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怀念我的加国邻居
I cherish fond memories with my Canadian neighbour

一个寒冷的冬日午后,我刚回到家就发现屋前草坪上放着一个礼品袋。出乎我意料的是,礼品袋里有一盒饼干,还有一张印有“感谢”二字的卡片,打开一看,原来礼品袋是我的老邻居Yone的成年女儿送的。

In a cold winter afternoon, I came home to find a gift bag sitting on my front lawn. To my surprise, there was a box of cookies inside, along with a card with a “thank you” letter. It was from the adult daughters of my next door neighbor, Yone.

 
Yone两年前因心脏病发作去世,享年78岁。他去世之前我对他了解并不多,直到参加他的葬礼,我才略知一二。我了解到他原来是一位工程师,曾在一家建筑公司工作数十年;他有两个事业有成的成年女儿;他是一名坚定的保守主义支持者;他年轻时就从苏格兰移民到加拿大,但却从未想加入加国国籍。

Yone died of a heart attack two years ago at the age of 78. I didn’t know a lot more about Yone until after he died. From his funerals, I learned that he was an engineer, with decades of experience in an architectural firm; that he had two adult daughters who enjoyed successful careers; that he was a strong supporter of Conservative ideology; that he immigrated to Canada from Scotland at a young age but never intended to become a Canadian citizen. 

 
Yone和我一直以典型的加拿大的邻里方式相处——淡然但友好,疏离但融洽。在妻子去世后Yone一直独居,而他女儿家就住在几里之外。当我们在街头相遇时,总会笑容满面地热情打招呼,有时候还会闲聊片刻。我们聊的内容很广,从天气、养狗聊到孩子等,但却从不涉及敏感或重要话题。

Yone and I had formed a typical Canadian style neighbour relationship – distant but amicable, remote but comfortable. He had lived alone in his house after his wife died, and his daughters’ family was a few miles away. When we ran into each other on the street, we greeted warmly, put a big smile on our face, and sometimes struck up small talk. We would chat about a lot of things – from weather to dogs to children, but never anything sensitive or substantial.

 
这种邻里关系和我早年在中国的经历有很大不同。中国的邻里街区往往像一个关系紧密的大家庭,邻居们相互照应,彼此依赖,甚至会分享私人生活的方方面面,不管这些生活的细节有多敏感,多私密。

This kind of neighbourhood life seemed a lot more different than what I experienced during my earlier years in China. Back then, neighbourhood was a very close knit family where neighbours looked after and relied on each other. We also shared every aspect of our personal lives with our neighbours – regardless of how sensitive or private they are. 

 
我的童年是在北京的一个四合院里度过的,当时院里住着四户人家。在那个食不果腹的年代, 所谓的隐私也就无从谈起。我们对邻居所从事的工作及收入,乃至他们的直接成员和家属远亲等一切情况都了如指掌。我知道邻居家一天三餐吃什么,也知道他们每天晚上在家做些什么。在炎炎夏日,有的邻居因为屋里酷热难当而在天井里支起行军床,但每当行军传来刺耳的吱吱呀呀声,我们就会知道有人正在欢度春宵。

I spent my childhood years living in a room in a courtyard house of Beijing, which was shared among four families. At the time when food became a daily struggle, privacy was of least concern. We knew everything about our neighbours – from their jobs to their salaries, and from their direct families to their distant relatives. We knew what they ate for three meals a day and how they spent their night with their families. On hot summer days, we would also know someone had sex at night – judging from the creaking and cracking noises from the camp bed they set up in the middle of the courtyard – to escape from the extreme heat in their room. 

 
现在回过头想想,这种几乎毫无隐私可言的公共生活方式似乎相当令人尴尬。当然,在像加拿大这样的现代文明社会中,这种生活方式根本没有立足之地。而正是在加国享受的这种隐私保护,我们才得以在邻居面前享有尊严,并相互尊重。但与此同时,这种邻里关系中却尊重有余,互助不足。

This type of communal lifestyle – rarely an ounce of privacy -- seems quite embarrassing in hind sight.  It finds no place in a today’s civilized society like Canada. Taking privacy as a well-guarded treasure as a Canadian, we enjoy dignity and respect from our neighbours. But we also endure the community relations that lack strong neighbourly support. 

 
我此前根本不知道Yone患有严重心脏病,直到第二天有警车停在他家门前,我才知道他在前一晚因心脏病发作而去世。当我得知他发病时如此孤独悄然地离世,未能得到一点点与他同街共处的邻居帮助时,一种难言的愧疚感油然而起,久久不能释怀。

I didn’t know that Yone suffered from serious heart conditions and died of seizures that night until the police cruiser pulled up in front of his house the next day.  I was grappling with the guilt knowing he died so quietly and lonely, without any help from those who lived so close-by. 

 
但是,礼品袋里的这张感谢卡却给了我些许安慰。Yone的女儿表达了对我们一家的感激之情,感谢我们在她们父亲在世期间所给予的一些微不足道的帮助,包括在2013年冰暴期间前去探视他;以及在有陌生华人敲他的门时为他提供一些翻译协助等等。

But I did find some solace from this card in the gift bag. Yone’s daughters expressed their gratitude to my family, for the bits and pieces of help we offered to their dad while he was alive: checking out on him during the 2013 ice storm; offering some translation assistance when Chinese strangers knocked on his door…

 
我很想写一封回信,告诉Yone的女儿她们的父亲的善行同样令人难忘,比如带回我那走失的爱犬,在我孩子选择大学时提供建议等等。

I want to write back to them about Yone’s unforgettable acts of kindness too – such as finding my run-away dog, offering suggestions for my kids’ college choices…

 
但是因为Yone的房子已经卖给新业主,而他的女儿又没有留下地址,我的回信无从寄送。可是,这位加国邻居以及我与他之间的所建立的特殊情感及所留下的回忆却会常常留在我的记忆中,永不会逝去。

But I’m unable to send it out, as Yone’s house was sold to a new owner and the daughters left the neighbourhood without an address.  But what forever remains are the sweet memories of Yone and the special bond I formed with him as my Canadian neighbour. 
 
 

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