it’s gone

it's gone | the merry gourmet

I walked out of the parking garage at work and headed toward the cancer hospital. It was a Saturday morning of the long weekend, and team rounds were scheduled to begin in about fifteen minutes. The parking garage is not my usual one. This one is closer to the hospital, and on weekends, I won’t get a ticket for parking there. When I’m on service in the hospital – two weeks straight as the attending of the oncology inpatient unit and the oncology consult service, 24 hour-per-day call – this small thing feels like a luxury. A few less steps to take to get in to the hospital, a few less steps to take when I’m headed home to my family.

Nestled between my weekend parking garage and the hospital is the nursing home where my dad lived for the last year of his life. I hate that place. When I think back on the trauma I experienced with the loss of my father to dementia, the nursing home plays a starring role in my memories.

I park in that parking garage less than two dozen times per year, only when I’m on service. Usually, on my way to the hospital or back to my car, I find myself holding my breath as I walk by the nursing home. Sometimes I cut through the parking lot, taking care not to trip on the tree roots that have buckled the asphalt. Other times, I give the place a wide berth. Even without stepping foot inside, I can remember the smell of it. If I allow my mind to wander, I can feel the black memories beginning to return, squeezing the breath out of my chest. So I hold my breath, quicken my pace, and think about my team and the patients waiting on me. Go, I tell myself. Walk faster.

This Saturday was different. As I neared the path that cuts through the nursing home parking lot, I realized something was different. A chain-link construction fence blocked the way. I walked several steps more, then stopped. It’s gone, I thought. I turned back and walked back to an opening in the fence to get a closer look. It’s finally gone.

The nursing home had been bulldozed. My ever-expanding hospital bought the property several months ago, and though I’d hoped that one day this would happen, the nursing home remained. Until now. In the bare construction site, near a construction dumpster, only a single large oak tree remained. That oak tree had provided shade over the depressing back patio of the nursing home, where a handful of wheelchair-bound patients sat outside and smoked.

I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. I raised my phone and took a photo. I needed the evidence. I looked down at the photo of the empty lot, smiled to myself, and walked the rest of the way to the cancer hospital.

I’ve looked at that photo several times since then, and I find it reassuring and comforting each time. That awful place has been torn down, and it feels wonderful to have the ugly reminder of a year’s worth of pain and some of the worst memories of my life gone, completely erased.

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11 Responses to “our yellowstone summer vacation”

  1. Mary Anne — July 2, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

    Would love to see and hear about itinerary.,Scott and I are planning a trip in the next year or so and would love to get your destinations.

  2. Kathryn — July 3, 2014 @ 5:51 am

    That last picture – I could stare it at for hours and hours. Such a sense of peace. I’m so glad you had a wonderful trip xo

  3. Mallory — July 3, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    I keep staring at the last picture. Those clouds and the blueness of the sky and the reflections in the water and the land, rolling on for what seems like forever…it is crazy to think that the picture doesn’t do the landscape justice. Glad you had a wonderful trip!

  4. Di — July 3, 2014 @ 9:21 am

    Sounds perfectly wonderful. Would love to hear about your itenerary and see your pictures. I don’t know quite why this post brought tears to my eyes but it did. I believe your sentiments just rolled off the screen and into my heart, because they were heartfelt.

  5. Natasha — July 3, 2014 @ 10:57 am

    It looks beautiful and so very calming. I’d love to read of your itinerary – I have many dream trips, and Yellowstone is most definitely one of them.

  6. Colleen — July 3, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    That sky! WOW!

  7. cherie — July 3, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    seems like a good trip for the soul 🙂 I’d love your itinerary as well – it’s on my list to take the kids though mine are older

  8. Paula — July 3, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

    I’m so happy to read that this vacation was such a wonderfully perfect success for you and your family. Your photos are beautiful and the accompanying words are poetic. I hope you do post your itinerary. It worked out great for your family and I’m sure other families would benefit from it as well.
    What a magical way to have started off your summer!

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