“For as long as I could remember, a long table lived in the middle of my parent’s dinning room and stretched out to the living room. Black metal folding chairs were crammed around to fit as many people as possible. People sat around this long table during all events: New Years, spiritual callings, healing ceremonies, and funerals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served at this long table. And yes, drinks!
Hmong liquor, herbal soaked liquor, homemade rice wine, all types of liquor, poured into a pair of green shot glasses served on a white plate and passed around. Each round full of speeches and people stalling. This was my world, my practice. A way of life I grew into and carried from Laos to America.
I’m now an eighty something year old diabetic with high blood pressure. My long overdue dentures are ready for pick up any day now at my dentist’s office. I can no longer drink the same. I’m forgetting certain dates and names. It’s becoming difficult to summon clear memories and past events. I’m someone who watches the house all day long while everyone who is left living in the house has gone to work or school. I spend most of my day in a slumber, occasionally taking small walks at the YMCA alone. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who I don’t see at all.
But tonight, finally, tonight, I have a house full of my children and their children, sitting around my long table, eating, drinking, making plans to visit me more, and recalling memories of my drinking legacy.
One of my oldest daughters recounts an event where she met men of my generation, and upon learning that she was my daughter, they asked her to show them my shot. When she brought out regular sized shot glass, they refused it and said that was not MY shot. How quickly she learned the repercussion of not knowing about me that day.
My son-in-law’s reveal that before marrying my daughters, their families warned them about me, telling them to be careful at their weddings because they will be stepping into my home. “That guy loves to drink!” Oh, if only I was younger, then they would have truly seen love.
I stay up late with my children tonight, breaking my sleep routine, teaching them how to pour a shot because they are imbeciles. Drinking was different back then. The intimacy and rules of drinking have changed for the worse. It’s only right they learn the proper way now before they ruin my image in the future.
And lastly, before I never get the chance to again, before the night ends and they return to their normal lives and I to mine, I show them what my shot looks like so that those fools don’t embarrass my name the next time someone asks them to show Ntsuab Zeb’s shot.”