I guess I was probably in my late teens and it was around the time I had begun drinking coffee; she always had tea after supper and she’d always ask anyone and everyone else if they’d have one even if she knew damn well she was having tea alone. “Tea, Michael?”, she’d ask, and I’d scrunch up my face like seventeen-year-old idiots do NowayGrammaIdon’t drinkTEA!?! and that would be it but if Uncle Ed was in town or Aunt Min was there then there’d be someone to have tea with and otherwise she’d drink it herself and that would be best kind.
It turned out I started to like tea somewhere along the way, it was in my midtwenties somewhere though I don’t quite remember exactly when though I don’t quite remember a fucking lot of my midtwenties so who knows? (I’d also been scared off tea by a poor schizophrenic man who used to come to the coffee shop I worked at to get out of the house and he’d always have tea and that was his order, the only word he said: “Tea.” People who worked there called him Crazy Tea Man and sometimes he would talk to himself in the reflective mirror in the smoking section and weird people out; actually he weirded a lot of people out, but he was ill and he was just trying to escape his walls and his mind for a bit, with varying degrees of success. He eventually got kicked out of the building permanently for fears for others safety after a particular incident and his parents whom he lived with actually met with building staff about it and maybe he was a threat and maybe [and this is what I think, but also what I always think] people are just afraid of things they don’t understand but it is what it is, or it was what it was. I haven’t seen him around in a while. I know his name, and that he was a hell of a ballplayer once upon a time.)
I started to like tea so then one day i was having dinner with grandma and after it was over she asked me if I wanted tea and I said yes and she was goddamn delighted and we had tea and most of the time after that I’d have tea and she loved it. She just liked to have tea with somebody. She always had tea with my grandfather. She missed him. He’d been gone a long, long time. I liked having tea with my grandmother. Plus, my mom doesn’t like tea. My grandmother liked having tea with me.
My grandmother’s been gone a year today. I had tea by myself after supper and thought about her. I feel guilty that she never really got to see me amount to much. That she didn’t get to see me walk across the stage, that I’ve done unforgivable things that she had to live with, that my best years, now (hopefully) ahead of me, have to be lived without her. Today I drove out to their grave, the one she finally met him at twenty-four and a half years later, and straightened the plastic flowers I brought last winter and brought some freshly cut ones, from her old garden and from mine.
Then I leaned against the headstone and bawled my eyes out for a while. Then I leaned against it some more and looked at the sky and the sun came out.
The grandson will make his way out, too.
Return love when it’s given to you.