Sunday, February 10, 2013

Moving into Apartment Buildings

Our courtyard soon was transformed into big office buildings for the Oil Company. We moved into high rise apartment buildings right behind the Institute where my parents’ worked. We were on the 3rd floor. Above on the 4th floor was the Lu (呂) family who had four handsome boys, and Zhang (张) Liqin who was my middle school girl friend. Across from us was the Li family (a Manchu),  the parents were my parents’ classmates in College. Under us were two Liu families who were important leaders in the institute as well. My earlier girlfriend Yang Wei-lin from grammar school in Nanchong where my mom worked was on the 5th floor. Her parents moved to Chengdu a little later. We were in different classes but in the same school. We became best friends again. We used to go shopping together and we chatted about this and that.
     Her grandfather was living with her family. He received his Ph.D. from in the United States in the 1920’s. I admired him very much. Of course, I also admired and respected my uncle who went to Russia. I dreamed that someday I would go abroad and see the world. I used to ask her grandfather about English. He would only tell me “right” or “wrong.” I used to ask him “why?” He told me, “there is no why.” Wei-lin used to tell me that he always talked to himself and no one knew why, and not to be surprised if he gave me the wrong answer. I was very curious about what he was talking about. Whenever he did not have anything to do, he was talking to God. I was amazed that he could pray for so long. Every time I saw him, he was in his world talking like we were not there.
     He told us one day how he received a scholarship to go to the United States and how well he did while he was there. After he came back, he had so much money he bought a whole block of the street as property. He was trying to tell us to study so we could go abroad too. Wei-lin was telling him that times had changed. The Communists had taken everything away from him except for his little shed behind the printing factory. I was shocked that he used to own all that property including the printing factory. Then Wei-lin turned to me and said, “the other day, someone on a bike hit him; he fell to the ground while carrying the eggs he just bought. When he first got up, you know what were his first words were, ‘you broke my eggs and you have to pay me back.’ The young man was glad to give him ten Yuan and ran. He said it only cost him two-Yuan and he was trying to give him change. Now he was complaining his back hurt and he refused to go to the hospital.”
     When the Cultural Revolution ended, Wei-lin’s grandfather’s name was cleared; he did not even know what it was in the first place. He also received some compensation. Although my grandfather lost everything his severe arthritis actually saved us from all those troubles.