Grampa’s journey

While I was in China I took a trip for a week with my cousins and sister to follow the route that our Grampa traveled 100 years ago, from Shanghai to Nanjing and Xuzhou where my grandparents lived for 40 years and where my father was born. Our grandmother had come to China several years earlier following her sister.

My father returned in the mid 40’s to the China he loved with his young family to work as a medical doctor in his home town of Xuzhou. They left in 1949 when the communists took over, a year before I was born. I kept thinking if the politics had been different I would have grown up in Xuzhou instead of Japan.

We met Mr. Wang (a well known caligrapher) who remembered with emotion his grandfather talking about how our grandfather saved his life twice, intervening once when he was imprisoned by the Japanese in the 30’s, the second time when he had cholera and Grampa got the needed medical treatment for him.

The photo is of Mr. Wang and his son looking with excitement at our father’s childhood photo album, recognizing a photo of his father as a child! I think photos of this city and people back in the 20’s, 30’s are rare. It was very moving for all of us to meet this man and his family.

It was a wonderful trip, also getting to know my cousins who I rarely see, a couple of whom have maintained connections to China for decades. My cousin Mary, an expert on China, directed an organization that hosted exchange groups of science professionals between the US and China for many years beginning in the 70’s when China first opened up to the West. A group of agricultural professionals from China was visiting in the west with Mary leading the group. One evening at dinner to break the ice, Mary asked if each person would introduce themselves. She began with a few words about herself, telling about her interest in China and about her father and grandparents living in Xuzhou. As she was speaking the man across the table stood up excitedly and asked if her father was Tommy Brown! She said yes! His father and Tommy Brown were good childhood friends and used to play together! This man is now a soybean expert in China and the brother of Mr. Wang, the calligrapher.

We climbed the 392 steps to the top of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s masoleum (a well known revolutionary). In our father’s photo album was this same scene taken in 1932 when he was on a summer trip, the surrounding area totally barren at that time.

other photos: Cousin Mary and my sister Carol

Top of old city wall of Xuzhou

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