In case you hadn’t heard, a few years ago China passed The Elderly Rights Law requiring children of parents over sixty to visit their folks frequently and make sure their emotional needs are met. Noncompliant children potentially face fines or jail time.
Whoa, Nellie. This goes waaaay beyond Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
This Chinese fifth commandment says, in essence, Thou art obligated to go home often to visit thy father and mother, keep in touch with thine elderly parents, and occasionally send them greetings. A court in the eastern city of Wuxi ordered a young couple to visit the wife’s 77-year-old mother — who had sued her daughter and son-in-law for neglect — at least once every two months and on holidays.
Tell it to cleaning lady Wang Yi, 57, who lives alone in Shanghai and sees her two sons (who work many miles away) only at the annual Lantern Festival. “The new law is better than nothing,” Wang Yi said, “but it is too little. I think twice a year would be good. We Chinese people raise children to take care of us when we are old.” Wang Yi apparently hasn’t noticed that the times they are a-changing. Make that past tense.
Zhang Ye, a 36-year-old university lecturer said, “I often go visit my parents and call them, but if a young person doesn’t want to, I doubt the law will work. Family bonds should be based on spontaneous emotions. It's ridiculous to make it into a law. It’s like requiring couples who have gotten married to have a harmonious sex life.” Good point.
Of course, there’s always one kid who puts the others to shame. In this case it’s the 26-year-old man who pushed his disabled parent for ninety-three days in a wheelchair to a popular tropical tourist destination in Yunnan Province. The son’s devotion was called ‘by far the best example of filial piety’ in years. Or the longest recorded guilt trip in history.
Today’s blog post offers another spin on the care and feeding of your old mommy and daddy (or Grandma or Grandpa) should you be lucky enough to have them.
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Samuel 1919: His biography, authored but unauthorized
When the old widow died, her heirs held an estate sale at which Our Heroine unexpectedly found herself, as if guided by cosmic breadcrumbs. The heirs had already appropriated the sterling, the pearls, the Persian rugs, the Persian lambs and left behind, on the manicured lawn, among the topiary tress, what they considered the widow’s worthless rubbish in cardboard boxes.
It was in one of these boxes that Our Heroine found the picture of a naked baby where, on the back, someone had long-ago scribbled Samuel 1919.
"Oh, dear me," said Our Heroine to herself (the Self who often created rich narratives from over-heard snatches of conversation, crumpled grocery lists, one-line obits and marriage license notices). "Oh, dear me," she said. "Today, if One-Hour Photo found this in your order they’d right away call the Vice Squad or Child Protective Services and you’d be hauled up on pornography charges."
And so Our Heroine (warming to the backstory) wondered if baby Samuel was still alive, and if he was alive he wouldn’t be a baby, of course, but very old like Zeyde. And maybe Samuel’s wife had already died from a brain aneurysm, so he’d moved from their brick bungalow with the iron bird bath shaped like a lily pad and now he lived at Happy Acres Rest Home in room 301 that he shared with Max who never stopped singing Yes We Have No Bananas.
Thus Our Heroine (lured by the siren song of Midrash) decided the nurses forgot to give Samuel his medicine on time and neglected to trim his beard and (her investment in Samuel continuing to compound) she considered whether he had children (maybe a daughter and three sons or four sons and no daughter, whatever) and if Samuel did have kids then by now he’d for sure have grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, all spoiled rotten.
Slipping the photograph into her cardigan pocket (along with her righteous indignation) Our Heroine headed home, determined to find out if Samuel recognized his sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren when they came to visit him (if they came to visit him) and if they came to visit him did one of them at least wipe the egg yolk off his shirt-front p l e a s e .
Ozzie Nogg 2016