I heard old soldiers never die they just fade away. There might be truth in that.
Photo by Sergei Grits/Belarus
The room is strangely quiet. The sound of the busy feet no longer grips the moment. I can hear them, but they are just the echoes of a distant world. The walls look forlorn with plaques of this and that staring back at me. There is a lifetime of work and achievements on these walls, yet they appear dislocated in virtue. Strange!
I hear the door creak and straighten my posture, but it is the muffled breeze from the air conditioner that moves it. There is solemnity in the air and strangely a mixture of wistfulness and bright clarity. The photocopied articles from far away lands lie stacked on one corner of the desk with yellow marker colorings on the printed words demanding attention and signifying value and meaning. Some of the facts contained within maybe the keys to the secret locks that guard the truth in medicine. A microscope sits patiently on the near left corner of the desk, waiting to unearth the mystery of a human tissue and it's component cells. It appears strangely alone, wistful, a sentient being, as does the "In-File" rack that once held charts, also sits empty, in concert with the surroundings. This space and time is out of joint. This view oddly enough has no frame of reference. This then is the death of a dream.
The desk itself is worn, showing it's age. A rash of scratches on the glass blotter, now sit glaring at any discerning eye. Once hidden under books and paper, now, they are clearly visible. These marks hide within their topography the joys, sorrows and frustrations of past adventures in the wild safaris of medical care. Some of these scratches have remote but distinct memories while others are bereft of a link.
The shelves on the far wall that once contained a plethora of trinkets, photos and other memorabilia from grateful fellow humans now are empty and memory-less. In the far corner a photograph sits atop a table. I remember this one well; a thirty-year old mother holding her baby and smiling from beneath her locks of hair at the photographer and at all others that look back at her photo. She at half her age was a victim to a devastation that we, she and I, thwarted successfully. Memories like that force a smile on my face and there are many in the deep recesses of my mind. Just below on the second shelf is a model of a red Ferrari automobile that a thirty-something brought back from his travels after he fought a battle against the wickedness of nature's cruel joke and won. He loved fast cars, he once said and that he, “would buy me a Ferrari if he lived through this ordeal.” He kept his side of the bargain as I had kept mine. Middle-aged now, he is knocking at the door of the "Boomer" age category with three children of his own.
And then there is this large, red hard cover text-book, stifled between bookends that still clearly shows the dog eared use of the years gone by. The book's spine is somewhat weakened and bowed from use and as it sits there upright in all its enormous majesty, the days of it being regaled are numbered. The content within is dated. The speed of information now proceeds at a pace much different then that of a novel where timeless words like “My name is Ishmael” and “It is a far, far better place” or “to be or not to be” remain burnt into our memories. These words reach and touch some class of neural images that resist change, unlike the words in this large voluminous text book of medicine that need change even before the final editing is complete and much before the printing has even begun in the press.
I sit in the chair behind the desk. It feels familiar. The cushion weakened and lax in just the right places fits my form well. I can feel the missing bolt underneath the right armrest instinctively from old habit. I pull at it and dislodge it from its hold. Very little effort concentrated in just the right place is needed to accomplish that feat. My fingers have mastery over it. I lean back on the chair and it unburdens itself of a familiar creaking sound that I have heard as many times as there are minutes in a week. Strangely the sound is familiar and comforting.
I look across from over the desk and a strange yet familiar movie plays in my head of all the faces that have faced me, looking for answers, some concerned with the news that they least expected and others elated with what they heard. Mostly these are faces of very brave people. The movie plays on and for a moment, I am back in the game, understanding, rationalizing, collating, praying, hoping and devising for that face that holds my attention. It is a battle for and with each and every one of these faces. The war goes on as each battle is fought. Courage is found aplenty but there are no medals of honor, or purple hearts to be worn, victory lies in the time to create memories with the loved ones. And then as suddenly as it starts, the movie ends. There is the blank wall in front of me once again, the show is over, time to exit the theater.
The eerie silence is broken as a burly gentleman knocks on the door. He has come to help put things in order. My years of memories are being packed, locked away for some distant future where they will hold no sway. These memories are mine alone, hidden in the catacombs of my thoughts and there they will reside. That time has passed. Maybe in the future better ones will replace them, but that is for another time to unfold. Soon the calculators, the financial gurus, the well-intentioned highbrows will swarm in to take over this space for their own. Soon the stethoscope will be a long forgotten relic. Soon apportioned benefits, determined values and expediency in the name of “better” will rule. Soon the blur of “cost” will overrun the value of “care.” Soon a new dawn will break. Soon. The shirt feels moist against my skin. Strange.
I did not intend for this. But then no one does. There are no Churchill moments, no Babe Ruth smiles, no Patton salutes, just an echo reverberating within my soul and a heavy heart hammering within my chest.
It is the end of a dream.
Since then 'tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity. ~ Emily Dickinson