Guilan is the given name of my grandma. It literally means sweet osmanthus and orchid.

These pictures were taken when I spent a month with grandma last summer. Since I left my hometown I haven’t lived with her for almost 10 years. Grandma had a stroke and later suffered from paralysis, spending the rest of her time in a wheelchair.

I had always been afraid of going back as if in that way things would never change. Any cheers in my daughter Daisy will mean a sigh in grandma’s worsened condition. My daughter is 3 years old and is learning to eat, dress and more words to express her emotions. While sadly at the same time, I could see grandma was losing her ability to do all these things on her own.

But back home I lived as if I was a stranger. The jamais-vu feeling made me feel so uneasy; my familiar hometown was lost. I came back to Shanghai for work and I told grandma I would be back before winter. I didn’t know she would pass away the day before I went back.

It was hard for me to look back to the last time we met. I was pretending to be so lighthearted to prevent her weeping. But she still wept, as if she foresaw that was the last time.

Several weeks ago, she came to my dream, wearing high-heels and told me that she was so tired because of the shoes. I took her by her arms and told her that she could take them off.

“Do you think I’ve lived for too long?”

“You’re 86. Do you want to live to your nighties? That would be too old!” I answered with a smile.

“ You think so?” She looked into my face, with her shoes in hands.

“Sure, I won’t live to that age.”

“ Yes, you’re right.” She seemed satisfied with this answer.

Grandma made the decision to give birth to her fourth child, my mother. And my mother failed to abort her first child, that was me. All the coincidences made our life and our destiny. And those coincidences, though small and personal, together opened the whole world for me. And I start to know something won’t vanish through time and memories; it was like some kind of “Samsara”.

For once, I just want to call grandma by her name, Guilan.

  ···  

桂兰是我外婆的名字,她那个年代的父母都喜欢给女孩起这样的名字,桂花和兰花。

这组照片来自于我与外婆居住的一个月。自从我离家后,我与外婆已有十年没有在一起住过。这十年间,外婆中风后瘫痪,一半的身体不能动,从此开始了轮椅上的生活。我定居于距故乡1700公里的大城市,结婚,有了自己的小孩。

这个夏天,我回到我出生长大的故乡,外婆已无法说话,她抬起手悬在轮椅扶手边,我知道她在问我女儿在哪,我说女儿晚我一周回来。

我一直害怕回家乡,仿佛这样时间就可以停留在我十年前离家的那一刻。而后来的外婆,再也无法在我离开时转头说一句再见,我透过窗户看她的背影,她的头深深地埋下去。

我的女儿三岁了,外婆看到了她,露出了我从未看过的笑容。女儿一日日学会了自己吃饭、穿衣,学会了说更多的语句表达更复杂的情绪,而同时,我的外婆正在一点点失去这些东西。

在故乡的一个月,我似乎像个外人一般地生活。周围的人和事带来的熟悉又陌生的感觉让我恐慌,我所记得的故乡已经消失了。因事返回上海时,我想着自己不久还会再回去。然而就在我事情办妥准备飞回家乡前一天,外婆走了。

很长一段时间里,我不敢去回想我们的最后一面,我故意装作很轻松,我怕外婆会哭。她还是哭了,我回头笑着看她,她低头默默哭泣,像是预感到了什么一样。

外婆葬礼几周后,她来到了我的梦里。梦里她穿着高跟鞋走在我旁边,我似乎并不惊讶。她说走的好累啊,“把鞋脱下来吧。”我说。

“我是不是活得太久了?”

“你八十六岁了,你还想到九十岁吗?那样可太老了!外公都等了你三十年了。” 我笑着说。

“是吗?” 她低着头,手里拎着鞋。

“是啊,我才不要活那么久呢。”

“你说的对。”她没再说话,看起来好像对这个答案很满意。

后来花了很久的时间,我才明白,人总是在事情发生之后才能够稍微懂得其中的意义。外婆生了她第四个孩子,我妈妈。当时未婚的妈妈顶住了失去工作的压力,生下我。那些巧合的注定,串在一起,形成了我的命运,也形成了外婆的命运,以及几代人的命运。于是我不再执迷于寻找一个答案。我开始明白,就算随着记忆和时间的流逝,一些细节和面貌会被忘记,有些东西也不会消失,某种东西以类似于“轮回”的方式继续存在于在这个世界上。

这一次,我想叫一声外婆她的名字,桂兰。

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