Welcome to Our ABC Stories! In 2023, WuKong Education’s “Tell Us Your ABC Story: Global Contest” invited Chinese families worldwide to share their tales. Actor Daniel Wu and author Vincent Yee, among others, judged 21 finalists from touching submissions. “The Last Conversation” by 14-year-old Dorthy Liu won the Family Storytelling Excellence Award. Dorthy’s narrative beautifully captures life’s intricacies. Take a moment to be inspired by her incredible story, offering a glimpse into global Chinese experiences.
My mother took my sister and me on a trip to China while I was in fourth grade because it was her native country. I never visited China as a child; I only heard stories about her early years there. Since we lived on the other side of the planet (America), my mom frequently felt guilty about being unable to visit her family. So, in that autumn, she took my sister and me to visit family and celebrate my grandpa’s 90th birthday. We spent a whole week in China with my grandpa on my mother’s side. I didn’t know that it would become one of my most valued lifetime experiences when I traveled to China.
My grandpa was one of the most significant people in my life; he was incredibly kind, compassionate, and good-natured. He was also one of the people I respected most. I had grown up hearing stories about him: He wrote and published his first novel at the age of 16; he became one of the first group of Chinese students sent on official scholarships to study in the Soviet Union; after completing studies abroad, he returned to his alma mater, Wuhan University, and became a professor … He could even write the most beautiful Chinese characters with fountain pens and writing brushes that I have ever seen.
My grandpa was very considerate and empathetic. Most of all, he never seemed to get angry. I never saw or heard him get mad in real life or stories. One day, while my family and I were wandering along a shopping street in China, we came to a little store that sold backpack accessories and other cute school supplies. My mom thought the items there were too expensive and was not willing to buy them for my sister and me. Grandpa perceived how much we craved for those little fine crafts made by Chinese traditional skills and bought two mini coin pouches for each of us without any hesitation. On that same day, I remember getting into a fight with my little sister, and my mom took sides with her. In anger, I stopped walking with them. “Dorthy, don’t be mad anymore. I’m with you now,” my grandpa remarked to me. He not only comforted me while I was rude to him, but he also sought all means to make me smile. After that day, he quickly became the favorite family member in my heart.
Over the next few days, we did many fun activities together, including riding a pedal boat. While my sister and I were navigating, Grandpa was writing away on the little pouch he had bought for us at the accessories store. Maybe he knew it was my first time doing it or thought I was good; he had written a small paragraph praising me for how well I was at steering a boat. Although I couldn’t read a single word he had written at that time, in my heart, they were words of encouragement my grandpa gave me. Everything seemed so bright and happy when I was with my grandpa; his smile was everything. He always spoke to me tenderly and never got mad at me, even if I did something wrong. Today, I still treasure the mini pouches he bought for me in my bedroom, because on the pouches, Grandpa left his beautiful hand-written words of praise for me. Our interaction when I was leaving China was what I remember most vividly and frequently.
As I hugged him farewell, Grandpa said, “Dorthy, study hard so that when you grow up, you can come to Wuhan University and accompany me whenever you like.” I said, “ I’ll try my hardest to get into Wuhan University, Grandpa. Please wait for me.” “I’ll wait for little Dorthy to arrive,” he said with a smile. I had no idea that was our final exchange and the last time I saw my grandfather in person. During that talk with him, I broke down in tears since I did not want to leave him or my beloved family in China. When I was younger, I never gave death any thought. When I initially returned from China, I could still clearly recall planning how long it would take me to enroll in Wuhan University. I believed my grandpa would be 100 years old because my family had always said he was healthy for his age. I also thought I could enroll in Wuhan University to celebrate my success while he was still alive.
Yet in January of 2023, tragedy struck, and the whole family was hit with the worst news: My grandpa had passed away. Sometimes I look back and regret not spending more time with him. He was always looking out for me and looking for ways to make me smile, but I never really appreciated the time when I was with him. I was selfish and only cared about if I had fun or not, and if I was doing what I wanted to do or not. From time to time, I often remember our last conversation and the things he did for me.
When I’m feeling down, I chat with him in my heart, even if I can no longer see his smiles or hear his voice, because I know he is always comforting and looking out for me. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the time I spend with my family more and have taken the initiative to have more family time since I don’t know when my last conversations with them will be.
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