Gao Yaojie: I’m waiting for death day by day

She was lying on the bed, like a pile of cotton just pulled out of an old quilt and scattered on the floor, thin and feeble.

I gently touched her straggly white hair, and she immediately turned her face away. “You’re here? I missed you so much that my liver broke! “

She struggled to sit up. Compared with the last time we saw each other, she had lost a lot of weight and her back was hunched over.

“I can’t do anything now, I’m just waiting for death day by day. The 94-year-old sighed and opened her palm for me to see. “Look, the palm is blackened, which means the blood flow is not good and the heart is not working. “

I put the western medicine she needs “norfloxacin” on the table, and she fondled it like a treasure. “The first few days have been urinating blood, these days it is fine. This medicine is not easy to find, I will take it next time when I pee blood. “

“No more strength, the book manuscript can not read, you get away today. ” She held both hands on the toilet and the arm of the table, stroked the oxygen tube to the side, and strained to move towards the computer table.

Seeing that I had sent the manuscript to her email address, she leaned back in her chair with a sigh of relief. “This is my last book, and my biggest wish now is to see it published while I’m still alive. “

She told me that she had been reading it every day since I gave her the large-print Bible, but couldn’t understand it, “It’s harder than the ancient text. ” She frowned and sighed as she talked about another Christian she used to have a good relationship with. “She actually got involved with a married man, and they lived together, and finally the man’s wife came to the door and made a big fuss. It’s so humiliating, I don’t want to deal with her anymore! “

She was always like this, extremely clean when it came to morals (especially marriage), and couldn’t put a grain of sand in her eyes. If she knew anyone who was having an affair or getting divorced, she “didn’t want to let them in”. There was once a professor with whom she was very close, divorced twice, but never dared to tell her, for fear that she would ignore him. Once, he talked to me about the divorce and told me not to tell my grandmother, otherwise she would ignore me.

She and I talked about old stories from 32 years ago that I hadn’t heard of before and felt very new.

At that time, she also went to Henan Chinese Hospital to teach in addition to her work, with two classes “Xinjiang class”. They wanted to go out on the street, but I wouldn’t let them. Because many of them are only children, their parents called me in tears and told me to keep an eye on them. “

So, she gave them a problem to do, said the score to be included in the final grade, they had no choice but to obediently stay in the classroom to do the problem, while scolding her “old stubborn”. I heard them scold me, but pretended not to hear them. Parents entrust their children to me, I want to ensure their safety, which is more important than anything else. “

In the end, the parents were grateful for the two classes of more than 80 children, none of whom were left untouched and unharmed.

More than twenty years later, a student who had become the director of a local health bureau in Xinjiang visited her at home, and she affectionately called him “Xiao Liu Xin” in his forties, accompanied by The director’s subordinates were stunned. In her eyes, the children she had taken, no matter how big the official, were just that cute little brat at the beginning.

She told me that Liu Xin was particularly naughty and liked to fight, always with a sharp knife in his trouser leg. “I asked him why he was carrying a knife, he said used to peel apples. “One day, she asked Liu Xin for a sharp knife and said she also wanted to peel apples. Liu Xin gave it to her, and since then she has never returned it.

Speaking of which, she smiled smugly at her own clever move back then, her face full of folds rippling like waves.

Whether as an obstetrician and gynecologist or later in the AIDS prevention business, she has saved countless people. To this day, she still receives money and goods from patients she cured in the United States. The fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive has been fully manifested in her case.

Suddenly she remembered something, fished out her bank card from the pocket of her vest and said, “I’m out of money, go to the bank and withdraw $500 for me. ” She said the government had subsidized her with $1,500 in “relief money ” and wanted to know how much money was left in the bank now.

I went to the nearby Chase Bank and came back with the money. She looked at the balance on the small check and sighed: “There’s not enough left to pay the rent. “I looked at the small check and the balance was $2347, while her monthly rent was $2700.

New York is big and not easy to live in. Even an ordinary apartment like uptown, the monthly rent is more than two thousand dollars. I don’t know how she would have gotten by without the help of her friends during her years in New York.

She told me that she hadn’t seen Niu Niu (my daughter) for a long time and missed her so much that she asked me to take her there. “Niu Niu wrote such a good article for me, I want to thank Niu Niu. “

She was a little disappointed when I told her that Nui Nui is in summer school this month and she can only visit her in August.

I understand how she feels. She is an obstetrician and gynecologist and has had countless children come into the world through her hands, and she loves each and every one of them. She could have had four generations together, but chose a thorny path, from then on “a thousand miles east wind a dream away”, can only look at the screen of great-granddaughter photos a relief It’s heartbreaking to see how much love she has.

At noon, we had lunch at her house again. It was the same dumplings, with baby mushrooms and carrots inside, and two more sections of corn in my bowl. She looked at the corn in my bowl and said, “I can’t bite it.

Although the food was humble, she ate very carefully, showing full respect for the food and cherishing every penny. I looked at her with a sore nose – she would have deserved and been able to live a better life.

After retiring in 1996, she and her partner were financially well off, well clothed and fed, and had a simple, happy life. She was sometimes invited by various universities to give lectures and had some extra income.

“One day when I came home from lecturing outside, my partner complained that I didn’t care about things and the green onions I bought at home were yellow. I put the payment I gave for lecturing on the table and asked him how many green onions could I buy with 1,000 yuan. “Speaking of the past, she giggled.

She has a lot of red spots on her legs and arms, which she says are from bedbugs in her bed. “I spent hundreds of dollars on medicine to fight bedbugs, and it still didn’t work. “Chagrined, she pointed to four bottles of bed bug medication under the table and asked me to pick one up and help her hit the places she couldn’t reach. I sprayed under the bed and at the end of the bed where clothes were piled up, and she watched with satisfaction.

Since the epidemic, she was afraid to get vaccinated because she was allergic, and for safety reasons, she did not receive visitors most of the time, and was stuck in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her caregiver. For more than a year, she has not had any sun exposure.

The greenery on the bedroom windowsill looks the same all year round, and there is no change in the seasons. But the twenty-four Chinese solar terms and traditional festivals have always flowed in her heart. Whenever it comes to important festivals and traditional Chinese holidays, she writes to me, saying; “Today is the spring equinox,” “It’s the Mid-Autumn Festival”, “It’s the Spring Festival ” …… She told me that she missed the traditional Chinese festivals and the social atmosphere of the Republican era. “Social security was good back then, and children didn’t have to worry about being cheated out of school, unlike now. “

We talked for two hours, almost as if she was talking and I was listening. Occasionally I wrote down questions on paper and she answered. For the past six years, this has basically been our pattern of getting along when we see each other. We see each other as our own family members, a natural part of our lives, and miss each other when we haven’t seen each other for a while.

A few days ago, she wrote to me that she didn’t use up her food stamps and asked her caregiver to buy two bottles of “premium coffee” for She asked her caregiver to buy two bottles of “premium coffee” for “Handsome” (my husband) to drink. I told him, “I’m afraid he won’t be able to come to the U.S. this year, so don’t buy anything for him, but buy something delicious for yourself. She said her stomach was broken during the Cultural Revolution, and she had surgery to cut most of it, so she couldn’t eat many things, such as fish and shrimp. I have no family in the United States, and your family is the closest to me, so I would like to buy you something. “

It was almost 2 p.m. The caregiver cleaned up the dishes and mopped the floor, just waiting for me to leave. I told her, “It’s time for you to rest, I’ll see you next time. She said, “I can’t stop talking when I see you, I forgot you have Niu Niu at home, hurry up and go.

She suddenly pulled out the oxygen tube, I was shocked: Grandma what are you doing?

“I’m going to the kitchen to get something for Nui Nui. “She held the handle of the cart and moved step by step to the living room. When she got to the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator and took out three bags of shrimp, two bags of sea fish and three bags of chocolate inside, and shoved them into my hand. “Bring it to Niu Niu, I don’t know which day I will live, who knows if I will see the top next time. “

I told her today is to take the bus and subway to come, can not take so many things, next time when driving over to take away. She didn’t care, and shoved it into my arms one by one. “Do not next time, who knows if I am still alive next time. “

The nurse said with a smile on the side: “Just take it away, she won’t listen to advice. “I had to find a big bag and carry the pile of stuff walking through the hot Manhattan streets and then to the subway and bus.

She smiled happily as she watched me get my stuff packed. “You can go now, I’m here to watch you walk. “

I hugged her, touched her flabby, weak arms, and smelled the distinctive, reassuring scent of age from a 94-year-old.

Grandma, be well, because we all love you.

Dear Grandma, we will definitely see you again.


Author: Lin Shiyu, a media personality and writer. He has published books such as “The American Years: Oral Narratives of Chinese Immigrants”, “Smoke and Rain: Oral Narratives of Gao Yaojie in Her Later Years”, “Beauty and Sorrow: A Chinese Media Person’s View of Everyday America”, and “The Tide is Flat: Oral Narratives of 15 Chinese Students Studying in the United States”. Among them, “Smoke and Rain: The Daily Life of a Chinese Media Person” was named by “Asia Weekly” in Hong Kong as He was named one of the “Top Ten Best Chinese Books of 2019 (Non-Fiction)” by Asia Weekly. He enjoys traveling, photography, and collecting folk handicrafts.