Isn’t that a famous quote? I wasn’t convinced of its validity. Even after the divorce and selling of the house which held thirty years of family memories, I kept trying to go back.
Until this week.
I had to return to the old neighborhood to see my family doctor who happens to have his office at the corner of my old street. We lived right down the block and it was so easy to just walk over and tell a nurse what was happening. This was when the kids were little and managed care was just on the horizon. Life seemed so much simpler. The doctor and his young associate were accessible and friendly. Once a neighbor’s son had a heart attack in the driveway and good ‘ole Doc Welby came running. One of the reasons my son became a doctor was because of their good example. We had so much history together. They treated me, the kids, my mom and mom-in-law. As the years went by, they dispensed hugs and kisses along with the prescriptions. I love and respect these men. Often, the familiarity and comfort of just being in their presence was the panacea.
That was then. This is now.
This week I go into the office and am told that there have been some changes. The associate has left the practice. Managed care has managed to disrupt the expectation that he was going to be successor to the practice. It seems that once physicians buy into a health-care management system, they sell their souls to the corporate end of medicine and no longer are free to control outcomes. So Doc Welby and his sidekick are splitting up. More unsettling news – the older doctor is retiring. I get seen by a stranger, a somewhat harried but pleasant doctor who is just “filling in” until someone takes over the practice.
My two constants are gone. I don’t even get to kiss and hug them good bye. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Every time I went to the doctor’s, I went home. I found myself driving or walking past the old house, the house that welcomed me as a new bride, a new mother and a woman who believed that roots were important, family was important. This house was home to others in the family … elderly parents during times of crisis and transition. Our basement was turned into living space for my father-in-law as he became a new man and reconciled with his wife and family, and later housed my own mom as a new widow. Swings were hung in trees. Traditional Polish Christmas dinners and decorate-our-tree Christmas eves were celebrated. Choir practices in the living room. Pet menageries in the basement. There was a glorious energy to the house. In the end, there was an aching emptiness. Time to move on.
Even though I no longer lived in the neighborhood, in that house, I still felt connected. I always got a visceral feeling when I returned. I could almost reach out and touch the memories which would come flooding back. Playing on the lawn with my daughter’s dog … walks in the park … huge snowstorms and digging out the street and driveway with the neighbors, many of whom had already moved or passed on.
Until this week.
I walked out of the doctor’s office, got into the car, and drove very slowly and deliberately past my house for one last look, one final goodbye. I may not have had the chance to say farewell to my dear doctors, but by God, I was going to make the chance to say goodbye to my house. I looked up at the dogwood tree and the front window, lights glowing behind the closed curtains, and I blessed this house and said thank-you. That was it. My gut stayed calm. There was no strong feeling pulling me any longer. The connection was broken.
And now I am packing and driving up to the Berkshires this weekend to find a new house and a new life, to plant some new roots and find some new connections.
I have a strong feeling that my family will be waiting there.