While I was reading my Composition I students’ stories about their grandparents, as in the past, I have a wide variety to choose with my diverse group of students.

    While I was reading my Composition I students’ stories about their grandparents, as in the past, I have a wide variety to choose with my diverse group of students. Therefore, it was difficult to pick which ones best capture a bit of history familiar to many readers from their own life experiences. Essays I will feature in the next six weeks will be about custom combining, fighting in the navy, losing a son in war, hunting or raising racehorses.  However, similar to Bella’s story featured today about her grandfather in China, the international students share unfamiliar history from their own countries.  In the next several weeks, you will read a story written by another international student whose grandfather survived a civil war in Liberia. All are heartwarming. However, what I found interesting this semester about my class of 17 students was that most chose to write about their grandfather for this first assignment. That proves just how powerful an influence the grandfather can have with his grandchildren. All the stories I am privileged to read radiate that truth, that’s why I will share them in the next weeks.

Mengyuan Xu “Bella”

    Brave, smart, diligent and frugal” are words that can describe one person. His name is Mr. Xu and he is very tall and loves to laugh. His most striking characteristic is his dense, white eyebrows.

    My home was far away from Mr. Xu’s home. What's more, my mother and father were always busy on workdays, so we could only visit him on weekends. Of course, for me, it was the most wonderful time in the week since I could stay away from the noisy city. Also, not be troubled with school learning while listening quietly to the older folks talk about the past. What he used to say the most often was, “You don’t have today without our yesterdays.”

    Things date back to the 20th century for Mr. Xu as a 16 year old boy. At that time, Mr. Xu’s hometown was in war times, so there was no food to eat, no water to drink and even there was not a day of peaceful life. Mr. Xu loved the army and when he was younger, he dreamed of one day becoming a member of it. He dedicated himself to peace reigning over the land. He finally had the chance to realize this dream one day. Mr. Xu was living in Hebei province and an army went to his hometown for conscription. He was very excited because his dream to become a soldier came true. However, this identity for a 16-year-old boy was too heavy because in a time of war, soldiers were meant to live on the battlefield every day. They were forced to watch their partners sacrifice themselves on the battlefield. The only thing to be thankful for was that he could eat free meals and drink clean water.

    As time went by, the food was not enough, but the war continued. These new recruits like Mr. Xu, suffered unfair treatment in the daily life. In order to survive, Mr. Xu made a brave decision that took all his savings to buy a train ticket for his family to Xinjiang overnight, which is where I grew up. I can imagine what kind of difficulties he had experienced on the road, but Mr. Xu overcame them. Life here was much better than before; Mr. Xu found a good job that was in the dining hall as a waiter. He usually took some leftovers to his family after he finished his work and they led a relatively stable life.

    Mr. Xu is my grandfather and I am proud of him. Today he is 86 years old and is not as fit as he used to be. About six years ago, he rode his bike to play Majiang, a popular Chinese card game, with his friends in the afternoon as usual. However, when he was riding, he fell down and fainted. A warm-heart person sent my grandfather to the hospital and told my father who rushed to the hospital when he heard the news. The doctor told him that grandfather's leg was broken and needed hospitalization. So now, grandfather has his crutch all the time. I ache from time to time when I look at him now and imagine the war he had fought long ago on the battlefields. Time is like a double-edged sword. It gives us technology and knowledge, but it also takes away the elders' youth.

    Nowadays, our standard of living is much higher than before. However, my grandfather still has the shadow of the past years hanging over him. For example, he never wastes food and does not want to wear new clothes because he knew how difficult it was to get food and clothes in the past.

    The other morning I called them but in my hometown in China, it was already late at night. I was listened to my grandfather repeat his story and gradually understood the meaning of his words. It really hit me and opened my mind up. We now live happily and wonderfully in exchange for their blood and sweat, and we must cherish that. Whenever I can't keep going in some difficult times, whenever I see people who waste food, whenever I am up in the dead of night, I always think of my grandfather, about the difficulties he encountered. Consequently, I have boundless power immediately and think that our present troubles are nothing compared to those of my grandfather. It is a very happy thing that I can live in an age of peace.