就這樣，我嘗試盡量用平等、含蓄、安靜的視角，走近每一位長者的生活，展現其中的智慧，捕捉那些平凡而又充滿力量的瞬間。這些生活的片段有時會讓我想起小津安二郎的電影，雖是兩個國度、兩個時空，但都關乎平凡人的生活。 小津曾說：「電影是以餘味定輸贏。」 在我看來，人生也一樣，這十八位長者的生活表面平凡，却也是充滿濃烈餘味的。
Getting near the ordinary
For more than three years, it had almost become a habit for me to pay weekly visits to the elderly.
Going into the grandaunt’s home, it was like entering another world. Everything is yellowish and oldish. Every past article remained in its original location. Hanging on the walls were calendars of different years. Time appeared to have stopped. Grandaunt loudly talked about her past. There were her bitter life when first arriving in Hong Kong, her glorious account of working as a domestic helper for a foreigner and her pride of being determined to lead a single life and hence refusing the advance by men. Finally, she took a woolen pullover from the bedside and put it on: “I knit it myself. Beautiful! It is warm”. I visited her time and time again. Her talks and gestures turned out to be almost the same every time. However, no one bothered to point it out.
Uncle Lam’s home was located at a narrow back staircase. He was then a security guard in a building. After work, he slept at the staircase on the top floor. I usually waited, on the rooftop at 5 or 6 a.m., to meet him when he completed his night shift. It was a hot summer day. There was not any breeze at the back staircase. Uncle Lam, wearing a singlet and smoking, said slowly, “One or two hours later, this place will become unsuitable for sleeping. It is too hot”. Outside the staircase was a large rooftop. Uncle Lam, however, could not sleep there.
Time passed slowly when I met Uncle Ng and his wife. Mrs Ng suffered a stroke. Every day, Uncle Ng helped her to walk slowly on the ground floor of the public housing estate. They walked very slowly step by step. After returning home, Uncle Lam would prepare dinner slowly in the kitchen. Or, he would pull out the bed sheet slowly from the washing machine and take it to dry under the sun. Occasionally, when Mrs Ng asked him to help her to do anything, he would advance to her slowly. On one occasion, Uncle Ng found the woollen thread to be coming out from the left sleeve of his clothes. He tried to cut it with the scissors held in his right hand but could not aim at it accurately. The wife suddenly said she wished to help. Then, holding the scissors in her left hand, which could be regarded to be dexterous, she cut the woollen thread.
These episodes were ordinary and trivial. During many visits, when the reporter was chatting with the elderly, I dozed off unconsciously. On one occasion, I dozed off even when visiting, by myself, Uncle Chow, who liked to saunter in the park. By then, the two of us had been sitting on a bench for a long time. One Cantonese opera song after another was broadcast from the radio in his hand. Perhaps the temperature and the smell were relaxing.
It was in this manner that I tried my best to use an equal, subtle and peaceful vision to get near the life of every elderly person, unfold the wisdom therein and capture those ordinary yet energetic moments. These episodes in life sometimes remind me of Ozu Yasujirō’s movies. Though from different countries and different ages, they are all about the lives of ordinary people. Ozu Yasujirōonce remarked, “The success or failure of a movie depends on the impression it leaves”. To me, the same applies to life. While the lives of these eighteen elderly persons appear to be ordinary, they are filled with strong pleasant impressions.