I’m sipping tea just now. And smiling.
Memories of yellow bedroom walls on the second floor of our little 1200 square foot home and this warm fragrance of spice swirl together in my head. Chances are good you wouldn’t even recognize me as that person curled under the covers trying to curve away the lower back pain, curtains drawn, lights off, in silence. Too much light forced my eyes closed, and most sounds hurt my ears (even the deaf one, somehow). My skin usually felt sunburned and every inch beneath that skin felt like a tender bruise. Sitting on furniture hurt my legs. Leaning on the dinner table made my forearms throb, and I had to lean or go back to bed.
If it weren’t for the medicines in the kitchen, I’d have never gone downstairs. I suppose they could have been kept upstairs, but there was too much to manage in our tiny little half bath. Schedules, checklists, spoons, water, pill boxes, the dreaded vitamin B shots, alcohol, and cotton balls required more space than could be created upstairs. Besides, venturing down for medicine meant a chance to get something useful done. This explains why the washer was often left full of forgotten wet laundry. It’s also why all the spoons and forks were in the wrong sections, although there was some satisfaction in getting them all in the right drawer. Lyme disease isn’t for sissies.
That’s not why I’m smiling.
I’m remembering the bleak failure of not getting dressed to be downstairs when my sons came home from high school most days. How could my sons learn about being productive when they found their mom in bed every day? Sure, their dad worked hard, but they were there every day with me, horizontal and staring at walls. On rare occasions, they’d find me in sweatpants, propped up on the couch with the TV off, but most days, for almost a year, I’d be upstairs, in bed, depleted from messing up the laundry and the silverware drawer.
Nothing to smile about, then.
Now I’m sipping tea, thinking of how I could hear their voices through the open window as they came down the driveway after school. With my eyes closed, I could see every move and predict the next ones. The door would open and I’d hear the thud of backpacks hitting the floor followed by the bathroom door swinging shut just below me, and the sounds of Cartoon Network chattering up to my room.
We had a routine, but it felt all wrong. There weren’t any smells of dinner cooking, no sorted piles of folded laundry. The boys didn’t even return to an empty house because their dad and I were both at work. Instead, our sons came home to my car in the driveway, my shoes by the door, my purse on the table, the house quiet, and a shadow of their mother upstairs.
After a few minutes my heart would leap at the sound of socked feet thumping up one step at a time. Blue eyes peeked in. If I was awake, we’d visit—school was good, not much homework, the band is coming over to practice, there’s a special robotics meeting on Saturday, do I think dad can take him driving today, and school lunch was lame. They’d ask how I was feeling, was there anything I needed, did I need someone to cook dinner, and, by the way, would I like a cup of tea?
That’s why I’m smiling.
I’m making a mental note to buy peppermint tea next time I shop, remembering the countless cups my sons carried up those stairs. How many times they’d gone to all that trouble, only to find me sleeping in the end. Eventually, my eyes opened to a favorite mug filled with lightly sweet peppermint tea on my bedside table, barely warm if not stone cold, and always delicious.
I’m sipping tea, thinking of my sons all grown now, one thousand miles away. My husband and I have moved to the deep South so he could take the helm of a growing undergraduate science department. My health has improved, the worst days now better than the best ones used to be. My doctor expects improvement to continue in the absence of winter’s strain.
Life is good, but I miss the sight and sound and sweetness of my boys. With every sip, this tea carries their warmth and kindness back to me. Hot water coaxes flavors from dried leaves and petals, transforming them into fragrant sips but, mostly, tea just tastes like love.
Photo by Tim Lenz, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Donna Falcone.