It was such a surprise and such a thrill to learn that Liang Piyun, · an old, old friend, one who had 'another sky above his head', was coming to visit.
The first I knew of this was when I received a call from my 'dear' friend in Louisiana, Professor Lin Aishan,· telling me that Liang Piyun was in Los Angeles. I learned that he had called my old telephone number at my eldest son's address in San Francisco and was told that I had moved and was now residing near my second son. So Liang Piyun called the latter and through him got my new address and my new telephone number. In this way, we spoke with each other and arranged a meeting.
Liang Piyun had flown from Hong Kong to the United States to attend his youngest son's Ph. D. graduation ceremony in Alabama. As ex-teacher and student, Piyun and Aishan had kept up correspondence over the preceding sixteen years and thus Piyun's itinerary included a visit to Aishan's home, where he arrived in August.
Having no car of my own, I asked Dr. Guo· if he could give my wife, Yiping,· and I a lift and together we drove to Lin Aishan's house. It happened to be a Saturday and, when we arrived, the Lin family was entertaining more than twenty guests, including the Liang family. I so wanted to have a long chat with Liang Piyun after a separation of sixty years and thought of inviting him over to my house in New Orleans, but then changed my mind, remembering that Liang Piyun and Aishan also treasured every moment of this reunion and had a lot to talk about. So, in a hurry I came and in a hurry I left, having made arrangements to meet him again at the Yudong Restaurant in town.
It was a beautiful autumn morning as, surrounded by our sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law and other next of kin, I held my eighteen-month-old grandson while Liang Piyun cheerfully took his chubby nine-month-old granddaughter into his arms. What a typically happy Chinese family reunion it was! It was only after one o'clock in the afternoon, however, when the others had gradually left, that Liang Piyun and I were finally left alone together. Sitting in a rocking chair in my back garden, Liang Piyun and I chatted until midnight, with Yiping joining us from time to time.
As a youth, Piyun had been tall, a full head taller than myself. Now he seemed to be two centimeters shorter. He said that I had put on some weight, which didn't please me at all. We talked about our days back in Shanghai. Quite a few of our schoolmates had become successful, though each had followed a very different path. I took out some old photographs and Piyun could still recognize some of the faces. We had many mutual friends and we burst out laughing when we recalled the numerous anecdotes about our old pals!
After Shanghai,· we had met again, briefly, in Xiamen· in the autumn of 1926. Since then, for sixty years, our paths had never crossed. However, I had learned from various sources that Piyun had been very successful in the field of education and had made contributions not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally, while in his spare time he had dedicated himself to Chinese calligraphy. His energy and accomplishments amazed me.
As a sign of my admiration, I wrote him the following poem:
("Letter-poem to Aishan about my reunion with Piyun in Louisiana:
In Pujiang*· days we studied together; now white-haired,
In Zhoujia**· fall we become reunited in an overseas land.
While I have been contented with a quiet uneventful life,
Yours has been so fruitful with stunning achievements.").
While disagreeing with me on the content of the second half of the poem, he carefully placed the piece of paper on which I had written the few lines into his briefcase.
The following morning, 2nd of September, at eight o'clock, Liang Piyun came downstairs and asked me for a piece of writing paper. I watched him write:
("Reply to your poem in the same vein:
Scores of autumns have elapsed,
Since we last bid good-bye in Tokyo.
Now we meet, is it in another world?
Thrilled to find us both doing as well as fairies.").
I felt very fortunate to have Liang Piyun with me again, after so many decades. We may have met in Tokyo a long time ago, but I no longer remembered. He was happy to see us both doing well and compared us to "[...] twin fairies doing good."
In fact I envied him for being able to return to our native land. Here is a poem that he wrote:
("On my 80th Birthday
In eighty quick years, I have been to all comers of the earth.
Following a destiny full of ups and downs, quietly observing.
Revelling in my own pursuits, in my humble home and land;
There are still pines and chrysanthemums to call me back.")
I so wished Liang Piyun could have stayed with us for another couple of days, but, as always, he had to be on the move again. I stood watching as his car disappeared onto the No.10 Cross-State Super-Highway. ***
Translated from the Chinese by: Ieong Sao Leng,
Sylvia 杨秀玲Yang Xiuling
*Pujiang refers to Shanghai.
** Zhoujia is a sixty-year cycle.
*** Abridged version.
start p. 249