My Dad’s Hands:
Some Reflections

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Joe's Take | No Comments

Old-chair_400Once I was done with college, I did what every independent young man would do; I went to work for my dad. I had the privilege to work side by side with my dad for almost 15 years. I was trained by a true master in the art of dental technology. We discussed many topics over those years and to this day I can still hear his voice telling me, “There is no grade in this work, it is either right or it is not”.

After he was gone, he passed away in 1997; I missed his opinion unlike anything I would have expected. I thought I was fairly accomplished at my work, but stepping out there on your own can be unnerving. I would finish a case and hope for the best, missing that assuring glance simply stating, that looks fine or you should change this or that. As time passed there was less and less need for the opinion on my work, to the point, once he was gone I could not remember the last time I had asked him what he thought of my work.

In dentistry no news is considered good news. So as cases went out and more work came in the assumption was that everything was going great. I would get the occasional call with a problem, but for the most part, things went on day to day as before. Little by little my confidence began to stand on its own. I continue to miss my dad; I know every day that he is not here at the bench with me. I miss his opinion, his concern, his friendship.

When patients come into the lab, there will be a moment of uncertainty that pops up from time to time; I ask if there are any concerns or questions. At least once a week I will get a question or comment about the artistry involved in what we do. “How did you get into this line of work?” “You must have some artistic skill to be able to do what you do.” I am very busy and seldom take the time to explain all of what I know on how I got to that moment, but once in a while I share. “I sat next to my dad for several years learning from one of the best technicians around.” I took art in school and will share that occasionally, Mrs. Zimmer, the head of the Art Department may have directed my future as much as anyone. But for my dad, it wasn’t about art; he shied away from artistic talent. To this day I have no real conclusion about why he was so fervent in not admitting to his artistic ability. Maybe it was a manly thing or maybe it was hard for him to accept a compliment on his artistic ability. He was a humble man. He was an artist in my mind. I believe anyone who masters their material to be an artist or in the least an artisan.

Why point this out now? As I said in the beginning I sat next to my dad for several years watching and learning. I was very familiar with his hands. I know his hands like I know his smile. Those that knew my dad would say that they don’t know a time when they saw him without a smile on his face. The other day I was startled to see those hands again. The way he would hold a brush or a handpiece or a crown. This time they were mine. They looked so familiar, but not like mine, like his.

I know I am getting on with age and I am catching up quickly to his time on earth, that is part of life, but I was so proud to have him there with me again. In these older hands of mine.