A poor father’s heartfelt wish: To raise his daughter until she reaches 18-years-old before dying
Now my body gets weaker day by day, I don’t have any problem with that, I just hope that my mother, rest her soul, can bless me and allow me to raise my daughter until she’s 18, and allow me to die only after that. If I can raise her until she’s 18, I’ll be able to die satisfied in that. When the time comes I’ll pull her close and say to her: “Daughter, daddy’s done bringing you up, now daddy can die secure in that knowledge…”
On the afternoon of April 12 2009, Long Zongyao, busy working in a field and accompanied by his daughter Long Yufeng hurried her along, saying: “Daughter, have you done the homework that the teacher gave you this week? Listen to daddy and go home and do it, okay? Look there, everyone else’s corn has grown so tall, because I didn’t have any money to buy corn seed, our corn has only now begun to grow. Wait until daddy has sown some more seeds and he’ll go home and make something to eat for you, then take you to school. Run along home, don’t dawdle!”
“No, I want to help you to sow the seeds, then I’ll go home. If I don’t help you today, when I go to school tomorrow no one will be able to help you. Daddy, this week the teacher told us, I have to pay the money we owe from the last immunisation I got. Let’s quickly sow the corn and go home together, while I’m doing my homework you can make something to eat, after we finish eating you can send me to school,” she answered her father, who was still busily tilling the soil.
“You’re such a stubborn child! You’re so young but you organise things better than me. Aiya, daughter, don’t get rid of me because I’m old and have no abilities. I, with all my heart, want to let you study at school without any worries, but I can’t. Daughter, you just mentioned that the school wants the 34 kuai for your last immunisation, I’ll go home in a minute and ask the neighbours if I can borrow it. If I can’t, can you ask the school if I can give it to them in a few days?” asked Long Zongyao in a small voice, busily working in the field all the while.
Hearing her father’s consultative tone, Zong Yufeng was annoyed but silent. In half an hour, having finished sowing the corn and on the way home, Zong Yufeng said, slightly angrily: “Daddy, the teacher already told us to bring the money owed from my last immunisation this week, the teacher said it, that 30 kuai is money that they’ve already paid on our behalf. Daddy, I told you last Friday when I got home, why have you waited until now to tell me that you haven’t borrowed it yet? What am I going to do when teacher asks me for the money today?”
Looking at his annoyed daughter walking ahead of him, he comforted her, quietly saying: ”Daughter, daddy’s not trying to deceive the teacher, is he? If daddy had money, he’d definitely hand it over. If we’re not able to borrow it, daddy will go with you to school to tell the teacher face to face, and get teacher to give daddy a few more days. Daughter, you be a good girl and go to school and learn how to read, just wait until you grow up and learn about the world, daddy is counting on you to look after him.”
After arriving home, Long Zongyao busily went to a room and got his daughter’s school bag, and hurried her along, saying: “Daughter, get on with it and do the homework that you haven’t done yet, tonight you have to turn it in to the teacher. Don’t worry about not having money to pay for tuition, as long as I have breath in my body you won’t go hungry, and you will be able to go to school. Listen to daddy, hurry up and write, I’ll go and find someone to lend us money in just a minute.”
Seeing his daughter, half-sitting, half-crouching while writing, Long Zongyao, preparing to leave the house to borrow money from his neighbours, couldn’t help but give her a warning: “Be a good girl and keep writing, you hear? Look at poor daddy, I can’t even write my name properly. If daddy could read and write, I could go and get a proper job and make money for you to go to school. Listen to daddy, at school you have to do what the teacher says, learn from the teacher, so when you’re grown up you can support daddy.”
Twenty minutes later, having gone out to borrow money, the returning Long Zongyao saw that his daughter had already finished her homework, and got her to come to the kitchen to help him start the fire and make the meal: “Daughter, everyone is still outside working so I couldn’t find anyone to lend us the money, I’ll go out to their houses again later to see if they’ve come back. Tonight we’ll just heat up what’s left over from lunch. In any case you’ll have proper food at school tomorrow.”
After heating up the leftovers, the daughter Long Yufeng only had a few mouthfuls. Long Zongyao, serving himself a portion, sighed: “Daddy really feels bad, daddy really wants to give you something proper to eat, but we have problems even buying rice, so how could I possibly make something delicious for you? Daughter, this is your unfortunate destiny, running into your useless father.”
After the meal, Long Zongyao sighed: “I think that they’re only coming back after nightfall, I think I should take you to school first, and tomorrow I’ll borrow money and then take it to school myself. It’ll be too dark to go out.” Hearing her father say this, Long Yufeng’s tears covered her face.
Seeing his daughter Long Yufeng crying, Long Zongyao didn’t comfort her, but took out a new book from her school bag. Flipping through it, he shouted angrily: “Our family has always been poor, I can’t understand why the teacher keeps making us buy these new books? When the school year began the teacher said that all of the fees for school books had been paid already, why do they keep getting us to buy new ones? I can’t read, but if I could I’d read these new books carefully, so I could find out what on earth they do that is so helpful to little girls learning to recognise characters!”
“Don’t cry, there’s a good girl. Daddy knows that you can’t bring it up with the teacher, it’s all daddy’s fault, but the truth is that daddy just can’t borrow money tonight, listen to daddy now, and don’t cry, alright? When little girls cry they aren’t pretty. Wipe your eyes and daddy will take you to school, okay?” Long Zongyao also shed some tears, but seeing his weeping daughter, he could only put her books in her bag and console his crying daughter.
Long Zongyao went on like this for a while, until finally he got his daughter Long Yufeng to agree to go to school. He picked up his hoe again to carry his basket and, while walking, quietly consoled his sobbing daughter: “Daughter, don’t cry, wouldn’t it be terrible to let your classmates see you crying? After I send you to school, I’ll go back and do some more hoeing, and tell everyone about borrowing money. Daddy just needs to borrow some money, then we can give it to the teacher. Listen to daddy and stop crying, okay?”
After sending his daughter to school, Long Zongyao went back to the field to continue hoeing until late at night, when he went home. Then, wheezing, he took the clothes his daughter had changed out of outside, preparing to wash them: “Now that I think of it, I probably shouldn’t have picked up my daughter Long Yufeng from the side of the road. When mother was still alive she was able to help me take care of Long Yufeng. She passed away only a month ago, and now I’m so sick that I don’t have much strength to work. I’m really worried that I don’t have the ability to raise this poor girl until she reaches adulthood.”
After putting down his daughter’s shoes and clothes, he put his dead mother’s photo next to him and sighed: “Mum, I can only look at your photo now, I can’t see you in the flesh. Mum, while you were alive you could help me look after my daughter Long Yufeng. Mum, you’ve been dead only a month and I’m having problems looking after her. Mum, my daughter asked me for the money for an immunisation she received, and I didn’t have anything to give her. Mum, I really don’t think that I should have brought my daughter home to such a poor house to pay for my mistakes! Mum, now then I think of you I can only look at this 30 yuan picture of you. Mum, can you still see my daughter and I from the other world?”
2009 April 14, at 8:19 in the morning, Long Zongyao, who had just got up couldn’t stop coughing. Wheezing, and with the aid of a wooden bench he bowed down before the shrine to his ancestors and prayed: “Now my body gets weaker day by day, and I’m worried that in a few years I’ll die. I’m not afraid of death, but what about my daughter, who’s not even 9 this year? I beseech the gods in their wisdom, to allow me to live until my daughter’s 18, and only then to allow me to die!”
After praying, Long Zongyao went to his mother’s grave, not far from his house to pray: “Mum, since you passed, my body has obviously been getting weaker by the day! My back hurts more and more! Mum, if you have a voice in heaven, I hope you bless me and my daughter. Bless us so that we don’t get sick, okay? I don’t even have enough money to pay for her immunisation, let alone money for medicine for myself. Oh yeah [to the reporter], let me introduce you, the grave on the right is my father’s, in the middle is my mother’s, and on the left is the grave of my ancestor.”
“Every week my daughter comes home and changes her shoes and clothes. I don’t know why, but recently I’ve been seeing my dead mother in my dreams. In those dreams, she tells me that I have to look after Long Yufeng until she’s an adult, and she stresses to me that I have to feed her food cooked with oil. But I just don’t know how to do things, and I can only use soy sauce in place of oil. The clothes that she changes out of, mum used to wash, but now that mum’s passed away, it’s left to me. But I don’t know how to wash clothes, so there’s nothing I can do, I can only make do, I can’t let her wear dirty clothes in front of the teacher, can I?” he said softly, wheezing and washing clothes.
After finishing washing the clothes, and eating a small bowl of porridge, Long Zongyao busied himself by going out to apply pesticide to the shoots outside: “The policies of the central government are so good now, I’m almost 60 but it’s the first time I’ve seen such good policies, I don’t need to hand over anything to the government. But the policies for those higher up are real policies, those for people lower down aren’t any good, why haven’t prices for grain gone up for so long, but seed and fertiliser have grown in price many times over? Why can’t the state make a few regulations raising the price of grain? I don’t have any money to buy fertiliser and pesticide, I can only use a little of it or none at all, my rice seedlings are almost beyond help, the only way I could buy any fertiliser at all was that an acquaintance lent me 8 yuan for it. I originally wanted 40 but he said that I was so poor that he wouldn’t agree to give me any more than eight.
“I cut these small branches from the summit of the mountain quite a few days ago, but I’ve had difficulty breathing, and I haven’t had the strength to lug the whole thing down, I’ll wait until I feel a bit stronger and I’ll go and bring it a bit further, I’m so weak so what else can I do? The two of us can’t just close our mouths and not eat, now can we? I accept that I don’t have enough ability to allow my daughter to eat food cooked with proper oil, but I can’t let her eat cold rice every day, can I?” After applying the pesticide, Long Zongyao picked up some more branches and headed home.
Carrying the sticks of wood the 500 metres from the field to his house, Long Zongyao had to stop to rest three times. With regard to his current situation, he could only sigh: “Sigh, I don’t know what to say about myself. I was born on the 1951 May 25, and when I was young my family was very poor. Dad starved to death in 1959 during the Great Leap Forward, I was only a few years old. After dad died, I could only rely on mum to look after me. My mother was born 1927 December 24. After dad died everyone in the village thought mum was so unfortunate to have to take care of me, and suggested that she find another man, but she never agreed to do so, until her the day she died. Then, only after I’d grown up did mum tell me that the reason dad had starved to death was that he chose not to eat, starving to death because he saved the food for mother and me. Mother said that when he was breathing his last breaths, he pulled my small hand toward him and made me kneel before my mother, telling her that no matter what, she had to keep me alive and raise me up. After father died, the only thing he left us was this small adobe home, built before the revolution.
In all those years, my mother never forgot his final words to “raise me until I’m an adult”. But no matter how hard mum worked, we were still so poor. Because my family was so poor, no girls would agree to be married to me. When I was young I’d see my playmates who I’d known since I was a child grow up and get married, and would feel angry and jealous. Why did girls like wealth and hate poverty? But when I turned forty, I was no longer angry towards those women, because as long as a person is alive, they want to live comfortably, right? It was then that I understood that them not marrying me was right, because not only was my family poor, we didn’t even have a proper place to live. Eventually my neighbours, who had made money from working in other places and renovated their houses, seeing my old adobe house and how unsuitable it was, allowed us to live in their old house. My poor mother, seeing that I had no hope of finding a wife, started asking around everywhere for a baby girl to adopt. Mother said that she hadn’t been able to find me a wife, and just wanted to hold a baby girl and raise her while she still had breath in her body. She said that it would keep her young, and when I was old she would be able to look after me. At the time I was against it, but she told me the reasons again, and even said that I need not even help in raising her. Mum and I started looking around for families who had a few daughters but no boys, these families usually get rid of newborn girls because they don’t want them, but still we had no luck. Maybe it was written in the stars that I was to have a daughter, because on 2000 October 24, on the banks of the Yangtze not far from my house, I found my daughter. When I saw the poor girl, she was so cold that her lips were black. At the time the people looking on said they weren’t able to look after her and didn’t want her. As soon I saw this I took off my coat to make a simple blanket, wrapped her in it, and took her home. The people around me said that she was the child of a girl in the county city, and was the born as a result of her and her boyfriend shuai (shuai in the local dialect means “dating” or “going out”). It was either because she wasn’t of marrying age, or they weren’t married that they had abandoned the baby…
When my mother saw the baby girl she was so happy, she took off the wet clothes and coddled her close to her to warm her up. We didn’t think that the day after she’d start crying and making a fuss. Seeing her chubby limbs I also started slowly liking the poor child. Since she came to our house, my mother was busy all day looking after her. Since we were so poor and couldn’t buy milk, mother got me to ask around to borrow money from everyone we knew. Mother said that even though we were poor we couldn’t neglect the child! In this way, borrowing money frantically, she grew up. Realizing that without a hukou she couldn’t go to school, on 2007 September 26 mother had me borrow from an acquaintance over 1000 kuai at high interest and take it to our local police station to register her hukou. My mother even gave her a nice sounding name – Long Yufeng. Mum hoped that, just like the saying goes, that she would become a phoenix when she grew up. After her hukou, mother got me to borrow some money to send her to kindergarten.
In January of 2008 mother got sick, while on her sickbed she wouldn’t even let me borrow money to buy medicine. She said she’d prefer to save it and let the little one eat some proper food at school. In September, my daughter started first grade. The school’s rules say that students must live and eat at school, a year’s tuition is around 3000 kuai. I don’t know how many houses I went to to borrow money, or how many exasperated looks and refusals I encountered. Originally I thought I’d just have to get one semester’s 1500 yuan together, but actually I had to pay other fees too. This semester, the school has asked me for money a few times already. The first time the school said I needed to volunteer to buy a set of books or something for over 100 kuai. You tell me, could I not buy them? I couldn’t let everyone else’s kids all have new books, but only my daughter wouldn’t have one. The second time, they asked for 20 kuai, and the third time the school asked me for 30 kuai for an immunisation. At the time I didn’t have any money, I felt like going to school and asking them if it was okay if she didn’t get it? But when I got to the school gates I decided not to say anything, after all I still hope for her to be healthy. If I didn’t pay for her immunisation and she got sick, what would I do? Oh yeah, I forgot, so that it would be easier to contact me, the teacher had me spend 150 yuan to buy a mobile phone, and each month even if I do not make any calls and only receive calls, it costs me an additional 8 kuai.
In early March 2009, my sick but too poor to see a doctor mother died. With her last breaths she kept holding my daughter’s hand, unwilling to let it go, over and over again instructing me that no matter how poor we are, we must do whatever we can for the child. Crying, she said she had thought she could raise her until she grew up before dying, never imagining that she would die before my daughter was even nine-years-old. Even as she breathed her last breath she was still crying and worrying about the school fees for next semester. Only after seeing my mother was really dead did my poor daughter hug her grandmother and truly let herself cry out loud. The poor child had known what was happening and didn’t want to cry in front of her grandmother, knowing that if she had, it would have easily broken her grandmother’s heart.
After mother died, I continued doing what she had told me to, looking after my daughter, but life kept getting harder. Combined, our land is only a little, at most this bit of land can only keep us alive. I too want to go out, to work for other people but 1) I am uneducated 2) I don’t have a strong body, so no one would be willing to hire me. My back hurts more and more every year, I just can’t do heavy work, but I have to keep at it, what would happen if I quit? What would we eat? Because we don’t have money to buy pesticide or fertiliser, plus the fact that I don’t have the strength to till the fields, our family’s harvests bring us very little, so much that we even have trouble feeding ourselves. I’ve thought of raising some pigs to earn a little more money, but who’s going to give me pigs on credit? We’ve only been raising two small chickens. I always tell my daughter, wait until the little chickens start laying eggs, I’ll definitely prepare some for her to eat!
In the month since mother died, I’ve been to her grave almost every day. I keep hoping that while she’s in the other world she can bless us to have good food and clothing, but our clothes are still old and tattered, and our food is still scarce. The most infuriating thing is that other girls of her age are having a great time, but why can’t we? When my daughter comes home on Fridays, I can’t even give her a piece of meat to her to eat. I’ll say something now and won’t be afraid if you laugh, our family can only look at other people feeding their pigs, even when mother was still alive we would never eat meat even once, throughout the year. Almost all of my daughter’s clothes were given to her by teachers that took pity on her. Everyone else’s daughters get 5 mao or 1 kuai pocket money to buy snacks at school, and all I can do is take a 1 kuai bill to a shop to exchange for ten 1 mao bills, and can give my daughter only one of those 1 mao bills each Sunday to take to school that week.
So it must be that my ancestors sinned too much, and now I have to pay for it. Since I don’t have enough money to buy Western medicine I can only have Chinese medicine, and everyone in the village calls me “Long Zhongyao” [“Zhongyao” means Chinese medicine and is a pun on his name ” Zongyao”]. They laugh at me, saying that when I was born my father picked the wrong name for me; he should have named me “Long Xiyao” [“Xiyao” would be Western medicine], as if he had called me that I would have Western medicine more often and not Chinese medicine. Someone in the village told me that poor families like mine can receive some kind of subsidy from the government, so I made up my mind to find our village cadre to apply on mother’s behalf for welfare benefit, but the cadre said that the subsidy didn’t apply to us.
Others in our village, seeing that I really cannot raise/support my daughter, suggested that I send her to a better home, but I don’t agree. Remember that my daughter was just a newborn when she came into my life, and now that she has grown up and matured, I definitely could not accept being separated from my daughter when we have come all this way depending on each other. It’s not that I am reluctant to let her go, it’s that I feel that she’ll be my only lifeline in the future! You work it out, if I’m lucky enough to live another ten years, won’t I be able to enjoy some of the fruits of her success? Sometimes, I think to myself, am I, by keeping my daughter and not letting her go to another family, hurting her [future]? But I really couldn’t bear having my daughter leave me! Why does she have to have such a poor father? If she had, from the very beginning, had a rich father, how great that would be! At the very least she wouldn’t have to endure such suffering, right? Many times when I’ve been very sick, my daughter has held my head to console me. Once I was especially sick my daughter held me, saying that she was worried that if I died no one would want her, and that no one would love her. Forget it, I don’t feel like telling you about this kind of stuff, I just think of it and feel like crying! I’m not sure how much she understands, but that she never spends money at school makes me think that she understands at least that her father is poor. I often go to school to ask about my daughter’s academic performance, and the teacher says that her performance is of the upper middle level. Now she’s getting more mature day by day, she’s starting to be more and more neat and tidy. She buys shampoo from school and washes her own hair. She even told me that she’s the student in charge of maintaining classroom hygiene.
Now my body gets weaker day by day, I don’t have any problem with that, I just hope that my mother, rest her soul, can bless me and allow me to raise my daughter until she’s 18, and allow me to die only after that. If I can raise her until she’s 18, I’ll be able to die peacefully, without worries or regrets. When the time comes I’ll hold her hand and say to her: “Daughter, daddy’s done bringing you up, now daddy can go in peace…”
On November 20 2009, through the phone I once again contacted Long Zongyao. On the phone, Long Zongyao told me: “The rain and wind comes through the house so my back hurts more than ever, my daughter’s in second grade, and her grades are quite good. That’s right, in the second half of this year I went to the villiage cadre again to apply for government assistance, and he said that he’d already applied on my behalf, but hadn’t received any approval yet. I really don’t want to be a burden to the state, but I have no other choice. I really worry that I’ll suddenly die, because what would happen to my daughter then? But then again, whose fault is it that I’m such a useless father? I never blame the other villagers for not lending me money, How could a person like me be able to ever pay them back? Like I said before, as long as my daughter can reach 18-years-old, I can rest in peace…”
A society devoted to developing the economy must extend a hand in concern/car, because concern/care for those less fortunate ensures future prosperity. Otherwise, the gap between the rich and poor will increase, with the children left behind by parents who go away to work not receive any family upbringing/education, and the poor children not being able to receive education at all.
When a portion of the people enjoy the abundant fruits of the opening and reform of the country, but the majority live in poverty and hopelessness, there will be social complications, even social resentment will increase. When this happens, what is threatened is not only social stability, but even more the country’s national security…
Comments on Mop:
My heart is now a bit heavy.
My eyes are red from crying just looking at the photos, I can’t not ding!
Society is unfair. That some people have complaints about society is understandable. But, the Party, when so many people are unhappy with the situation, then something is wrong. Harmony…….
Little girl, I wish you luck.
Ding‘d…those of us living in the cities should be content with what we’ve got.
Ding, I think that taxpayers’ money should be spent where it’s needed, poor families like these should get some sort of assistance, why are there so many beggars in our country? Is it because welfare comes too slowly or is it because we have too many people? I think those serving as our leaders should also act in accordance with their conscience.
I really want to help him.
As a father too,
I can understand him.
A father’s love is like a mountain
LZ, can you tell me how to contact him?
Is there a way to contact him? Although I only make 2000 a month, I want to help him with 200 each month.
My heart hurts, a lot.
China gives away so much in foreign aid. But our own home is a mess. Those who embezzle embezzle, those who are officials run wild. Ordinary common people go hungry, so shameful.
Yeah, cute intelligent little girl, I hope you have a beautiful future!