A Room We All Owned
Rooms reflect the passion, the taste and purposes all of us saturate them with to suit us almost perfectly. No, not perfectly because that is an impossibility, but almost perfect will do. Nothing can be an absolute mirror of us in any way, nor can a room serve as a representation of us completely. It may touch upon parts of us and, in some ways, it may take on almost a humanity of its own. Although that may sound much too philosophical I believe it to be so.
I sat in a room that incorporated many of these things today and I left it for only an hour. When I came back, the room was no more. It had been replaced by a barren and rough sketch of its former self. Many of its most obvious elements had been removed and, in so doing, the room now reflected not the place of waiting, security and anticipation as before, but a stark reality of what was to be.
Situated in a small professional office building just off a busy roadway, this room was a place I had known for some three decades. I had seen it change with the
whims and tastes of its owners and each change was charming in its way, not jarring. From staid waiting room furniture it morphed into a Mission style just as the prints, pennants and drawings changed with the taste of the owner.
Places had been prepared for children to keep themselves occupied although it wasn’t a place for children but one to which children might come. Crayons, sketch pads and small books found their place on a table with an antique radio. Everything went well and belonged. No physical welcome mat was spied, but welcome was always in the air.
Now, the pennants are gone and only a reminder of them remains on the table where clear push-pins lay in an organized pile. Removal was swift before the
owner could experience a change of heart and they were taken to an awaiting car to be spirited off like cherished children in the hands of a stranger.
Who would hang them up and where would they go, never to be together again? Lovingly acquired over the years, they told a story of sports and local history that could only be appreciated by the original collector. And now he had to part with them not because he wanted to but because the fickleness of fate had played a cruel trick on him. He could no longer see them as before. A rare surgical occurrence had stolen a portion of his vision and his career along with it.
A life changed in minutes was now a life that was uncertain. Before, there had been trips and acquisitions and the expectation of years to enjoy in this office and with all those who came for care. Strong relationships had been forged over the decades even as everyone knew there was more of an appreciation of the years past rather than the technology-driven one holding fast now to our lives. No one wanted to consider the unthinkable and everyone pretended that, yes, it would go on even after the accident. It could not.
A proverb by Heraclitus says it all, yet we fail to appreciate the true meaning of it. “You cannot step into the same river twice.” The experience was immediately apparent to me as I re-entered the room we had all come to know and which was now gone forever. Everything would go on as before. The room would remain, but everything would be taken from it and with all that left we, too, would find we had lost something; a place we called our own.
There will be no stepping back into that river of a room and, whether we like it or not, we will all have to adjust, but not as much as the original occupant. For him, life will have to be re-engineered but it will never be the same.
Perhaps it will present new opportunities and joys unthinkable before. The end of this room doesn’t mean anything more than that it may have been time for a change and all of us needed that push. We will all find our way and so will he.