I am 3-5 years old sitting at a Formica-topped table in a 10 x 50 trailer (feet, not meters), waiting for Dad to say one word: “Now.”
And then it would happen; that little red light at the top of the Corning Ware percolator would come on and the coffee would be ready. He was a mystic magician to me, the way that he always knew precisely when the light would come on.
[Years later, he told me that he could hear a faint click just before the final perc and then the light would come on. Years later it did not matter at all to me how he knew, just that he knew and that he was Dad, the mystic magician.]
It would be a Saturday and Dad would be working a half-day until noon. He’d wake me up on every one of those Saturdays and when the coffee was done, we’d sit and just be. Be Father and son. His coffee was black, like mine today most of the time, and mine would be mostly milk and sugar with enough coffee to call it that.
He’d say, “What do you want to talk about?” And I’d say either “Snakes” or “Dinosaurs” in reply, and then we would talk about those because I had books about them and could speak with some authority. Then, he would ask me questions: What-would-you-do-if? kinds of questions or he’d point to a bone and ask me to name it. I’d say it’s the sternum or that is a clavicle and he’d say something positive and then teach me geometry or rudimentary algebra or ask me a theological question or he’d ask me to ask him something. “Anything,” he’d say, “Ask me anything.”
I am 59 years old and I have flown from Portland to Paris, Texas and it is late evening and Dad knows everything because he is with our creator and Mom and I are going to sit and visit into the night. I say, “I think I’d like some coffee”, and I have brought some fine coffee with me so I go into the guest room and get it from my cargo bag. I come back into the kitchen and there on the counter is the same Corning Ware percolator and she tells me that it was a gift when we lived in Wyoming, which makes it just a few months younger than I am. My earliest memory is from the Labor Day of 1960 before the Christmas when she received the coffee maker. I was 2 months older than one year old and wrote about it here 58 years later.
I fill the pot with water and the basket with coffee and I plug it into the wall. It begins to percolate and I wait, listening to the sound. Years ago, I know, the little red light decided to retire, but I keep waiting, and then I hear the faint click. I smile and I swear that I can hear our Father say, “Now.”
What I am drinking is unctuous and rich. My cup runneth over.
It is today, and I am sitting in a coffee shop, still in Paris, Texas. They know how to make an “Undertow” because I taught them during my last visit, and that drink is very close to the coffee that I had with Dad on those Sabbath Saturdays. I take a sip, and I am pausing with my eyes open, slightly moistening with tears. The sun is at my back and I can hear the baristas greeting customers as they come in, hushed conversation across the shop, the tamping of espresso into the gruppo to pull some shots for drinks, and I can hear Father through his Son say, “Anything. Ask me anything.” And I have. I do.
We believe that mountains can move, don’t we? I know that the answer has three letters . . .
My wifi excursion for today is coming to an end soon and I find myself treasuring certain memories and looking forward to more of them and then when I do that, I smile. It is odd, very odd because in my mind I am already growing nostalgic, remembering things that are yet to happen. Shared memories of the future, already present in a mystical magical way are making me smile.
And once again, here in Paris, Texas, I am thankful for that 18th-century song and its timeless message: Blest Be the Tie That Binds.