Call

  The grandmother lived in an old house in the country alone, and her eight children took turns taking care of her.
  I heard from my mother that when I was a child, my grandmother was able to carefully move from the old house to the small shop at the entrance of the village with a cane. While chatting with a few old ladies, while looking at the highway into the village, waiting for us to appear.
  I can’t remember most of my childhood experiences. Only one scene impressed me. Grandma waved her hands and called out my nickname: “Niuniu——” Then she reached into her pocket and took out a few candies, quietly pressed them to the palm of my hand, and said in a low voice, “Don’t tell Mom and Dad.” Those sour and sweet Sweet candies and colorful cellophane made me look forward to my grandmother’s call.
  Later, my grandmother gradually staggered, hunched back, and became shorter little by little under the weight of time. She stood beside me with a cane, actually a head shorter than me.
  She had no strength to walk to the entrance of the village, so she sat on the stone steps at the entrance, leaned against the wall, and looked towards the entrance. “Niuniu—” Her voice was a little hoarse, and her dry lips grinned weakly. For some reason, I don’t like this nickname as I did when I was a kid. My grandmother’s call embarrassed me in my teenage years.
  I supported her and walked across the mossy stone slabs in the courtyard of the old house. She lowered her head, walked on her little feet, and walked finely.
  ”Sit, sit.” She turned on a dim light in the room, and then took out a plate of candies from the cupboard. “Niu Niu, can you eat candies?”
  ”No.” I waved my hand.
  Grandma said: “I’ll cook for you.” She got up with difficulty, and walked to the kitchen in small steps.
  ”No need, we just finished eating.” Everyone quickly helped her back to her seat. Mom and Dad began to talk about the parents, she listened carefully, putting her two callused hands on her knees.
  Before leaving, she stood by the wooden door of the old house and watched us go away. I stepped out of the threshold and stepped onto the bumpy stone road in the alley, and heard her yelling from behind: “Niu Niu, I will come back during the holiday–” I answered absently, without looking back. My grandmother’s call was left behind by me. Together with the old wooden door and the unmaintained flowers and plants in the corner of the courtyard, they age in time and gradually lose everyone’s attention.
  My grandmother got Alzheimer’s disease.
  ”This is Niuniu, remember?” Dad asked her with a smile.
  She looked at me blankly. After looking for a long time, her cloudy eyes began to flash with joy: “Niu Niu is back–” I heard, she turned her face away, and sighed softly: “If you grow taller, maybe you will recognize it.”
  Everyone moved. Come to the plastic chair and sit around her. She said as always: “I’ll cook for you.”
  ”No, we just finished eating.” Everyone said in unison.
  She nodded, and within a few minutes, she seemed to remember something: “I haven’t eaten dinner yet, I’ll cook it for you.”
  She began to ask a question many times. I began to hope that time went back to the past, she could sit on the stone steps at the door, calling out my nickname; she looked at the road into the village, and identified our car among the passing cars. But all I can do is patiently answer her repeated questions. Seeing her getting old and forgetting little by little, she was helpless.
  When she went back last time, she was sitting on the sofa of the neighbor’s house, curled up, looking at the crowd on the TV, her eyes dull. The neighbor said that she hadn’t spoken all day.
  ”Grandma, grandma, grandma—” She couldn’t hear me.
  ”Grandma, I’m back.” I leaned into her ear.
  She turned around hard.
  ”Remember who I am?”
  She looked at me, and after a long time, she slowly said, “Niu——Niu——”
  At that moment, I was moved and sad. Time has taken away a lot, but the call has not changed.