Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Wise Grandchild



THE WISE GRANDCHILD (a tale from Korea)

Once upon a time in a little village there lived an old man, a widower. He had lived long and well. He had worked hard to make a good life for his family. When his son married, he welcomed his wife into their home. There the three lived happily together, and then the son and his wife had a strong, strapping son of their own. The old man was delighted with his grandchild, and the child loved his grandfather.

The years passed. As the child grew older, he became more and more fond of his kind grandfather. But the old man had grown frail. His sight was failing and his hearing was weak. He trembled when he walked, and sometimes, when he lifted his spoon to his lips, his hands shook so hard that the soup spilled from the spoon onto the tablecloth.The grandchild did not care. He loved his grandfather with all his heart, and did all he could to look after the old man, just as the old man had looked after him when he was a baby.

Sad to say, the old man's son and his wife were not so kind. "He's become so difficult," the son said as he watched his father hobble to his room. "Good for nothing," his wife said, shaking her head. "He can barely hear a word I say, and he soils all my cloths and all his clothes." Although the old man did not hear their words, he saw the coldness in his son's eyes, and when he touched his daughter-in-law's hands, he felt a chill.

After some months, the wife grew still more displeased with her father-in-law. One night at supper, she took her father-in-law's hand in her own. "Come, father," she said as loudly as she could. And she led him to a corner of the room. "Sit here," she said. From that night on, the old man ate his supper in a corner, hidden from the others, behind a screen. There he silently grieved, for he understood that his son and daughter-in-law no longer enjoyed his presence.

Day after day, the son and daughter-in-law grew more cruel. One night as they were cutting a cake, they refused the old man a piece. "His teeth will fall out altogether," the wife said. "He doesn't need sweets. Save them for those of us who can enjoy them best," said the old man's son. "But father --" the young boy began. "Shhh, you know nothing of what is best. We are adults," said his father. The boy fell silent.

One night, the son took away his father's blanket. "It's a beautiful blanket," the wife said, "but he can barely see. Surely we'll get better use of this than he." The old man wept, and his grandson stood over him. "I love you, grandfather," the boy said, and he wished he could change his parents. But he did not know what to do or say.

Another day the son moved his father's chair from the window. "Better that we should sit by the window," the daughter-in-law said. "He's too old to appreciate the sight of the flowering trees and the birds." The old man wept once more, and again the boy tried his best to comfort him. He thought and thought about what he could do to help his grandfather.

One beautiful spring day, the son and daughter-in-law came to their father. "We're all going to the mountains," they said. "We'll have a picnic." The son carried a great basket in one arm, and the old man's heart was full of joy at the thought that he might enjoy the beautiful countryside.
"I'll come, too," the grandson cried. "I love the mountains."

And so all four set out, helping the old man on his wobbling legs. When they arrived at the top, the son and his wife turned to their father and said, "Here, father, climb into the basket."
The old man did as his son asked, for he believed in obedience to family. And when he was tucked inside, the son and his wife carried the basket to the side of the mountain. Just as they were about to hurl the basket over the side, the young boy ran to their side. "Don't toss the basket," the boy said. "This is not the business of a child," the father said coldly. "But father," said the boy, "I know you want to toss grandfather over, but please, keep the basket." "What for?" the child's mother asked."I'll need it for you when you are old," the boy said.

The man and his wife looked at each other, and then at the poor old man lying in the basket. They began to softly weep, for they understood, at last, their cruelty and their folly. They lifted their father out of the basket and hugged him tightly, remembering all the generosity and love he had showered upon them. From that day on he was welcome at their table, and sat by the window whenever he wished, and slept peacefully beneath his blanket.

Copyright 2000 Universal Press Syndicate

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