The fifth post I published (#5 out of 87) on this now one year and eight month fiction, nonfiction, and poetic blogging journey of mine was titled The Aged and the Ageless (feel free to click and read). It was posted a couple of months before Covid became a global issue. Since then, as well as most of you would personally testify to, my life has been a rollercoaster and, as of late, it seems as though this ride has wanted to level off somewhat.
My current epiphany has me reflecting in a different kind of way. This type of introspection makes me want to spread out a blanket in the shade, stare at the cumulus clouds passing by in the sky, and lay in awe of, well, everything. Some things make sense, other things do not, and the in-between is where I currently find myself and I’m okay with that.
Perception leads to Reflection and should lead to Clarity.
Between January 24th, 2020 and now, the third week of August 2022, my world has completely changed and I know I cannot be the only one that feels this way or has felt this way.
Think about it…
Where were you two years ago?
Did you think you would be where you are at now?
My answer would be plain and simple and in all caps – “NEVER! ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
I joined the family dental lab business after graduating college. I was self employed for over fifteen years, spending those glorious years with my father, mother, sister, and one other reliable full time worker. My sister moved away during those last couple of years and started her own personal journey. Then, out of nowhere, a global pandemic hit and shut everything down or at least hindered everyone’s normal flow for months on end.
Intellects say that struggle is nature’s way of survival and, well, it was real.
It continues to be real.
During that period of chaotic flux, I sold all of my band equipment to pay for bills that continued to show up in the mailbox whether I was working or not (feel free to click and read Silver Linings). The family business slowly dwindled away. After the pandemic insurance period ran out, I found a job at a local brewery. A year and a half later plus a severe injury to my left foot, I left that institution, moved a state away, and have now solidified an occupation in where a majority of my experience resides.
A full circle, plus or minus a few details.
Do I find myself thinking back to the days when me and my family worked together and lived near one another?
Answer: All the time.
Do I wish I could go back to the days when the greenhorn here first started learning the family trade and still interacted with my father, mother, and sister during our personal time?
Answer: All the time.
In complete retrospect of the honesty of this moment right now, do I regret the journey I’m currently on even though those things do not exist like they used to?
Answer: Not at all – if this is the path I must take to get to where I have always dreamed of being and was destined to be.
When I look back at my life, I realize I have never gone without. I have never not had my needs met (excuse the double negative). Have I struggled from time to time, absolutely, but I have always had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and good people to lean on in my time of need.
Most of my prayers have been answered, them sometimes taking time to receive their acknowledgment. Sometimes, my prayers were answered in a way that I never really understood until a couple of days had passed. In this moment, the moment of the now, I recognize and and understand those blessings even though I should have appreciated them more than I did when I was first experiencing them.
I can type these next couple of quotes in complete honesty and leave them here on this fake piece of digital paper for all of you.
I miss being in the plaster room with my mother, us going through the hassle of doing ten articulations by nine o clock while also pouring up various alginates. I will miss investing cases with her, avoiding the steam from the boil out tank, and going out on deliveries with her to various offices. She always had a piece of Big Red or Dentyne gum in the middle console of her car and, if I close my eyes hard enough, my palate can still taste that fiery cinnamon flavor that burned out after eleven good chews.
I miss shooting the breeze with my sister, listening to music, and complaining slash cussing when a reline broke in half and was due in the next hour. I will miss all the commutes we were able to take as co-workers, but more importantly as brother and sister, in the latter part of our time working together. I will never, ever forget the time when we had to drive the business’ work car all the way home, forty-five minute commute, in fourth gear and with the hazards on because the transmission finally gave out after three million weather beaten miles (not really three million exaggerated miles but more like three hundred and eighty-six thousand miles).
I miss working with the greatest superhero I have ever known – my father. I miss seeing him at his finest, having smoked a full pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights and set up eight full upper and lower denture try-in’s by his high noon nap time. I miss the days when he would go from listening to conservative talk radio to watching Steve Wilkos, Cheaters, and then some random black and white western movie on a twenty inch television. Nothing will ever rival me watching him get knocked down by his heart attack and triple bypass surgery and witnessing him slowly come back from it and become a newer yet different version of his working self.
These were glorious days for me and them and God only knows what I would do to be able to go back and relive those moments with the knowledge I have now – RIGHT?
Hindsight then leads (or should) to introspection…
I now work inside a single office’s in-house dental lab, by myself, and was given the task of organizing, managing, and maintaining it. The doctors and crew are very personable, caring, and respectful, and they appreciate me for me and I reciprocate that same emotion back to them. They are glad to have a person that fills the void they have been working around for the past couple of months, and I am thankful they want me to bring my abilities to their place of business. I would not have these abilities if it were not for my family.
Perception leads to reflection and my mind and its memories flicker…
In my new lab –
with every pour up, articulation, and investment, I think of my mother. I see sticks of cinnamon gum everywhere and the taste fills my mouth,
with every repair, reline, and case I break out and finish, I think of my sister. The playlists continue to fill the air in my now lab of one. I wonder if she has heard the song I was currently listening to and if she would like it or not,
with every full upper and lower arch that burns my fingertips as I grind the teeth and stick it into lukewarm wax, I think about my father and his worn, tired fingers. Every now and then, the smell of strong nicotine hits my nose, and I pretend to wait for him to come back in from his many cigarette breaks.
Wherever I go, I carry these memories with me, derive strength from them, and never, EVER, let them die out. In turn, I hope they would do the same for me if they were in my position. What they have taught me, I have improved in a way that fits my technique, whether flawed or not. I appreciate them and cherish them and keep the good memories of old alive in the new memories that I make now by sharing and carrying our story forward.
I store my special memories, memories like I have shared with all of you, in the greatest keepsake any of us have –
not my heart,
not my mind,
but my soul,
and I realize that these devices are the only place where things will ever be like they used to be and I think I’m okay with that.
With each beat of my heart and not knowing when it cramps from time to time if it is finally the big one coming for me, I keep them alive for another second in a future point in time that has yet to take place in my present. (Thank you Christopher Nolan – you are a prodigy all to yourself and I admire you and I hope I can have at least one conversation in this lifetime with you! If not – oh well!)
The only time all of this dies out is if I let them and I refuse to let that happen.
The Road in Front Of…
What does yours look like?
“Today is the greatest tomorrow that yesterday has ever seen…”