I am sorry to crowd the web with a personal matter, but I have not found a better medium to commemorate a woman who had great influence on me. This woman is my Grandmother, who passed away on Oct. 3, 1998.
I regret I will never be able to fulfill a request she made in my childhood. Before my schooling, my grandma often told me stories about her life. "When you are old enough to write, you will help me to write down these stories". Although ordinary, her life was certainly worth writing. The hardship, uncertainty, struggle, hope and joy in her life represented many Chinese women of her generation. These women kept the Chinese civilization alive, despite the turmoil in modern Chinese history.
She was born in Confucius' home state, Shan Dong, in the eastern part of China. In her early twenties when my mom was only one year old, my grand father ventured out of town in search of opportunities. He disappeared since then. To date, no one knows what happened to him. Invaded by the Japanese army, China was in chaos so it was not so unusual for someone to disappear. Waiting for her husband's return for the rest of her life, my grandma raised my mom alone and gave her more education than most girls could receive at the time. She welcomed the communist revolution, but years later during Mao's "Great Proletarian Culture Revolution", her missing husband cast a huge psychological shadow in her mind, because he could have joined the KMT and fled to Taiwan. Such a possibility removed my parents from the trusted list.
She devoted the later half of her life to the well being of us three grandsons. When my parents went to work during the day, grandma provided us a warm home other kids envied. She had profound influences on us, sometimes by explicit Confucius teaching but more often by how seriously she lived her seemingly trivial life. Because of her, we felt special and privileged, although my family's income was never better than average. She washed our clothes, made us dinners, and constantly shared our successes and problems. Her words and action helped to shape our goals and self-image, which is more important than "IQ" to a child's development. Education was always the most important in her mind. She was very proud of her three grandchildren who all went to university, a place reserved only for a small percentage in China at the time. She earned such a reputation that her neighbors wanted her to baby sit their young children so they too will go to university. In 1995, I sincerely dedicated my Ph.D. Thesis to her.
Here is a commemoration essay I wrote in Chinese on Oct 4, 1998.