"Where is she going with our tea pot?"
My mom died in a car accident 13 years ago next month. I was just 16-years-old. It was the worst day of my life.
In 13 years I've heard just about every memory that someone could remember about my mom, Cindy. From her school aged friends, old co-workers, other family members.
Those memories are often shared around the holidays and her birthday. It's nice to hear them over the years, many of them make me laugh. But it is always the same stories, told a little different each time as the memories fade a little.
Friday I was shocked to hear a story that I had never heard before from a very unlikely source!
I asked my friend from high school, Brandon if he wanted to meet for Chinese food. I know the best place in town I told him.
"Hi, Tony," I said to the man behind the counter of Wing Lauk as we walked in.
"Brian, hey it is great to see you," He said back, "How is South Bend?"
Brandon looked at me. I could tell he was thinking, "Ah you're a regular here." (When I asked him to go to Chinese I didn't tell him that I had been going to this place since I was 5-years-old)
Diane, the owner came over and talked to us for a little bit. I remember when I was little she would walk away from the table and I would look at my mom and dad with a confused look on my face.
"What did she say?" I would whisper in my little kid voice. Funny how as you get older accents become easier to understand.
We had our dinner and were leaving. It seemed like every other time I had visited. But then it happened..
"I remember your mom use to joke around and try to take the tea pot with her when she left...she said she always wanted a tea pot like the ones we have."
It took everything I had not to just break down crying in the foyer of the restaurant. This was so unexpected.
"My dad use to look over at me with this concerned look on his face and say in Chinese, where is that lady going with our tea pot," he laughed as he said it. "It was always our little joke and it always made me laugh."
I had so many feelings, it felt like she was there, like it was just a week ago since we ate there last. I turned and looked at the door and could just picture her walking with a tea pot and them laughing as she handed it back; I smiled.
"You know the week before she died her and I ate here," I said looking at the father, mother and son of the family owned business. "Just a week before she died," and I lowered my head as I backed away from the counter.
With that we said good-bye and I walked out.
In the 13 years I've ate at that restaurant maybe 50 times since my mom died. In 13 years they have never shared that story with me. I thought about it the whole way home this morning while driving back to South Bend. I know why they didn't tell me before, because there is no way I could have heard it without just breaking down.
My dad, still to this day, can't eat there.
For me, it is like sharing one last meal with my mom each time I go there.
Thank God for memories and the people in our lives to share them. With memories those who have left us can continue to live on.
I thought I would share this story as we remember those lost tomorrow on 9/11; never forgotten.