Happy 90th Dad!
Today would’ve been Dad’s 90th birthday. How should I mark the occasion?
For many years he shared his love and positivity with all of us – not only with his family, but with a huge circle of friends and acquaintances across the island of Newfoundland. He deserves a raised glass, except that today I’ll boil a kettle and raise a cup. You see, Dad’s way of making a cup of tea set the standard. He’s the one I think of every time I make one for myself.
First he’d boil the kettle. No, I don’t mean he’d wait until steam appeared. The water had to be in a raging boil before he’d consider turning off the stove. He’d bring the kettle and a cup to the sink and scald the inside and outside of the cup, just to warm it up. Then he’d place the Red Rose teabag inside the cup and fill it with JUST enough room for the sugar and milk that would be added… later. Each of us kids learned the exact location of that invisible line just below the rim of his teacup.
Dad would let the bag steep while all of us sat around the kitchen table eating our dinner. By the time we’d finished eating, we lingered there and waited for the fun to begin. Anyone who knew “Des” would agree that he liked to create memorable moments, especially ones that got Mom riled up.
He’d place his teaspoon into the cup, squeeze the bag against the inside of the cup, and remove it. With all of our eyes on him he’d catapult the bag 15 feet across the kitchen and into the sink. We watched with bated breath as Mom protested. “Des!” It was a specific speech pattern she always used, a melody consisting of three notes and dripping with exasperation. Did she think he was setting a bad example? Was she afraid he’d miss the sink? All these years later, it seems like a comedy routine.
We’d all watch the bag fly across the room. Once the bag made it into the sink we’d heave a sigh of relief. It usually made it, but not always. We admired his teabag-throwing skills and he knew it!
Then he’d add a little sugar and a short pour of Carnation milk, just the way Nanny, Poppy and all his family liked to drink their cup of tea. Then he and Mom would sit back, she with a cup of coffee, and chat with us about our day.
Nowadays I drink tea every day – green tea and other herbal decafs, no milk or sugar – every cup I pour brings me back to the kitchen on Pine Avenue. Is the water hot enough? Did I pour the right amount into the cup? Did I let it steep long enough? And then I sit it down for fifteen minutes and wait for it to be the perfect sipping temperature.
Today, on Dad’s 90th birthday, I hope he’s enjoying a cup of his favorite brew with Mom, Nanny, Poppy, his sister and three brothers. And I wonder if he’s still flinging teabags just to get a rise out of Mom!