My grandfather was an extraordinary man. Born in the 1920s in rural China, he never had the privilege of receiving an education, but he became a carpenter famous to the locals for his skill. Aside from the usual tables and chairs, he built irrigation pumps to move water from low to high ground, rice mills that used wind to separate viable rice from empty husks from stones. It will always astound me that this man, who couldn't even read, could build complex machines.
He lived a long life, and I hope a happy one. The last time I saw my grandpa was seven years ago. By then he was mostly bed bound, only getting up a few times a day to eat or relieve himself. He went blind later in life, so I don't think he ever knew what most of his grandchildren looked like. He only spoke a regional dialect of Chinese which is barely recognizable to my mandarin speaking self, so we couldn't really communicate with each other. All the stories I have of him were told secondhand by my mom; what I wouldn't give to have heard them from him.
Recently I was relayed the story of his childhood. At the sprightly young age of 7, his father passed away, leaving behind his mother, his younger brother and himself. One night while his mother was sleeping, her family kidnapped her and forced her into marriage (read: sold her) to another man. So a new husband she had. Unfortunately, she was only allowed to take one son, her youngest, which left my grandfather orphaned. In China, the concept of family extends far beyond that of the nuclear family, so you would expect that some of his cousins or uncles or aunts would take him in but they did not. Instead they took the land that was rightfully his (from the death of his father), saying he was too young, and abandoned him.
He eventually found work with another family, taking care of their water buffalos in exchange for food and somewhere to sleep. This worked well until he came down with a deathly bout of malaria at 11 years old, and fearing he would die, the family he worked for terminated his arrangement because they didn't want him dying in their home. His mother received news of his predicament and left to go find him. Though she was barely able to walk from bound feet, she literally dragged him back to her home and was able to care for him until he recovered. A few years down the line once he was at full health, he went back to his hometown, demanded the land that was rightfully his and got it. He started teaching himself skills, he married my grandmother, he built a house, he had five children and he thrived despite his circumstances.