I have not seen my father for more than two years. What impresses me most is the sight of his back.
I remember it was winter that year, when my grandmother passed away. Misfortune never comes alone. My father was out of work. At that time, I went to Xuzhou City from Beijing, planning to go back home with Father to deal with the affairs about my grandmother. When seeing father in Xuzhou and witnessing everything was messy in the backyard, I could not help thinking of the death of my grandmother and tearing heavily. Father said to me, “Everything has been set now, so we do not need to feel sad. Luckily, there will always be a way out.”
After coming back home, Father sold out all our possessions to pay the loans, but we were still in debt. Worse still, we had to again borrow some money to bury my grandmother. Therefore, during those days, our situation was less than worse due to the funeral affairs and my dad’s unemployment. After all was done, Father set out to Nanjing to hunt for a job, while I had to go back to Beijing to finish my education, so we went together.
After reaching Nanjing, some friends invited me for a trip around the city, so we stayed in the city for a day. The next day in the morning, I must take a ferry across the river to Pukou, and in the afternoon I must take a train for Beijing. Father had originally told me he would not see me off because of his busy affairs. He had asked one of his acquaintances in the hotel to accompany me to the railway station. However, he was still in great concern about me, and after hesitating for a while, he decided to go with me. Actually I was already 20 years old then and had been commuting between Beijing and Nanjing for several times. So I tried to persuade him not to go with me, but he insisted, saying, “It does not matter. I will go with you. I am afraid they cannot take good care of you.”
After sailing across the river, we entered the railway station. I went to buy a ticket when he kept an eye on the luggage. As our luggage is too heavy, we had to employ a porter to carry it onto the train. So dad was busy bargaining with them about the price. I was kind of displeased with his bargaining over pennies, so I always interrupted. Finally, he managed to settle the price and accompanied me to the train. He picked a seat by the door for me and I stretched the large-sized purple coat made by him across the seat. He enjoined me to be alert all the way for fear to catch a cold at night. Again he asked the servant to take good care of me. I was then laughing ironically at him in heart, for it was known to all that those servants merely recognized nothing but money. Besides, I was old enough to take good care of myself. Now looking back on that day, I have to laugh at myself for being too clever!
I said to him, “Dad, you can leave now.” He looked out of the window and said, “I am going to buy some oranges. You should stay here.” I looked to the railway platform, over whose fences there were several sellers waiting for customers. One should walk across a railroad, jumped down and then jumped up to the platform before he reached the sellers. Father was very fat, so it would be more painstaking for him to go there. I intended to go by myself, but he did not permit, so I just let him go. I saw him wearing a big black coat and deep green cotton clothing, staggering to the railroad. It was not difficult then. But when he tried to walk across the road and climb to the platform, it was no easy thing. He had to climb to the top of platform with his bare hands, legs lifted upward, massy body wavering to the left with great strength. At the sight of his back, I could not help tearing cats and dogs. But without a second of hesitation, I swiftly wiped the tear off my face in case that he, as well as others would see it. When I looked out of the window again, he was walking back towards me with oranges in his arms. When crossing the railroad, he had to put all the oranges down and climbed down the platform, then picked them up again and went on to walk towards me. When he approached me, I quickly went to hold him by the arm. After we boarded on the train, he put down all the oranges onto my coat and pretended to be relaxed when patting off the dust on his clothes. After a while, he said to me, “I have to leave now. Remember to write a letter to me when you arrive!” I was watching him going out. He looked back to me and said, “Go into the train. Nobody is there to attend to your luggage!” I still kept watching until the sight of his back disappeared in the crowd. Then I went on the train and sat down, tearing again.
These years, Father and I went on the trip all the time. Our family condition is worsening day by day. He went out to make a living when young, and has made a lot of achievements with great independence. Who could predict our situation would become so awkward with time passing by? Therefore, he often sinks in great agony and can hardly control his emotion. In order to vent his sentiment and dissatisfaction, he will easily lose temper on daily trifles. He treated me differently from the past. But these two years, we seldom met each other and he finally forgot my drawbacks and simply keeps missing me and my son. After I arrived in Beijing, he wrote a letter to me, saying, “I am in good condition overall and only suffering a great pain in my shoulders. It is considerably inconvenient for me to use chopsticks or pens. Maybe I am near my end!” Reading this sentence, through my crystal tears, I can seemingly spot the back with green cotton clothes and black coat. I have to sigh when I can meet him again!