Look Around

My mouth hurts. Had a tooth pulled. I couldn’t afford a root canal any time soon, even with insurance, and I was running out of tooth to crown, so the alternative was having it pulled. Back in 2007, a few months before I was laid off, I went to a dentist in Colorado who must have been fresh out of  dental school. He filled one tooth so badly, the bite didn’t settle for more than two months. It wasn’t my first filling, so I knew even after a week that something was wrong. I went back to get it fixed – got the same dentist, didn’t make anything better. In fact, not long after that was the first time that tooth chipped. Just a small fragment, but enough to leave a sharp edge. I could feel the crack in my tooth before the first noticeable chip.

Warm May Day_0234a
Here, something pretty to look at.

It kept chipping here and there for years. May 2011, two months after I got back, 15 months before I’d have insurance, 27 months before I’d be able to use it for a root canal, a big piece broke off. It held steady for a while, but by the end of last year, it was disintegrating at an alarming rate. At my semi-annual checkup, the dentist noted that I’d need to get the root canal and crown soon, or there wouldn’t be anything to fix.

A little sad the tooth was in such bad shape – they gave me a little chest to put it in, so I could leave it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy. Unfortunately, it came out in pieces, so there wasn’t anything to put in it. Triste.

Wasn’t that exciting? No? Well, you weren’t there with a dentist and dental assistant playing tug-o-war with my head. So there. Still, it could have been so much worse. At least I like my dentist, and usually feel very comfortable there. Almost as comfortable as with my first dentist, who always had a story to share. Had even more when I had gotten accepted to his college alma mater, almost exactly 30 years later. One of his stories included the fact that while he was allowed to take classes, he had to live off-campus; black students weren’t allowed to live on-campus at the time.

But I digress…*

I missed Wednesday. I even had a topic – I was going to write about all the wonders in the world around us. The little things like how a little disk of plastic or hydrophilic gel means I don’t have to wear glasses, or how an invention first seen on Star Trek gives me access to the internet from McDonald’s. Then I realized I would have a hard time stretching that beyond 100 words. So, now what?

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the US. Churches will be filled as if it were Christmas or Easter, restaurants will have special brunches, flowers will be as expensive as they are just before Valentine’s Day. News stories will constantly revolve around mothers, and the sacrifices they’ve made, or maybe some of the less-good things they’ve done. My Facebook feed will be full of pictures and comments about how wonderful someone’s mother is, how much she meant to them, and wishes for her to be happy in heaven.

I’m glad my church choir isn’t singing tomorrow. Mothers’ Day is for the children’s choir. You know how the songs go – you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Well, that’s true; except what I found I had was a less-than ideal relationship with my mother. There were good times and bad, and times I didn’t realize were bad until I got away from them. There was only discouragement for the things I loved, and encouragement for the things I did not. My voice was criticized, my writing derided, my thought to move to New York after high school was poo-poo’d, and I was told I wasn’t good enough to be a photographer.  Instead, the focus was on my academics, on the strengths in the classroom. I graduated with a very high C/low B average.

College was the same. My ACT and SAT scores were respectable, but the classwork caused me problem. My roommate was baffled at my grades – she saw me study. She even knew what subject I was studying. She heard my rants in French (I’ve lost most of it, now), saw me try to understand what the professor was looking for in Human Geography, heard me analyze a poem for English, and she didn’t understand why I wasn’t at least a B student. I didn’t, either.

Warm May Day_0159a
If I listened to her still, I wouldn’t have taken this.

I have a better sense of why, now, and not all of it was because I was doing something I didn’t want to do. That didn’t help, but that wasn’t the only culprit by far. Mom was no help there; she has her own problems with school and schoolwork. She failed out of college, despite her intelligence. She had to study for the first time in her life, and she didn’t know how. Neither did I; I lost my scholarship almost immediately. I had difficulty knowing what was important in a textbook and what wasn’t. And there was no one I could ask. Pretty close to the same reasons I left the school I attended in 7th and 8th grade, that last bit. My academic performance dramatically improved when I switched to the arts alternative school (at the time, the academic performance was comparable to the college prep school – still ranked in the top 100 in the nation – I transferred from); I was doing something I loved. It was much easier to take care of the academics when I wasn’t so miserable.

I didn’t have anyone believing in me, and that was enough to make me not believe in myself. That’s the foundation I was given, and once I recognized it, the foundation I’ve been working to overcome. That lack of support alone is certainly not the reason my life took some of the turns it made – I have free will, I made decisions that didn’t always work out. My self-esteem had been sufficiently destroyed, though, that it colored the choices I made.

Now, in spite of my mother’s words, in spite of the stress and misery she helped foster, I have taken the reins in my life. Not without help, but that was a decision I had to make; a decision I thought I needed to make, just so it was worth getting out of bed. It’s too late for a few things, now, but not too late for others. I can mourn the losses, or recognize the gains, the opportunities, and the chances I can take. I can focus on the things she said and did, I can mourn the childhood I didn’t have, or I can remember one very important thing –

She did actually love us.

Warm May Day Stitch a
Oddly enough, my mother is the one who taught me the most about the mechanics of photography.


*I should just call my blog that.


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