He kept asking for money but that I would not do. In part, because I had too little of it myself and because I could not trust him. He would most likely spend it on alcohol. If he did not spend it on alcohol, I was worried that “friends” might siphon him dry. I did want to send him something, to stay in touch, in addition to the occasional chat by phone. I wanted him to know that I cared about him as much as I knew he cared about me. I was still his baby sister and I respected that he was one of the big brothers who so carefully looked out for me as a child.
I think one day, with those thoughts in mind, I looked up into a cabinet and saw the dusty box. I took out a couple of bags, dropped them into an envelope, included a note that said something like “Drink this and not that other stuff!” When I told him what I had done, he just chuckled, as delighted as a child.
I became a connoisseur of tea design and flavor profiles. I was not especially picky. Whenever I stayed in a hotel I’d pocket the teas left in the room for guests with a goal to send them to him later. While grocery shopping, I’d occasionally splurge on an herbal tea sampler and split up the packs to send him different flavors. Later, I’d quiz him about which teas he’d liked and didn’t like. Blueberry was a favorite but all flavors were welcome, I was told.
They had to fit inside a standard envelope (which I occasionally decorated). Ideally the weight was such that I would only need at most two stamps so that I could drop my packages in a blue box on my way into work. I didn’t want to wait in line in the post office to mail a larger box. Sometimes I’d jazz up the mailings with little packages of coffee but I knew from childhood memories that he was more of a tea drinker. He and my mom would sit at the kitchen table drinking Lipton tea, her dark cup sweetened with just a bit of sugar, and his almost white with milk.
Why does this story surface? Well, it has been a long summer in some ways. Aside from a few mailings of seeds to family and friends and postcards to my kids club, I did not do much other mailing. This weekend I was on the phone with this brother. We were having a good chat and as I was about to hang up he said, “Hold it. What happened to it?”
“What happened to what?”
“My tea,” he said. “You haven’t sent me my tea. It does help, you know. When I have tea, I don’t drink.”
“Okay,” I said brightly. “I’m on it.” Both laughing, we hung up. And then I cried.
That night I pulled together a short pile of envelopes and addressed them all to him. The next day I bought a box of tea, many flavors. Yesterday, I mailed him honey vanilla. We’ll see what the next week holds. Maybe strawberry. I think a big box of blueberry will wait until Christmas.