Without warning, the last few days of 2022 were like a thin piece of glass breaking instantly, and the ground was full of shards. The turn of events was sudden and simple: the father died. My father is very old and dying, but everything that happened is still caught off guard. Looking back on the hasty and chaotic few days, it was both a long torment and a blink of an eye. How did it start? I’ve been in a trance.
It’s been years—my father faces a fifty-five-inch big-screen TV day after day. Father is ninety-four years old. Due to long-term eye disease, he was almost blind, and could only see some faint images on the TV screen. Later, he simply closed his eyes and listened to it, and fell asleep after listening to it. My father gradually lost touch with the standard tone of those suit and tie announcers or all kinds of hilarious variety shows. The TV screen is like a historical river that goes away day by day, and my father is just a small fish staying in the shallow puddles on the bank. Father sometimes complains that he doesn’t understand anything now. I comforted my father and said, it doesn’t matter, just hide in the small building and become unified, the years are quiet, and he can take care of himself. Unwilling, the father walked up and down the apartment tremblingly with a cane. The four spread paws on the bottom of the crutch remain stable. No one thought that the last few days of 2022 would suddenly become extremely steep, and my father, who was on crutches, would never be able to walk any longer.
During this period of time, I didn’t dare to visit my father. The new crown virus is gathering on a large scale, roaring in silently. I still shuttled through the various regular meetings at the end of the year, and one after another, the people I had close contact with came the news of being “shot”. I worried about introducing the virus into my father’s apartment. The father hired an aunt in her sixties to take care of the food and daily life. My aunt comes from a mountainous area, she speaks with a heavy accent, her articulation is not very clear, the dishes are a bit spicy, and she is not very good at operating electronic products such as rice cookers or mobile phones. However, she was very nice to her father. My aunt doesn’t have much social life, she just goes to Jiangbin Park to dance square dance every night-I don’t know if she can really dance. She often exchanges various information with fellow villagers on the phone. That day she suddenly asked me for confirmation, asking if I was going to fight Taiwan. She said that if there was a real war, she would take “grandpa” back to her hometown to take refuge in the mountains – she called her father “grandpa”. I smiled and told her not to worry about such things, but I still felt a little moved in my heart. I can only repeatedly tell you to wear a mask when you go out, and wash your hands immediately when you get home. Auntie hummed repeatedly.
Around midnight on December 22nd, my aunt suddenly called me. She said her father slipped and fell after using the bathroom. The person was not injured, but his legs were weak and he couldn’t stand up. She tried several times, but she couldn’t lift her father up by herself. My wife and I went over immediately. We’ve just taken sleeping pills to go to bed and are still driving dangerously. The wife is more sensitive to drugs. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, she felt that the road was floating like a river, the lane lines on the road were doubled, and the zebra crossings seemed to fly up one by one and hit the car window.
When we arrived at my father’s apartment, my aunt sat on the side with sweat all over her face. My father was lying on the ground and sleeping soundly—he was wearing a cotton padded jacket. My aunt followed our instructions and put a blanket under his father to avoid the cold. The two of us tried our best to set up my father, and the third person quickly stuffed a chair under my father’s buttocks, and my father barely sat up. When lifting my father, his body weighed far more than I expected. Is it a feeling of falling due to the inability of the legs to cooperate? I was puzzled. After putting my father to bed, I talked to my aunt for a while. She said that her father saw no abnormalities in this period. Drowsiness has been a long time, and the daily nap lasts almost an entire afternoon. My father often got up from the bed and began to doze off again after sitting on the recliner. What reassures me is that my father’s body temperature is normal.
The next day, I participated in the opening ceremony of the calligraphy, seal cutting and lettering exhibition hosted by Yi Linjun. The exhibition is the last ray of artistic light that remains in memory in 2022. Many of the works have good charm and elegant style, but I have something on my mind, so I left after browsing through them in a hurry. After returning home, I found out by phone that my sister and brother-in-law were taking care of me at my father’s apartment in the morning. When my father got out of bed, he slumped to the ground again. My sister and brother-in-law were equally puzzled when helping their father to bed: Why is my father so heavy?
This state of affairs is unsustainable. It just so happens that my aunt’s husband is free for a while. He used to work as a nurse in a hospital and has some nursing experience. We immediately hired him to take care of Dad with his aunt. The aunt and husband live together to save money and earn two wages at the same time, and they are very happy. The aunt’s husband was there immediately that afternoon. We finally got a good night’s sleep that night.
On the morning of the 24th, my aunt called to report that nothing happened. My father ate a bowl of rice, and now he is going to bed again. At night, when her father went to the bathroom, her husband helped her to go to the bathroom. Her husband was strong enough to handle the job. I turned to speak to my father’s primary physician on the phone. The doctor has treated his father for many years and is familiar with his physical condition. He said that he had just read his father’s blood report not long ago, and there was nothing wrong with it. What I want to ask is, if my father is infected with the new crown virus, can he be hospitalized for treatment. The doctor smiled bitterly and said it was pointless. More than half of the doctors, nurses, and nursing staff in the hospital have been infected, and hospitalization has increased the risk in vain. I asked what to do in a critical situation, and the doctor said that if the call was 120, the hospital to be sent to would depend on one’s fate. I feel sad.
Not long after putting down the phone, my aunt suddenly called and shouted in a super-normal volume, saying that my father had a fever! I asked how many degrees, she said more than thirty-nine degrees. I was in a hurry, and I was about to rush there immediately. Before going out, the aunt called again and said in a crying voice that my father had been breathing heavily for a while, but now he was not breathing. I don’t believe it, she said again. Still in disbelief, I asked her husband to answer the phone. Her husband articulated and recounted the situation. This is real.
In such an instant, my father was gone.
Father is old, and those of us who are children of course have various mental preparations. Even so, the sharp turn of the plot is still beyond everyone’s expectations. Sadness, however, was quickly overwhelmed by tension. It is said that the business of funeral parlors is increasing rapidly, and if you slow down, you will not be able to line up. We urgently contacted the “one-stop” service staff of the funeral. During the epidemic, everything was kept simple, and the two sides quickly finalized various details.
A man who wrote obituaries and wreaths arrived first. He carried a suitcase, which contained writing tools such as brushes and ink. After entering the room, he complained about the unevenness of the table, the lack of light, and in short, the poor writing conditions, and then said that we didn’t understand the rules and should prepare him a pack of Yuxi Yunyan in advance. We really don’t understand. After buying a pack of cigarettes in a hurry, I found out that on the day of the farewell ceremony, all parties had to order a Yuxi cigarette. After asking the price, I simply gave the money in advance, so things went much smoother. The writer slowly became happy, and wrote down the names of the wreath senders one by one. He first wrote an obituary and posted it on the corridor of his father’s apartment. The man’s calligraphy was so garishly scrambled that some characters were barely legible. However, he is proud of himself. The ink on some written banners was still wet, so I helped to spread them aside to dry for a while. He came over to appreciate it for a while, then raised his head and said to me, it’s a pity that his handwriting is such a thing. His tone surpassed that of any calligrapher I had encountered at the exhibition the day before.
Soon after, another group of staff responsible for putting on the shrouds arrived. According to their instructions, my sister combed my father’s hair, and I wiped my father’s body, and then they put on a set of custom-made blue silk shrouds and birthday hats. The father in the shroud lay peacefully on the bed. Ninety years of joys and sorrows, everything is over. Life is like a dream, and all dreams are finally stranded on the same bed. Father’s life is so heavy, everything seems to be here again.
In the evening, the funeral home arrived with a car and stored his father’s body in the funeral home for cremation the day after tomorrow. My sister, my sister, and the staff together picked up my father’s body and put it in a paper coffin. The custom is that the son should hug his head. The paper coffin was covered with gold letters on a red background, and was tied up with strips of red silk cloth after it was covered. Together with the staff, I carried the paper coffin and carefully avoided the furniture and carried it out of the door of the apartment. Auntie cried loudly in a corner behind: “Grandpa is leaving.”
When we arrived at the funeral home, the “one-stop” service staff was already there to make arrangements. He said he was finally getting an empty space in the freezer. Only the last two remain in the funeral home. He didn’t exaggerate. A few days later, the paper coffins and freezers in the funeral home have become scarce. The staff slowly put the father’s paper coffin into the empty space of the freezer with a cart. I felt shamefully grateful. When I came back, I saw the advertisement on the street, and suddenly realized that it was “Christmas Eve” that night. I thought that my father in the freezer was about to spend the coldest “Christmas Eve” in his 90s, and his heart was flooded with discomfort.
Ceremonies such as condolences are canceled, and the next day is instead a free day. All there is to wait. However, because of the new crown virus, I have developed a fever. My elder sister was so burned that she couldn’t get out of bed, so she probably couldn’t go to the funeral home to see her father off. The younger sister is the weakest, but she has not yet had a fever. She was worried about my health. On the one hand, she advised me that I might not have to go, and on the other hand, she felt that she could not preside over this matter alone. There was panic in her WeChat. I told my sisters and sisters that they didn’t have to hold on if their fever was too high, and that I had to be there anyway.
On the third day, I rushed to the funeral home early in the morning. The “one-stop” service staff said that if you burn it early, you can feel at ease. We followed his advice and tried to get in the front row as much as possible. God is still giving face, the weather is sunny, cold and windy. There were only six people seeing off my father, which was already more than I expected. There were twice as many wreaths placed in the corridor to bid farewell to my father than the number of people who bid farewell, and the wreaths were rustling by the cold wind. I don’t have much sadness in my heart, just feel desolate. The father’s body was rolled out on a cart, and the six bowed farewell. We explained to my father that the others just couldn’t get up and entrusted us with saying goodbye. According to the custom, we put a few sets of clothes that he usually wears in his father’s paper coffin, and put a bottle of oil, saying that it will not hurt when the fire comes. The cart was pushed away, and it was a tearful moment.
After depositing his father’s ashes, he returned to his father’s apartment from the funeral home. The buildings in the apartment community are undergoing large-scale facade renovation, and there are scaffolding everywhere. I carried the portrait through the gap of the scaffolding, and the person next to me held up a black umbrella to cover it, so the portrait could not see the sky. In the community, there is also a folk band sitting sparsely on the scaffolding and playing dirge music. An old man from another family has passed away. The aunt and her husband are willing to stay in the apartment for a few more days and return to their hometown, because the aunt has also started to have a fever. My aunt’s husband only served for one day, and we are still willing to pay him a month’s wages. It was originally agreed to at least hire him until the Spring Festival. What’s more, even if it’s just a day of service, he really does his best.
After taking care of these things, we finally relaxed and returned home, and then started to have a high fever one after another.
my father died, the statistical caliber had changed. Well, my father died of an underlying disease. A ninety-four-year-old person can be linked to any underlying disease. Father is a man who obeys the rules and will not have any objections.
About twenty years ago, I once published a book “All About My Parents”. In the preface of the book, I stated that both father and mother are extremely ordinary people and cannot be the protagonist of a book. Even with my passion for writing, that hasn’t changed. My father is too disciplined, and there are not many outrageous actions in his life that can constitute the material of a legendary plot. I think there was an element of restlessness in my father’s character. That was when he was young. Grandfather was a moderate capitalist who ran a steamship company and perhaps several factories and shops. Father is the eldest son. His grandfather definitely hoped that he would inherit the family business and even develop something. However, my father had no interest in being a bourgeois young master. I don’t know if my father had a conflict with my grandfather, and then he stomped out of the house and went away–this is often described in movies or novels. In short, my father moved to Ningbo briefly after finishing middle school, and then was admitted to Daxia University in Shanghai. It was the late 1940s then. On the university campuses in Shanghai, the “left-wing” atmosphere is getting stronger and stronger. Father started to participate in the student movement and seemed to be almost taken away by Kuomintang agents. My father and a few classmates volunteered to join the “Southern Service Group”, followed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army into Fujian, and participated in government management after liberation as young intellectuals. At this time, my father was in high spirits, wearing a whitewashed military uniform and a pair of leggings, and marched across the mountains and ridges for more than a month to return to his hometown. My father actually had a German camera in his hand, probably bought with grandfather’s money. Some photos of the march of the “Southern Service Group” he took have been preserved as precious historical materials. After returning to his hometown, his father served as a trade union cadre, and a large part of his work was to represent the working class against capitalists like his grandfather.
That’s a good start – I’m not just talking about my father’s revolutionary prospects, but his character growth. Unexpectedly, the plot ends here. Beginning in the 1950s, my father was often blamed, and bad luck continued. The official career is of course hopeless. My father was constantly subjected to various tangible and intangible scrutiny, and then he continued to come to the conclusion that the history was clean and there was no problem. This is indeed not a major blow, and it is better to be frustrated by promotion than to be imprisoned. However, this kind of repeated beating, which is neither light nor heavy, completely changed his father’s character. Day after day, he became cautious, looking left and right, afraid of falling into some trap; he was even worried that if he walked too much, the hem of his clothes would accidentally catch a nail and drag down a dangerous wall. As a bystander as a son, I imagined the image of my father before the age of 30. What I witnessed was how my father slowly fell into various nameless anxieties. Even my grandma would say that my father was too preoccupied, and she blamed it on the fact that he was a snake. As the saying goes, people born in the year of the snake have more thoughts. Of course, I know there are many reasons my grandmother doesn’t. My father’s life of more than 90 years could have had more content.
I am not qualified to judge my father. However, he did have many regrets in his heart. Once the heart was higher than the sky, and it was difficult to calm down. My father retired at the age of sixty and finally landed safely, but his character did not become cheerful, and the many panics accumulated in his heart were still unremittingly exerting residual heat. Then I heard about a concept: “anxious personality”. The reason why I am willing to write the book “Everything About My Parents” is to understand how my father’s “anxious personality” was formed, even if the father himself cannot realize it.
The object of my father’s anxiety gradually turned to his own body. It was not his turn to intervene in the vicissitudes of the outside world, and his father turned his head and stared at his body. He carefully surveys every area of the body, catches all kinds of looming symptoms, and worries that these symptoms will spread unexpectedly and cause great danger. When my father was young, he had a hemorrhage in the fundus of his left eye, and he soon lost his sight. His right eye was highly myopic, and his vision behind 1300-baid glasses was only about 0.2. Eye condition is my father’s heart disease. He was always worried that his eyes could not drag his body. Healthy but blind, how do you live like this? Dad’s second concern was the cardiovascular system. In old age, abnormalities in blood pressure and blood lipid indicators are inevitable. The father was very worried and didn’t know where the danger was hidden. Dad’s third worry was the stomach. Is there something in your stomach? However, his appetite is really good. I repeatedly advised him not to eat too much at this age. My father always felt that eating more was good for his body. My father used to complain that he seemed to be getting thinner again; I felt the opposite—I thought he had gained weight. For a while he finally had high blood sugar from eating too much, and I had to use the doctor’s warning to suppress his food intake. My father is a man of knowledge and especially respects medical knowledge. However, his cravings for food seem to be getting out of control. Mental hunger disorder – the fear of food scarcity in youth resurfaces in old age. I understand this precisely because I have a similar state of mind myself. In fact, our children saw very clearly that the focus of my father’s anxiety gradually shifted from the eyes and cardiovascular system to the stomach, and the cycle repeated every once in a while.
Father of eight siblings. Half of the uncles and aunts carry the genes of their grandfather, who died in his sixties. The uncle and aunt of the father and the other half carry the gene of the grandmother. The grandmother died in her nineties, which is considered a long life in that generation. I told my father about this observation, and he was relieved. Although weak and sickly, many sick people tend to outlive those who are as strong as cattle. Of course, my father did not relax from this. Father stacked medicines neatly in the cabinet, which was his fortress against enemies. At times, he would doubt the fortress again. Could there be some traitor hiding inside the fortress? So, my father held various drug instructions close to his nose and read them repeatedly with his almost blind eyes, reading the text smaller than an ant. Before long, he will feel that certain physical symptoms seem to be similar to the side effects of the medicine described in the instructions. In short, after this mysterious and unpredictable world brought him all kinds of troubles, the body became another source of troubles. Father had long lost the confidence to control the world, and he devoted all his energy to tidying up his body.
We didn’t expect that this time my father quickly got rid of this trouble and didn’t hesitate any more. Maybe the father had a fever for a while before the aunt found out. Even so, it’s about an hour. Turn around resolutely after an hour of fever, no longer procrastinating and entanglement. Father knows that he is not an opponent of the new crown virus. He is very old. There’s nothing wrong with being old. My father really didn’t enjoy many good days in his life. However, God wants to accept people, and the elderly bear the brunt. Father understood this time, let’s go, let’s go. If the aunt started to have a fever first, the father followed her, dragged on the bed for a few days, and then was picked up by the 120 ambulance, and then lay in the emergency room or even the corridor of a certain hospital for a few more days, and then there was no more. Does this struggle make sense? Father gave up, in fact, to help us children unload the heavy burden. We all understand.
In the late 1950s, my father suffered a severe blow to his respiratory system: tuberculosis. At that time, tuberculosis was even more dangerous than the new coronavirus. My father was isolated in a pulmonary hospital on the edge of the city with two cavities in his lung. However, he held on. My father said that my mother contributed a lot. With extraordinary courage, the mother withdrew all the savings of the family and bought an old duck to make a pot of soup for the father to nourish his body. Is it really the old duck that blocks the tuberculosis bacteria? have no idea. There was a look of relief on my father’s face when he talked about it. Now, my mother has passed away for more than 20 years, and there is no defense against the new crown virus. Father no longer resisted.
In the days after my father passed away, we children struggled in the vortex created by the new coronavirus: fever, cough, sore throat, lung infection, insomnia, fatigue, chest tightness, shortness of breath, sequelae, and so on. On that day, my sister sent a few photos of my father in WeChat Moments to commemorate, and I realized that this day was my father’s “first seven”. We didn’t do anything, we were all in bed. My sister said that she will be separated from her father forever.
The twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year on this day, we would gather at my father’s apartment to burn a stick of incense to my mother’s portrait. Grandma lived together for a long time, and we bowed to her portrait at the same time. On the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, my sister and I went to my father’s apartment again. My father is gone, and his portrait is on the table. We placed flowers in front of the portraits of our father, mother and grandmother, lit two candles, burned incense, bowed, and then quietly went to the balcony to burn some paper money. In the iron basin where the paper money was burned, the flames flickered, and the green smoke was lingering. Looking in through the balcony window, my father’s bedroom is empty, and the familiar furniture in the apartment has lost its former luster. People go to the empty building.
2023 started silently, and the new crown virus still refuses to retreat. Many people are still clenching their fists in front of the invisible virus, waiting for it, while at a loss and frightened. It is said that vitamin C supplementation is good for the body, so I want to eat more fruits. Picking up an orange, I suddenly remembered the distant past. When I was young, I ate oranges, and often used a knife to dig a small hole in the top of the orange to suck the juice inside. I fiddled with an orange for a long time, poked and poked with a chopstick, but still didn’t suck out much. My father took the orange and squeezed it hard, a mouthful of sweet juice poured into my mouth, and I was amazed at the same time: Oh my god, how can my lord have such strength! When I looked up, I saw my father’s smug smile and the happy eyes behind the glasses. This was about sixty years ago. Now, this smile and eyes are like a thin ray of sunshine passing through my father’s preoccupied life, silently blooming in front of my eyes.