There’s nothing quite like a grandparent’s love, and this sweet story from Yibin City in China’s Szechuan province proves it. Even though 14-year-old Fang Mei Qiu is handicapped, she doesn’t miss a day of school. And she’s always on time! All thanks to her 66-year-old grandmother who actually gives the girl a piggy back ride every morning. Together, they cover four kilometers of mountain roads on foot each day to and from school.
Fang Mei was born with abnormal kneecaps that aren’t able to support her weight. So she can’t stand for more than a few minutes without excruciating pain, let alone walk to school. She is constantly in need of help to move around. Sadly, her father left when she was just a baby and her mother remarried soon, leaving Fang Mei in the care of her grandparents. And what loving grandparents they’ve turned out to be! While the grandfather is too old and sick to do much, the grandmother takes care of the small family’s needs.
Grandma wakes up at 5 am each morning and prepares for the day ahead. At 7 am, they begin their journey to school with Fang Mei on grandma’s back, stopping to rest at least five times during the trek. It takes them one-and-a-half hours to cover the two-kilometer journey on foot. And they are never late – grandma makes sure they reach school by 8.30 am every single day. They’ve been doing this for five years now, covering over 4,000 kilometers so far.
I think it’s absolutely incredible what grandma is doing for Fang Mei. The task that she undertakes every day is difficult even for someone who is much younger and stronger. At 66, I really don’t know how she manages it. But grandma said that she only worries about how Fang Mei will manage when the elderly couple passes on. Her recurring nightmare is a scary one – Fang Mei slips on a puddle and she tries to reach out to help her struggling granddaughter, but their hands never meet.
For her part, Fang Mei said that she does everything she can to make the commute easier on grandma. She tries to support her weight on two hand-crafted bamboo crutches, and tries to walk for as long as she can. She also studies very hard, so all of grandma’s efforts will be worthwhile. Fang Mei’s dream is to draw two pictures – one of the route that they take every day and one of her grandparents in a lovely home – and present them to her grandmother as a ‘thank you’ for helping her get to school.
Fortunately, this bittersweet story does have a happy ending. After it was covered extensively by the media, local authorities decided to step in and help out. The family has now been moved to a home closer to the school and Fang Mei has been given a wheelchair to move around by herself. Authorities have also called out to local medical institutions to see if the young girl’s condition can be improved.