Monday, September 9, 2013

Good gums

Monday, September 09, 2013

I had to travel out to Fairfield this morning, traveling against rush hour traffic to get to my dentist, who I’d owed a visit for some time.
After 40 years going to the same institution, I could go nowhere else.
The one time I did chance another I lost a tooth, and though I have lost a few since then, this place always saved what they could, and kept my smile bright.
Drugs and an overbite gave me bad teeth, even from my days in the Army.
So about this time 40 years ago, I still had dental insurance while working for a greeting card company in Fairfield – shipping them, not writing them – and my aunt, who was loved by everyone in that whole town, felt sorry for my pain and sent me to this particular group.
Over the years, the doctors took good care of me, one became my biggest fan at a writer, and even cancelled my debt in the belief that I would some day become the great writer I always aspired to be.
If I was in pain, he came out on Sunday to take care of me.
His retiring upset me greatly, although I soon found that his son was just as warm heated as he was, the person who when he saw me today, greeted me as a good friend.
Indeed, he was probably running around the office during my early visits.
His father loved my aunt as much as anyone, and I last saw him in early 2012 when he came to her husband’s funeral, and when he saw me he asked “Are you still writing?”
Of course, I was.
I learned that I need a crown but despite by infrequent visits I appear to have halted the decline in my teeth, and so have good gums and solid smile that might just last me if I continue to use my electric toothbrush and floss.
Going back to that part of the world, only reminded me of Hank, and how we worked together at the old card company, and how about this time of year the floods came, and we played Huck Finn on the back of an air fright container.
So naturally, I drove back to the place where our warehouse had been. Very little had changed, except maybe for the diner which had been taken over by middle eastern people with posh pretentiousness, and the installation of an equally pretentious office for the property owners. But the little slots that served as warehouses forty years ago, looked exactly as they had then, as did the load docks in the back, and I drove passed the place where we worked and wondered about our dreams back then, how he had hoped to become a Broadway singer while I hoped to become a novelist, and how he had died early in life with his dreams unfulfilled, while I carried on without him.
I still carry on.
One of the greatest and earliest disappointments in my life was watching him give up his dream, settling for working class night shift and drinks after hours in NYC, and being a barroom clown everybody loved, but nobody respected.
I remember how the gang set a place at our usual diner the day of his funeral, ordered his favorite meal: cheese burger deluxe and a coke.
I would have ordered as much and left it at the foot of the loading dock today in tribute to him, only the diner was no longer that kind of diner and I didn’t have time to search out a real diner where I could find real food, for a real friend I still miss.
So kept my appointment with the dentist, missing Hank, my aunt, her husband and drove to Bayonne thinking: “I’m sure I have good gums and teeth,” although the thought didn’t really provide me with much comfort.

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