Reflected Me

The “looking glass”. That’s a cool word for it, if you’re from the 16th century. Or really smart and knew that it was a word from the 16th century without looking it up first. If I knew the word “looking glass” without looking it up just to make sure, maybe I would have been better educated. Perhaps I am, but more by life’s lessons. Its sometimes a School of Hard Knocks, sometimes a Juliard for the emotionally gifted, sometimes a campus ran by Professor Xavier’s X-Men letting me discover my own wild talents. Any way you slice it, I like what I see. I had help to see myself that way. I was raised well. And I’m glad to know that the image in that reflection has a rich history. A story. A string of interwoven moments that became, well, me.

My mirror bring into life a personal story of an interesting existence lived by a 42 year old man who has seen some hardships and still finds room for optimism. The man in my mirror is the son of a homemaker turned educator and an electrician turned entrepreneur and my core is truly blue collared. Its tattered edges are of a war fighter and painted in pragmatism. I’m the last of eight kids and a man in a family of veterans. From early on, the face in the mirror was principled and dedicated to ideals and values way bigger than myself. I’ve always had high hopes. The chin was always up. I just had no idea how difficult things in life could be back in those early days, how much I’d need to like the guy I see today. My folks gave me the tools, though.

Those crows feet are solely my mother’s genetics, just like the double chin. I miss her. She’s been gone almost two decades now and I’ve needed her so much, so many times. I’ve had to learn so much on my own. She would have been proud of me, because she was an optimist and saw beauty in everyone. She’s the reason for my belief in humanity. She’s the reason I see such wonderful people in prison, even when they sometimes can’t see it in themselves. She worked with a lot of low income families and helped raise their kids during the day while they fought for their American Dream. And she would make sure those kids knew that they were worth something regardless of where they came from. She was so god damned amazing. When she passed, I prayed I had learned enough from her to do anything as good. I was 25 when she left her work behind. No one could do things better.

That thin, salty hair and beard are my dad’s contribution to the mirror’s image. The rosy cheeks are his too. He had native blood that was sometimes littered with an after work drink. My dad was a guy who always took on a giant load of responsibilities and relaxed how he could. He was a witty, charismatic, funny guy. He was super smart and picked up on things so fast. He was short in stature and giant in presence and I loved the shit out of that man. He was cynical, but always gave in to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t until years later had I truly appreciated his creativity. He loved music, producing culinary masterpieces and I learned to be a romantic from him. There’s no way when I was in my 20’s I would ever admit it, but what I know about treating a woman I learned from him and how he doted on mom and always empowered her to live her dreams. I was 31 when my days of asking him for advice were over. He was a great dad and an awesome man.

There’s some small hairs starting at the entrance of my ears, right on that little nub right in front of it. These ears might be a little big, but have heard amazing sounds. Sounds both good and bad. Nostalgic things like a peacock in my neighborhood as a kid to the sounds of waterfalls while stationed in Hawaii to a lifetime of some of the best music man has ever created. I have used these ears to carefully listen to a lot of emotional information from a lot of people. I think I’m a good listener. These ears have heard the worst of things too. The sounds of war. I have trouble in my left ear sometimes from a grenade in Iraq where an insurgent tried to make sure I never came home. And the verbal violence from someone I once loved but who was was mentally ill and hated me in return. I wish I could unhear those horrors.

That nose. I think its bigger than average, but it fits my face. Looking at it straight on in the mirror makes it seem ok. Dad’s DNA strikes again. I love using it to relish in wonderful cuisine, no pun intended. The smells of certain perfumes and lotions can take me back to younger times. The waft of a scented candle on a cool morning is stimulating. The smells of rain or a fresh cut lawn are wonderful. The sent of a anything Christmas is awesome. I worry about smells, too. They can trigger bad images. Exploded fireworks can sometimes smell like fire fights. Week old linens can hold faint odors and sometimes be reminiscent of mass graves, like the ones in Iraq. A smell I can’t unsmell.

Those eyes are green, sometimes blue. I would enjoy using them to see the world first hand or witness the growth of my children. I do enjoy using them to take in information. I am a visual learner, you see. When I look close, just beyond the pupil, I can see my own thoughts. Thoughts that end in the same conclusion, “If I just hold on and stay true to who I am, my life will be wonderful.” The mirror brings into this world my existence. While life isn’t always easy, I’m always worth living it. I can thank my folks for that. And wonderful it shall be, just being me.

Rory Andes