Many years ago, my father purchased a dining table with a hand carved wooden base from a Mexican artist south of the border. He carted it to his home in Sedona, Arizona, and went to work setting individual tiles of brown, yellow, and white, into the recessed top. Each tile hosted a little mandala, a circular design that complemented the carved wood. The table was my father’s pride and joy until he fell into the grips of Alzheimer’s and forgot that part of his history. I moved the table here to Oregon after my aging parents came to live nearby so I could help care for them.
There was no place for such a large piece of furniture in their small apartment so I took it to a local resale shop. The following day, I walked into my favorite downtown teashop and was surprised to see my father’s table already enjoying a new life. Within twenty-four hours it had been purchased and repurposed. I spent many hours at that table drinking tea, writing, and sharing weekly meetings with a friend. When my father died, close family members gathered around to share a simple memorial and a few cups of tea.
Recently, the teashop owners decided to rebrand and remodel their business. They eliminated all the old tables and chairs, replacing them with more institutional furnishings. But, somehow, my father’s table remains. I am sitting here now and notice how much wear the table has experienced. The ridges of the carved wooden base are worn smooth from teashop patrons’ feet. The frame around the tiles has lost all its stain, revealing bare wood beneath. It now exhibits a beautifully raised grain, a kind of patina applied by soft abrasion from more than ten years worth of hands, elbows, and bellies. With all this use, the table is sturdy as ever and continues to host innumerable tea drinkers who most likely do not know its story.
I am aware my father’s table will eventually fade away. It is already gone on an absolute level. But I cannot help smiling every time I sit down and feel the presence of all joys and sorrows shared here. When I raise a cup of tea to my lips, I feel connected to every other cup of tea sipped by countless patrons. I also feel the presence of my father, and the love of all fathers for all children radiating outward from the mandala in each tile.