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Father's Story

Popularity 3Viewed 3670 times 2016-6-20 16:28 |Personal category:Life|System category:Life| father

My father was born in a village of a northern province in China, the same village of my mother’s. He has two elder brothers and two younger sisters. Since my grandmother held that education is the only way out for the children born in the countryside, all three boys were sent to school despite the family’s poverty. But when my father graduated from middle school, the Cultural Revolution started which required schools to stop enrolling students, so he had to join the army like many other young people at that time. Being literate and able to write articles quite well, he was assigned to write articles, correspondences, memos, speeches, newsletters and other documents in the army. After three years in the army, he was transferred to work in one of the top factories that manufacture machine tools in China. Naturally my father became the head of a team of clerical assistants who specialized in writing articles. But the manufacturing itself attracted him more, so he applied to become a worker. With the leaders’ permission, he went to the workplace immediately. Under the instruction of some senior workers and with a few books and some practice, he mastered the job of this field within months, a task which could take others three years. A year later, he became one of the most productive workers in the factory, and whenever there were difficult tasks, he would be called upon to deal with them. 

My mother came to the city when my father was a worker and got in touch with him, because their families knew each other in the village. Later they got married and had me and my younger brother. My father started to revolve his life around us, teaching us things and playing with us after work. 

He is a hands-on person. He used to make things for us such as kites, bows, lanterns, wood carvings, stone puzzles, etc. He seemed all-powerful in our young hearts. He also taught us to play all kinds of board games. It was the most carefree time of my life when we played those games during summer vacations at home under a big squeaky fan. Being himself a fervent fan and good player of table tennis, my father started teaching us table tennis before we could even remember. I can still recall many summer afternoons when we practiced table tennis outside. The wind was still and the cicadas were loud. Popsicle was often used as incentives or rewards for a good practice. Sometimes mom would show up with a big watermelon or some water just when we were feeling extremely thirsty. We would sit on stools among the trees and gorge on the watermelon, and we would discuss the imperfections of my techniques and necessary improvements. Those were very small joys in life, but in retrospect they were perfect.

My parents tried their best to teach us integrity by their own examples, and they taught us valuable life lessons. My father, in particular, likes to give us speeches with vivid examples whenever we are at home. Those speeches often went on for hours until we fell asleep in the sofa or until my mother shouted to us “dinner is ready”, thankfully. Sometimes I would say to him: “Dad, you told me this so many times already, so why bother repeating them?” or "I read this in books a long time ago. I know what to do." And he would say “It is one thing to know it, but it is another to do it. I'm repeating to you so you don't forget. Have you done these things as I told you?” After hearing a reluctant “not yet”, he would gladly resume the speeches. 

My father is the kind of man who does not require many material things. He was a good worker all his life, excelling in the things he does. He did not seek extra profit or tried to think of ways to make big money. He remained candid and upright in a stubborn way even though more sophistication could have brought him more in his career. He follows his heart and does whatever makes him happy. What little extra money he had, he devoted to his hobbies. Now he has retired for over ten years, and he is leading a very happy retired life playing table tennis, playing Go online, investing in stocks, riding a bike, and watching news and sports on the TV. 

He is not a perfect man. As I grow up, he is growing old. When I start to regard him as an independent individual with many social identities instead of just my father, I realize that each person is complicated and has his own shortcomings, that there are so many things I do not know about my father, that he can be quite different from the man in my memories, that he is not all-powerful after all, and that he too needs consolation and protection for his heartaches and grief. Sometimes he can’t hear me clearly when I talk too fast on the phone; sometimes he forgets to wear enough clothes and he gets a cold; sometimes he panics like a child when the computer is not responding as it is supposed to be; sometimes he makes annoying comments on current events because deep down he is still the conservative and stubborn man. Sometimes I feel that we are not as close as before because of the distance and because I'm a grownup responsible for my own life, but once when I cried at home, and he saw the wet tissues I threw all over the floor, he came and consoled me with such soft and pained voice, and wiped my tears, I realized that my affectionate and loving father is still here, when I need him. It is time to accept that our parents have their own lives, and their own happiness to pursue, but they will always look after us and they will not go far.

(Original work by the author Helen; first published on China Daily blog at 16:35 June 20th, 2016)


About Author: Helen, currently a freelance translator in Shanghai. Loves reading and writing and everything related to languages. If you would like to forward or share this blog, please contact the author at

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (5 comments)

Reply Report voice_cd 2016-6-21 15:52
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it.
Reply Report guml 2016-6-22 15:00
Your father is a great father who give a good sample to all new father including me
Reply Report helenriver 2016-6-23 09:26
guml: Your father is a great father who give a good sample to all new father including me
Thank you
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-6-24 07:45
where in the north is he from?
Reply Report helenriver 2016-6-24 10:48
seanboyce88: where in the north is he from?
a village in Shandong   Though the photo was taken in Harbin when he was visiting my uncle there

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