I chanced upon a familiar title today whilst at the library. When I flipped the pages, I seem to have recall reading this text during either my secondary school or JC days in Chinese literature class.
Borrowed the book for myself, seeing that the words of the book were the exact print that I had read donkey years ago. It held such fond memories!
The book caught the eye of J1 who insisted that I read it to him. I hesitated, because the content was rather emotional, and I knew I would, at some point, break down.
The story writes about a man who had not seen his father for the past 2 over years, where they both sought to seek out a living and an education respectively in two parts of China. The writer grew up in a poor family and he and his Father got even poorer when his father's business had failed. Nevertheless, his Father writes to his Son and showed him concern throughout those years.
The writer recollects one rare occasion where he met up with his father to see to the wake and funeral of his paternal Grandmother. He writes about how his father showed care for him in little ways, seemingly intangible and sometimes foolish to the eye. That despite being aged and frequently away from his son, the tender love for his son had never wavered once.
One such gesture was that of how the Father was sending his Son up the train, back to Beijing, and decided to cross to the other side of the train station just to get his Son some oranges to take with him on the journey. To get to the other side of the train station, one would have to get down from the platform onto the tracks, cross the tracks, climb up the platform, and get to the opposite end of the station. And to repeat the process to returning… Being elderly and of a clumsy size, it was even more challenging for his Father to get those oranges, but he did anyway. His Son, from the train platform, looked at how his Father (“看着父亲的背影” – this was how the title came about) lumbered on to get the oranges, with much effort, and was gushed with tears at the love of his Father.
Fast forward 2 years later, he received his final letter from his Father, who comforted him that he was in good health, though his shoulders have been hurting a great deal. As such, his Father shared that it would be his last letter to his Son and that he would be coming to the end of his life's journey soon.
As I ended the book, J1 told me that he liked the book but was visibly saddened. I thought he caught me, when my voice broke a few times… and he also tried to dry away tears from his eyes every now and then.
I'm glad to have found this book at the children's section of the library though it was probably wrongly placed. It taught me of the importance of not to take anyone for granted, especially our loved ones, and to understand the frailty of life.
If you would like to view the full text, do look up https://youtu.be/gXpkTBUMolU.