"Why am I here?" I question the elderly stranger with a deep frown.
"Indeed, why are you here? Why would an elderly stranger like me call out to a young woman like you? And, while we're at the questions, what is your reasoning for showing up? You could have ignored my letter and went on with your life," asks the old man sitting in front of me.
"It's not like I had anything better to do. I have to find out more about her. There's no other way. You said you had answers, so I came to hear them." At this point, I am willing to do anything to get answers. I'm even willing to travel on the road 1,000 miles across the desert country lands to meet some old guy claiming he has answers. It's so frustrating not having what you want and need.
He says with a kindly, soft voice, "You look just like her! It's so incredible." He is almost in tears. "Shall I brew us some tea?"
"I guess," I say, showing my annoyance the slightest bit. I get up and browse around the living room. The TV is streaming Gilligan's Island, and old 60's music is playing on the radio. Everything in the house is an antique, including the couch. It has leaf-shaped carvings on dark-colored wood and orange velvet fabric. The whole couch matches the color theme of the room. I notice a picture frame on the bookshelves. The older man is in the picture and a younger woman in a white lace wedding dress. I say aloud, "Is that…" and think the rest to myself.
The older man's footsteps grow louder as he enters the room from the kitchen. He notices that I am looking at his photo. "I hope you like what you see. That's my daughter, Kiara."
My eyes widen, my heart leaps, and my voice raises as I start to ask, "Is that my--"
"Your mother," the older man interrupts with sadness. "That is indeed your mom." He pauses his words, then he re-introduces himself with a smile, "Hello, Opera. It is nice to meet you. My name is Ron Langston. You may call me Grandpa."
"I--I don't know what to say, I--," I stumble on my words, feeling like I don't know a single thing.
"No need to say anything." Grandpa says, "Listen. Just listen." He sits back in his wooden rocking chair and starts rocking. I stare in surprise. "Sit back down, won't you?" I sit down in the other chair, next to the antique couch. He then hands me a black mug. "Here is your tea. Why don't you give it a sip?"
I take one sip of the tea. The temperature is lukewarm, and the taste is fabulous and somewhat familiar. It takes me on a ride. I close my eyes, and then I dream. I dream that I am swimming in a puddle of warm tea, not too hot, not too cold. The puddle widens, deepens, and grows bigger. Finally, I fall under the tea. I see the reflection of myself in the tea. It's not me that I know. It's me as a toddler, too young for me to remember. I was crying, and I didn't look healthy. I had dark circles around my eyes as if my nights were sleepless. I was coughing horribly as if I had a bad cold. I was sitting at a wooden table, in a wooden chair.
The view of my younger self and the whole scene is very blurry because I'm watching under a puddle of brownish-tan tea. The reflection of the light under the tea made moving lines of lighter tan over the scene. A woman who looked very familiar in the dream stood before toddler me, pouring a hot drink into my cup. I smelled the mug, and then I made a face. The toddler me decided to try the drink. I must have liked it because I chugged down the entire thing. After I finished drinking, the woman wiped my face with a napkin. "Look at you. You got it all over your face."
The last thing I remember before I open my eyes is the words I said. "One last cupper, please, Mom!" She smiled, and I opened my eyes back to the current world. "Woah," I say aloud. The world reverted out of the sea of tea and became an antique-filled living room again. Grandpa was still sitting right in front of me. "That was some tea," I say.
"What did you see," Grandpa asks with an intrigued face.
"What?" I sit there confused at the question, still trying to interpret and understand what I saw in the tea dream.
"Did you see your mom?" He asks, "You saw her, didn't you?"
"Uh, yes. I think that was her anyway. How did you know?" I say, confused and still wanting answers.
"That tea is made with a special ingredient," Grandpa smiles. "What did you see?"
"I was swimming in a puddle of tea…." I tell him the story of my daydream. When I finish, he smiles.
"You were always a sickly child. I'm surprised that you don't remember." He stops talking for a second. He gets up and kneels before me. His smile widens, and he lifts his hand and puts it on my face. "Look at you now. If only I knew you were still alive. Maybe, just then maybe, I could have raised you myself. When I look at you, I see my daughter." He stops, retracts his hand, and goes back to his seat. "You are someone I don't even know. As much as I wish I knew you, I don't."
"In that case, why don't we catch up, Grandpa?" I am now definitely interested in staying a while longer. However, I'm more curious about one thing first. "By the way, Grandpa, what was the magic of that tea?"
"TLC," he replies happily. "The taste has helped you recall the last time you had this tea. Your mother taught me how to make it. And now I'm the only one who can. So, I thought if you had it again, maybe you'd recall your mother made it for you. Do you know what TLC is, Opera?"
I shake my head silently.
Grandpa explains, "TLC is also known as 'tender loving care.' Your mother taught me about that as well. She was very wise and had a lot of positivity and energy."
I sit there in silence and continue to listen, very interested in what he has to say about my mom. Since I don't know anything about her, I want to learn as much as possible.
"What else can you tell me, Grandpa?" I want to continue this conversation for as long as I can. "It is important that I know more about my mother."
He stops and laughs. "I already love you, my granddaughter, Opera." Then, he tells me everything. That was all I needed and wanted to hear until I asked Grandpa more about himself. The conversation went on throughout the night, and I grew very close to my grandfather very quickly. That one memory of the last cupper my mom made for me would be with me every time Grandpa would make me that cup of tea. That was my favorite memory and gift I had ever received.