home and be­gan watch­ing her closely. How­ever, one day six months later, Ren Caimei sud­denly vom­ited and soon be­came un­con­scious just as the two were about to sit down for lunch.

Ren Caimei was im­me­di­ately sent to the hospi­tal where the doc­tors di­ag­nosed the event as a stroke. Though her life was saved, the stroke caused hemi­ple­gia and only her wrist




孙银聪家住山西省运城市芮城县古魏镇太安村,一直过着平淡却幸福的日子。没承想,厄运在她的后半生接踵而至。1989年冬天,孙银聪的老伴因病离世。就在老伴儿出殡 10 天后,47岁的儿子高建军在家中因煤气中毒,不治身亡。短短半个月,68岁的孙银聪在本该颐养天年的时候遭到了暴风骤雨般的打击,送完白发人又送黑发人的伤痛让她一度卧病在床。此时,她的儿媳任彩梅也因为精神刺激过大而病倒。



把任彩梅扶回家,孙银聪开始寸步不离地看着她。然而,半年后的一天, 婆媳俩正准备吃午饭,任彩梅突然呕吐,很快便昏迷不醒。








and lips could move. She could no longer speak a com­plete and clear sen­tence.

Ren Caimei’s son de­cided to quit his job and take care of his mother. “Grandma, you are too old to take care of oth­ers. We are her chil­dren and we should take care of Mom,” he said.

Sun Yin­cong thought a while then shook her head, “You are at mar­ry­ing age, and you are just start­ing out your ca­reer. Leave your mother with this old woman. From now on, I will eat and live with her. She will be un­der my full charge. As long as I have some­thing to eat, she will not be left hun­gry.” Thus it was de­cided and Sun Yin­cong asked her rel­a­tives to set­tle Ren Caimei in her own room, and the in-laws started liv­ing to­gether.

The Cho­rus of Plates and Pots

Ren Caimei be­came a lit­tle timid and in­tro­verted af­ter be­com­ing ill, to­tally dif­fer­ent from her pre­vi­ous self. She’d ask her mother-in-law to turn the light on as soon as the sun set just be­hind the moun­tain. When Sun Yin­cong picked up veg­eta­bles in the back­yard, Ren Caimei, afraid of the dead si­lence in the house, started to sob, tears fall­ing down her face.

In or­der to com­fort her, Sun Yin­cong racked her brains to make a loud sound in the house. She be­gan to speak loudly de­lib­er­ately, walked in a stomp­ing man­ner, and made pots and plates clink when she washed the dishes. She even tied stones to the chicken’s feet, so that when they walked around the yard they made ex­tra noise.

Though there was plenty of house­work to do, Sun Yin­cong was very tidy and kept ev­ery­thing in or­der. For 28 years, she re­peated the same rou­tine work for Ren Caimei: comb­ing her hair, wash­ing her face, bathing her body, and chang­ing clothes.

Many years in a wheel­chair had made Ren Caimei’s legs and feet swollen. One day, she saw ele­phants on tele­vi­sion. She pointed to the ele­phant first, then at her own legs with a grate­ful look at her mother- in- law. Sun Yin­cong was be­wil­dered for a few sec­onds and then chuck­led. “Do you mean I seem to help an ele­phant wear shoes ev­ery day?” Ren Caimei nod­ded and laughed so hard that tears down her cheeks.

Ev­ery morn­ing when she fin­ished her house­work, Sun Yin­cong would chat with Ren Caimei in the yard even though her only re­sponse was sim­ply a few “whoo wholl” sounds. At lunchtime, Ren Caimei would pat her mother- in- law and start “or­der­ing food.” Ren Caimei ges­tured a big cir­cle with her hands to mean eat­ing pan­cake, a long line for noo­dles, and two hands squeez­ing each other for dough ball soup.

When they ate, Sun Yin­cong fed Ren Caimei a spoon­ful first and then fed her­self. Some­times she even hummed some lo­cal folk songs to coax Mei to eat, treat­ing her like a baby.

Old Twin Sis­ters

Bur­dened with un­end­ing la­bor day and night and with the



吃饭时,孙银聪拿过勺子,一边自己吃,一边喂她吃,时不时地 哼一些哄孩子吃饭的山西民谣。


孙银聪的年纪越来越大,再加上日夜操劳,她的身体也不似以前硬朗,牙疼头疼、胳膊酸痛、伤风感冒等小病小痛在所难免。每次孙银聪出门打针,都会提前给任彩梅做好午饭,但往往下午两三点回家时,发现任彩梅还是坐在院子里。“你为什么不按时吃饭?”孙银聪又气又急。任彩梅焦急地比画道: “我要等你一起吃。”

任彩梅已经 70 多岁了,但在孙银聪眼里,她就是个“老小孩”,而且年纪越大越喜欢撒娇,离了婆婆一会儿就哼哼唧唧,孙银聪也由着她耍赖。总有村里人打趣说:“一个弓着腰的太婆推着一个白头发的太婆,像一对老姐妹哩。”

虽然有孙银聪无微不至的照顾,但任彩梅的身体还是状况不断,前后突发过3次脑溢血,两年前的那次尤其严重。那是 2015年冬天的一个深夜,孙银聪听到任彩梅的床上有响动,她起身看见儿媳半个身子倒在床边,脸色煞白,神志模糊。她立刻披衣穿鞋,求人把任彩梅送到医院。


2017 年 8 月 19 日,是孙银聪96周岁的生日,一大早,自发来祝寿的乡亲几乎踏破了孙家小屋的门槛。像往年一样,孙银聪的生日没有鲜花,也没有蛋糕,只有来客们在自家做好端来的饭菜。她这个老寿星给儿媳梳好头发,端茶递水招待大伙儿,忙得不亦乐乎。

(摘自《婚姻与家庭》2017年第 11 期)

pass­ing of years, Sun Yin­cong was no longer as phys­i­cally strong as she had been be­fore. In­evitably, she suf­fered from toothaches, headaches, arm pains, colds, and other mi­nor ill­nesses. Ev­ery time Sun Yun­cong went out for in­jec­tions, she would cook lunch for Ren Caimei in ad­vance. But of­ten when she re­turned at two or three in the af­ter­noon, she’d find Ren Caimei still sit­ting in the yard. “Why don’t you eat on time?” Sun Yin­cong would de­mand.

Ren Caimei would anx­iously ges­ture, “I wanted to wait for you so we could eat to­gether.”

Ren Caimei is now more than 70 years old, but she is an “old child” in the eyes of Sun Yin­cong. She is more like a spoiled child as she gets older. She be­comes unhappy when she is away from her mother- in- law for even a brief mo­ment and Sun Yin­cong en­dures her be­ing un­rea­son­able. Vil­lagers joke about them, say­ing, “They’re like a pair of old twin sis­ters, one bent, old woman push­ing an­other white- haired one.”

Though be­ing well taken care of, Ren Caimei’s phys­i­cal con­di­tion hasn’t im­proved much. She’s suf­fered an­other three strokes, one of which was par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous two years ago. It had been a late win­ter night in 2015 when Sun Yin­cong heard sounds com­ing from Ren Caimei’s bed. She got up and saw her daugh­ter-in-law half hang­ing off the bed, un­con­scious, and her face gone pale. Sun im­me­di­ately put on her dress and asked for help to take Ren Caimei to the hospi­tal.

In the hospi­tal, the doc­tor said, “We are not op­ti­mistic about her health for she is very old. So all of you should be pre­pared for the worst.” Upon hear­ing this, the grand­chil­dren’s eyes were filled with tears.

Only Sun Yin­cong shook her head and said firmly, “Be­lieve me. I am much older than her and I am healthy enough here. I do not give up on her, so she will not leave me be­hind.” Fi­nally, with treat­ment, Ren Caimei grad­u­ally re­cov­ered.

On the night she re­turned from the hospi­tal, Ren Caimei took her mother- in- law’s hands emo­tion­ally and mur­mured, “Mom, you saved me again.”

Au­gust 19, 2017 marked Sun Yin­cong’s 96th birth­day. Early in the morn­ing, vil­lagers crowded into her house to wish her a happy birth­day. As usual, Sun Yin­cong’s birth­day was cel­e­brated without flow­ers or cakes, but in­stead with the home- cooked meals the vil­lagers brought over. And the birth­day girl was still busy comb­ing the hair of her daugh­terin-law, serv­ing tea for the guests, and en­ter­tain­ing her neigh­bors with a smile on her old face. ( From Mar­riage­andFam­ily , Novem­ber 2017. Trans­la­tion: Zhang Lei)

孙银聪和任彩梅 Sun Yin­cong and Ren Caimei

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