The Sight of My Father’s Back

  By Zhu Zi Qing

   It has been more than two years since I last saw my father. The most unforgettable memory for me is the sight of my father’s back.


   Misfortunes come in pairs. In that winter, my grandmother died, and my father lost his job. I left Beijing for Xuzhou to join Father, hurried home to attend grandmother's funeral. On the day I saw Father in Xuzhou, and the messy yard, I thought of grandma, and I couldn’t help but sob. My father said,” What’s done is done, don’t be so sad. Luckily, when one door shuts, another opens.”

    回家變賣典質,父親還了虧空﹔又借錢辦了喪事。這些日子,家中光景很是慘淡,一半為了喪事,一半為了父親賦閒。喪事完畢,父親要 到南京謀事,我也要回到北京念書,我們便同行。

   We went home and powned valuable items for money. Father paid the debt and borrowed some money to cover the funeral. During these days, our family was in poor circumstances, partly due to grandmother's funeral and partly due to father's unemployment. After the funeral, father was going to seek a job in Nanjing, while I was going back to study in Beijing, so we traveled together.

   到南京時,有朋友約去遊逛,勾留了一日;第二日上午便須渡江到浦 口,下午上車北去。父親因為事忙,本已說定不送我,叫旅館裡一個 熟識的茶房陪我同去。他再三囑咐茶房,甚是仔細。但他終於不放心 ,怕茶房不妥貼;頗躊躇了一會。其實我那年已二十歲,北京已來往過兩三次,是沒有什麼要緊的了。他躊躇了一會,終於決定還是自己送我去。我兩三回勸他不必去,他只說,「不要緊,他們去不好!」

   When we were in Nanjing, we stayed for a day because of a friend’s invitation. The next day, we needed to cross the river to Pukou before noon, and go north by train in the afternoon. My father and I agreed that he didn’t need to see me off because he was too busy; instead, he asked a steward who we were familiar with to accompany me. He carefully told the steward again and again to take good care of me. However, eventually, the steward’s attitude made him feel uneasy. He hesitated on whether to see me off or not. Actually, I was twenty then and have already made several round trips to Beijing. There was no need to worry. He hesitated for a while, and finally decided to see me off personally. I tried to persuade him not to do so repeatedly, but he just said,”It doesn’t matter. It’s not fine for them to go with you.”


   We crossed the river and entered the station. I bought the ticket, and he was busy looking after the luggage. We had too many luggage, so we needed to give the porter a tip to pass. Then he was busy bargaining with those porters. I was too clever for my own good at that time, I felt he didn’t know how to bargain. I must chip in. But he finally set up on a price and put me into the carriage.

   他給我揀定了靠車門的一張椅子;我將他給我做的紫毛大衣舖好座位 。他囑我路上小心,夜裡要警醒些,不要受涼。又囑託茶房好好照應 我。我心裡暗笑他的迂;他們只認得錢,託他們直是白託!而且我這 樣大年紀的人,難道還不能料理自己嗎?唉,我現在想想,那時真是太聰明了!

   He picked a seat near the door for me. I used the purple fur coat to make a seat. He told me to be careful, especially at night, not to catch a cold, and then he told the steward to take good care of me. I laughed inside at his stupidity. They only recognize money. It was no need to entrust me to them. Also, I was already an adult, I could take care of myself. Sigh, now I am wondering that I was too clever for my own good then.

   我說道:「爸爸,你走吧。」他往車外看了看,說:「我買幾個橘子 去。你就在此地,不要走動。」我看那邊月台的柵欄外有幾個賣東西的等著顧客。走到那邊月台,須穿過鐵道,須跳下去又爬上去。父親是一個胖子,走過去自然要費事些。我本來要去的,他不肯,只好讓他去。

   I said, “Dad, you can leave now.” He looked outside the car, and said,” I will go for several oranges. You stay here. Don’t walk away.” I found that there were some vendors outside the railings of the platform. If my father wants to walk to the platform, he needed to cross the railway, jumping down and climbing up. He was fat, so of course, it required strenuous efforts. I originally wanted to go instead of him, but he wouldn’t. I let him go.

   我看見他戴著黑布小帽,穿著黑布大馬褂,深青布棉袍,蹣跚地走到鐵道邊,慢慢探身下去,尚不大難。可是他穿過鐵道,要爬上那邊月台,就不容易了。他用兩手攀著上面,兩腳再向上縮;他肥胖的身子 向左微傾,顯出努力的樣子。這時我看見他的背影,我的淚很快地流下來了。

   I saw him wear a black-fabric hat, a black-fabric mandarin jacket, and a dark blue cotton-wadded long gown, walking haltingly toward the side of the railways and slowly bending his body down. This was still not difficult for him. However, it was not easy to climb up to the platform after crossing the railways. He used both hands to reach higher places, drawing back his feet. He appeared to exert himself when his fat body slightly fell left. At that time, I saw his back. I was soon in tears.

   我趕緊拭乾了淚,怕他看見,也怕別人看見。我再向外看時,他已抱了朱紅的橘子往回走了。過鐵道時,他先將橘子散放在地上,自己慢 慢爬下,再抱起橘子走。到這邊時,我趕緊去攙他。他和我走到車上 ,將橘子一股腦兒放在我的皮大衣上。於是拍拍衣上泥土,心裡很輕 鬆似的。過一會說,「我走了,到那邊來信!」,我望著他走出去。他走了幾步,回過頭看見我,說,「進去吧,裡邊沒人。」等他的背影混入來來往往的人裡,再找不著了,我便進來坐下,我的眼淚又來了。

   I quickly wiped my tears, afraid of being seen by my father and others. When I looked outside again, he was already started returning, holding the bright red oranges. Crossing the railways, he put the oranges on the ground haphazardly, climbing down slowly and then walking with those oranges holding in his hand. When he was on my side, I quickly tried to help him by the arm. He and I walked into the car and completely put the oranges on my fur coat. He seemed relieved when he cleared the dust on his clothes. “I am going to leave, write me a letter after you arrive.”,he said. After a while, I saw him walk outside. In few steps, he turned his head and saw me, said,” Go inside, there’s no one there.” Until the sight of his back disappeared, I walked into the car and sat down. I couldn’t stop my tears.

   近幾年來,父親和我都是東奔西走,家中光景是一日不如一日。他少 年出外謀生,獨立支持,做了許多大事。哪知老境卻如此頹唐!他觸 目傷懷,自然情不能自已。情籲於中,自然要發之於外;家庭瑣屑便 往往觸他之怒。他待我漸漸不同往日。但最近兩年不見,他終於忘卻 我的不好,只是惦記著我,惦記著我的兒子。

   In recent years, Father and I have been to many different places. The circumstances at home worsened year by year. Father, in his youth, went out to make a living, he became independent, did with many great things. No one could have foreseen such a come-down in his old age! What he saw depressed him. Those discouraging affairs filled him with an uncontrollable deep sorrow, and his pent-up emotion had to find a vent. Trivial matters often angered him. He gradually treated me not as usual. However, during these two years we hadn’t met each other, he finally forgot my flaws, but only remembered me and my son with concern.

   我北來後,他寫了一封信給我,信中說道,「我身體平安,惟膀子疼 痛利害,舉箸提筆,諸多不便,大約大去之期不遠矣。」我讀到此處 ,在晶瑩的淚光中,又看見那肥胖的,青布棉袍,黑布馬褂的背影。 唉!我不知何時再能與他相見!

   After I went north, he wrote me a letter. He wrote, “I am healthy, except my arms ache smartly. It is inconvenient for me to use chopsticks or to write. I think my end is near.” I was in tears when I read these words as if I saw his fat back in a black-fabric mandarin jacket, and a dark blue cotton-wadded long gown. Sigh, I had no idea when I could meet him again.