Ode to the Concrete Man

This morning, there is a man who will wake long before the rising of the sun.  His first thoughts upon waking will be the day’s pour and how to get it accomplished.  He’s run through the scenario a hundred times already, and he will do so many times more before the trucks begin to arrive.

He crawls out of bed slowly – his movements subconsciously calculated – to avoid the sharp pains that accompany the ever-present aches if his actions are too sudden.

His routine before exiting his home includes coffee, the weather, and tightly lacing up the boots he will wear for the next 10 hours or more.

As he prepares for the day he is mindful to move about in silence, respectful of his sleeping family.  Ironically, he rarely sees them, even though they are the reason he does this.  Every morning they rest peacefully as he leaves.  Occasionally, he peaks in on them and even kisses their cheeks before his exit.

He longs for more time with them, yet knows this trade demands most of the hours he is allotted.  His passion is to provide a good life for them, and lamentably, this means he sees them much less than he would like.

Upon entering his vehicle he, once again, goes over the mental list of everything needed for the day.  Not because he’s obsessive, but because he knows that when the trucks arrive the time to gather what’s needed has long passed.

Once that first truck is batched at the plant, the timer starts.  The moment the sand, aggregate, and cement are mixed together with water at the plant, the clock begins ticking.  The horn has been sounded and the battle is about to begin.

Make no mistake, this is a kind of war.  Sides are taken.  It’s him and his men against the mud coming down the chute of that truck.  Only one side will win.

If it is a good day, the battle will be almost entirely one sided, with he and his men congratulating themselves after the last trowel is cleaned.

If it’s not, and one of the multitude of variables doesn’t fall into place – the trucks are late, the batch is hot, a man calls off or falls out, a piece of equipment breaks down, etc. – the battle will be fierce.  It will take everything he and his men have to not lose the pour… and their pride.

At the end of the day, regardless of how the battle went, he gets back in his vehicle with spatter on his clothing.  His hands dry and rough as ox hide from the cement.  He, almost inevitably, has a new scrape, cut, or bruise somewhere; most likely he doesn’t even know it.

He will swing by a gas station or corner store for a Gatorade, or soda, or something… please God, something other than the gallon of water he’s already consumed.  Perhaps he will have to stop by the grocery store or his local Walgreens to pick up a few items his beloved needs him to bring home.

Everything about him is rough:  his appearance, his demeanor, his gate, perhaps even his speech.  It’s all rough.  He’s rough.  …and the looks he occasionally gets from the other patrons confirm it.

But he pays no mind.  He’s used to it by now.  Little do they know that his kind are the ones who fought to pave the road they drove on to get there… and the parking lot their car is sitting in… and the sidewalk they took to get to the door… and the foundation the building sits upon… and the floor they stand on as they look at him judgingly.

All those things were put in place by men like him… and he knows it.

When he finally arrives at his home he performs a similar ritual to his morning waking.  The movements out of the vehicle are calculated.  He is stiffened from the drive home.

He enters his home in hopes of a warm greeting and rest – and at times that’s exactly what he finds – but alas, this isn’t always the case.

No one is to blame really, it’s just life.  The day’s tasks have wearied his wife as well and she is looking to him for rest.

…and so a new battle begins for him.  The battle to find an ounce of energy left to do what’s required of him at home.   He doesn’t always find the energy; at times he doesn’t take kindly to the demand for more… and later he regrets it.  Why?  Because, again, this is why he does this:  his family.  He tells himself he simply must find the strength next time.  Next time he won’t complain, he’ll be the husband and father his family needs, regardless of how hard the battle has been that day.

Finally, at some point, comes the blessing of rest.  As night closes in, he slips into bed and falls fast asleep in no time.  It’s astonishing how quickly he falls asleep, and yet it is a sign of how exhausted he truly is.  His final thoughts, much like his first ones that morning, are likely of the next day’s events.

Tomorrow he will do it all again.  It is what he does.

He is different breed.  He is a concrete man.

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