WANG WEI PU: My father is a very rigorous person, and he is very strict with me as well. I wonder why he treats me that way, maybe it’s because he had a very tough childhood. He is from the countryside, from Henan, a very poor place, and he was born in 1949. When he was 9 or 10 years old, there was a great famine caused by some natural catastrophe. It lasted for three years. That age is supposed to be the most wonderful time of a person’s childhood, but my father had nothing to eat. His father was a teacher and worked in town, so he couldn’t go back home very often, and my father, as the oldest son, was responsible for the survival of the family. His brothers and sisters depended on him as well. Later my uncle told me that my father used to steal food during that period because his family had nothing to eat. It was tough. He even started robbing graves together with some other people. There are a lot of ancient graves in Henan.
    He joined the army when he was 18 and stayed there for about two years. When he left, he went to Beijiao in the province of Xi’an, to work for a company called Xihang, which has its headquarters in Hongqichang. I don’t know how he met my mother, because the people from his generation don’t usually tell you how they met and how they fell in love.
    There is one event that I remember very clearly, and later I had a dream that was very similar to this event. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, my father took me on a ride on his bicycle. It was one of those old bicycles that have a seat in front, and I sat in that front seat. On the way, he told me to count from 1 to 100. I started counting but when I got to 20 or 30 I stopped. I was only a kid, or maybe I just wanted to get more attention from my father. But he said to me: “You can stop counting but then I’ll take you off the bike and I’ll continue riding on my own. ” I thought “OK, then go on riding on your own.” So he put me down on the ground and rode away. At first I thought it was funny, but when he got out of sight I got really scared. I started to cry and felt really bad, I was only a kid after all, so I started counting again. My father had watched me from a distance and came back to pick me up. He lifted me up on the bicycle again. I was still crying and counting at the same time. My father seemed to be happy and I was no longer scared. He had come back to me, which means he hadn’t abandoned me. But my father would never have told the story in this way. Maybe I made some of it up myself.
    Many years later I had a dream, I think it was last year actually. The dream was very similar to this event. My father and I were climbing up the stairs on a hill, I don’t know which hill it was but it was quite high. About halfway to the top, my father said: “Let’s have a race and see who gets to the top first.” We continued climbing the stairs and we also started counting them. I was climbing faster than my father because I’m younger. When I reached 200, I looked back and my father had disappeared! Actually, not only my father but all the other people had also disappeared. I was completely alone. I got scared and thought: “Where did all the people go, and where is my father?” I felt very helpless. It was the same feeling that I had had as a child when my father took me off the bicycle and left me.
    I wondered what I should do. Should I go back and try to find him or should I continue climbing? I stood there for a long time, there was nobody else around so I started descending slowly. On the way down I didn’t meet anybody, either. The stairway was made of stone. After a while I reached a gate that looked like the memorial gate at Mount Li. My father was standing by the gate. I asked him why he had disappeared, but he said he had been behind me all the time. I said: “Then why didn’t I see you?” He answered something, I don’t remember all of what he said but it was basically that he had been behind me all the time, watching me quietly. Then I woke up. I remember this part of the dream very well, I think it is related to what happened when I was a child, it was the same feeling that I had when he dropped me off the bicycle.
    In another dream I dreamt that I went to my father’s house. In real life, when I go to visit my father he usually doesn’t open the door for me, it is not easy for me to get into his house. But in this dream I went to his house and he opened the door for me. He was very kind and polite, not at all like in real life where we usually start fighting after speaking only a few words. I almost never smoke in real life, and neither does my father. But in the dream, I gave him a cigarette and lighted it for him and we smoked together, without saying anything. We didn’t talk, we just smoked our cigarettes. Then I asked my father about his state of health. He said, “I’m fine, you don’t have to worry about me.” He asked me about my job and I answered him something. In real life, if I gave my father a cigarette he would never accept it. I remember that once I offered him a cigarette and he didn’t want it because he thought my cigarettes were bad or something like that. He didn’t want to smoke the cigarette that I offered him.
    I coddle my daughter very much now. Since I was 19 years old, I haven’t had a good relationship with my father. He always treats me in a very severe and cruel way, ever since I was a child. When I go to visit him I always tense up. I’m afraid of his severity. I’m always scared when I go to meet him. A lot of books are talking about the relationship between father and son and how beautiful it is, or about the love of a father for his children, and they talk about how a father helps his son to deal with the things that happen to him in his life or in his job. But I’m 32 years old now and I never had this feeling. I never had anybody who gave me advice on how I should do this or that. I always had to find out by myself. Sometimes I share things with my wife and she can give me some advice, but I would really like to share those things with my father because we both are men and men think differently about many things than women. Maybe my father could give me better advice. But so far I’ve never had a chance.
    So I coddle my daughter a lot. When I take her to the park, I always give her everything she wants. My wife wouldn’t do that, she is a little more strict with our daughter. But I think she is my child, and she’s just a kid. Maybe I think I must give her all the love and care that I never got from my father. I get more love from my mother, but that’s a different kind of love. I have a good relationship with my father-in-law. I admire the relationship that my wife has with her father, and my wife’s younger brother also has a very good relationship with their father. I really admire that. My father-in-law is a very good father to his children. Maybe I will never get that kind of love from my own father in my whole life.