My dad. Deep conversations with his kids weren't his thing, he'd actually stiffen up with what I assume was anxiety whenever I tried to engage him. Never one for obviously outward shows of emotions (except maybe anger, he didn't hold back on that one), as his child you sort of had to rely on other means to give evidence to what you knew. That is, that he did really love you. You'd hear it in the way others would mention that he was talking about you in conversation, his pride showing through or when you were in your twenties and you would still get a post card from wherever business travel might take him. Traveling around the world, he never returned without a little something and he was a thoughtful gift giver. Holidays usually brought a generous gift of cash along with a little something, but not something he just fell upon, something he thought about.
At some point before the internet was born or at least before my dad found it, I received one of the best gifts I ever got from him, certainly one that I have cherished, as much as for what it was as for what it meant to me. It meant he was paying attention. I was well into adulthood with three kids already the focus of grandpa's eye, and I was just learning about different teas and how to drink them best (not from a bag, perfect water temps for different varieties, etc.) and he gave me a tiny hand-crafted book, along with a companion book and a Yixing teapot. I knew that Yixing teapots are meant to be used with one type of tea and at the time that seemed overwhelming to me, so I saved the little one-cup teapot and years later I finally seasoned it and commissioned it to brew oolong teas. The mornings that I drink good, loose oolong tea it is brewed in that teapot, the leaves remaining and rebrewed throughout the day. It is the perfect size to fill a mug and good leaves yield a 'decent cup of tea' many times over.
My book has the initials of the book maker.
The smaller, hand-crafted book included in the gift is called How To Make A Decent Cup Of Tea made by Malachi McCormick, at his Stone Street Press. The other is a larger book, A Decent Cup of Tea includes more information about tea and some anecdotes and recipes were added It had a short publication by another publishing company, Clarkson Potter. My dad must have seen Mr. McCormick on a television news show (there is a photocopy that has the transcript from the McNeil-Lehrer news show) and jotted down the info, thinking that I would be interested. Then, not having the internet, he had to actually remember it, go to a local book store and place a special order, proof of which I still have with the books.
My dad passed away nearly 16 years ago, which has given the teapot and books a little bit more status in the 'things' that I have, turned them into treasures in my mind.
The other day, in what felt like slow motion, I watched the teapot slip off the counter, hit the tile floor, and along with my heart, break into a million pieces.