Auntie Niu’s husband died very early, leaving her alone to bring up their three sons. Eventually, all three boys grew up and married. Auntie Niu was used to being self-sufficient, so she lived alone for more than 10 years. Her view was that as her sons lived close by, if she had any needs, they could easily come home to help.
In recent years, Auntie Niu felt that her health was getting worse. The neighbors around her advised her to live with one of her sons, but as there were three of them, how was she to decide who to live with?
One day, she went to her eldest son’s house early in the morning. The eldest son’s family was quite well off. When the daughter-in-law saw her husband’s mother arriving, she brought out a plate of pickled vegetables and a bowl of porridge for her to eat. She told Auntie Niu that she hadn’t planned to prepare lunch at home and that was all there was in the refrigerator.
Auntie Niu did not eat and got up ready to leave when unexpectedly her grandson ran in from outside. He said: “Grandma, please stay, my mother is going to make braised pork today, don’t go until you eat that.” Even though Auntie Niu was sad when she heard it, she smiled and left.
Then she went to the second son’s house, and the second son was also doing well. However, the second daughter-in-law wasn’t happy to see her husband’s mother arriving. She took out two buns and said: “Mom, you didn’t tell us you were coming. We plan to visit my parents today, so I didn’t cook anything. Why don’t you take these buns with you and eat them later?”
Auntie Niu looked at the woman and said: “I just came to see my son. If he’s not here, I will go now.” Auntie had tears in her eyes and left.
Auntie Niu finally arrived at the youngest son’s house, the poorest of three sons. She did not like her son’s wife coming from a poor family. When the third daughter-in-law saw Auntie Niu, she quickly took a chair and asked her to sit and then ran out. Auntie Niu sat and waited for a long time feeling disappointed. When she was ready to leave, she saw her son follow his wife and come into the house.
Her daughter-in-law said: “Mom, don’t leave. I just went to the market and bought meat and we are going to have meat dumplings today — a special treat for the family. I also went to the field to ask my husband to come home. Now, I am going to cook and you two can take the time to talk to each other.” Auntie Niu was so happy to hear this. Holding her son’s hand, she talked and talked until dinner time.
At the dinner table, her son said: “Mother, we have wanted you to move in with us for a long time, but we are not doing well financially and we are afraid that you may not be comfortable. Other than that, from the bottom of our hearts, we want you to come and live with us.”
Auntie Niu felt the warmth of affection and was moved. She went to live with them and was happy for many years. Granted, her son was not rich, but they were warm and caring toward her and made sure that her needs were met.
One year Auntie Niu finally had an incurable disease. When she knew she wouldn’t live much longer, she gave her son a bracelet, an heirloom from her mother, his grandmother. She wanted her son to sell it and use that as the capital to have their own shop, so the family could have a better life.
Soon after Auntie Niu died, the other two sons suddenly appeared and wanted a part of the bracelet. Fortunately, Auntie Niu was wise enough to ask the head of the village to write a will for her, which clearly stated that the bracelet was for the youngest son alone.
The youngest son followed his mother’s wish and has a shop, so his family environment has gradually improved.
Translator: Yi Ming