IMG_0437As I stand in the place where the ocean and land meet, I have the overwhelming desire to go home.  Myrtle Beach is just not the same.  The sand isn’t right.  The color of the ocean is all wrong.  Where are the little birds that peck at the creatures hidden in the sand, the ones that run forward when the waves recede and back again when the waves roll in?  The ones that I used to chase at home?  Finding that sweet spot where their meals are most exposed between the waves, rejoicing with their high-pitched squawks.  Or maybe they were just mad at me for interfering.

It doesn’t escape me that the ocean is where I long to go to for escape.  The ocean is home, but not just any ocean will do, it seems, because I’m here, feet being soothed by the waves like warm blood flowing back into veins and arteries.  Heartbeat.  Lifeblood.  The ocean. Only I just want to go home and it’s not here.

It doesn’t escape me that I was here almost a year ago, standing the same way, in almost the exact same spot after my mother died.  Just weeks before, I tried to bring her back, but I couldn’t.  I tried desperately to breathe life into her, watching her blue eyes turn grey, like the ocean at sunset, becoming dimmer and unfocused, blurring the lines between life and death, day and night.

My ocean lies in a town sandwiched between the uber wealthy and the uber fabulous, Fort Lauderdale on one side and West Palm Beach on the other.  My hometown is like an awkward middle child, a little left out, a little forgotten, a little underestimated.

The sand here, where I am standing, is like fine powder, it sticks to everything, but the sand on my beach isn’t really sand at all.  If you look closely, it is a billion broken seashells, the edges rubbed smooth by the brutal forces of the sea.  The pieces of shells are bigger than sand, heartier, more substantial.  The ocean itself is bluer, warmer, and teeming with life.  That is my home.  It’s rhythmic waves my heartbeat, it’s salty sea my lifeblood.

Home is permanent sandal tan lines.  Sun-kissed blond highlights in wind-whipped hair. Bike rides to the beach with a mini pink boombox hanging from the handlebars playing Bon Jovi on the tape deck.  Buying cigarettes from the rusty vending machine with pull handles.  Watching the shirtless tanned boy with long hair playing football with his rowdy friends from afar, Faith looking at me and saying, “I want that one,” and me replying, “No, that one’s mine.”

And he was for a while, until he wasn’t anymore.

But that was a long time ago and I haven’t been home in ages.  No reason to go back now. There’s nothing there for me.

I left because of my work.  My residency took me to North Carolina.  I wanted to go.  I wanted to leave home.  And I did.  I left everyone and everything.  Even the tan boy with long hair.  Who was now a man, with a clean cut, and a job, who didn’t want to go along for the ride.

My work.  Oh how I struggle with my choices.  I stare at the ocean.  Please, God, give me the answers.  The ocean and God don’t seem to be listening to me, but I’ll wait.

The day that my mother died was my day off.  I didn’t spend it with her.  I spent it at the corporate hive finding out why they thought I wasn’t doing my charts right.  It took months to get an answer.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Cancelled meetings, rescheduled, my apologies, can’t make it this week, until finally, I said, “I’ll drive the 2 hours to you.”  I needed to face my accusers.  In the end, it was silly.  Pointless.  My “mistakes” meaningless to me or the patient, but cost the corporation, apparently.  I didn’t write enough.  I didn’t charge enough.  I needed to do more.  Because doing more gets them paid more.

That night my mother died.  And the corporation never sent me a card or an arrangement.

In the beginning, my motives were simple.  I wanted to help people.  Not just anyone, either, but people who really needed it.  The people that maybe weren’t the wealthy and fabulous, but somewhere sandwiched in between, forgotten.  I left the boy, the dog, the house, the family, the sea, and I went.  It was idyllic at first, but after a while, we got gobbled up, like the little sea creatures being plucked out from between the tides by those birds.  I guess I gave up chasing them away a long time ago.

Home.  The sea resides within me.  I take it wherever I go, it’s molecules intertwined in my DNA.  I never really left it and it never left me.  The broken sea shells tossed about and worn smooth, the deep blue hues, the life beneath the surface, the warmth of the sun on brown skin, this is my home, this is my heart, this is who I am, I haven’t been beaten.  The tide always rolls back again.






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30 Responses to Home

  1. I think you will find your home. In medicine, through the frothy tide, with the gentle waves. Sometimes things are bad and they get worse before they get better. But there are fixes, cures and reasons to keep hoping as well. And dawns, sunsets, rain and drizzle. Keep feeling and caring. We all need that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. montaymd says:

    Wow… This is incredibly moving.
    Let me tell you how this makes me feel.
    I feel like I am a tiny speck, perched atop a Swan- Ganz catheter, and moving, wading along, as it goes from your wrist, through arteries teeming with bright red blood- your lifeblood. I can see the individual particles- red, white and broken ochre pieces like seashells, duelling as they rush past.
    I ride along till we come to where the smaller vessels are swallowed up in the larger ones and the turbulence is breathtaking. Still I go on. To the mighty arch that grows directly from your heart and I can see her many branches, reaching for the sun, for the moon, for the stars. Here I pause, the colors are brilliant, the candence is soothing. And on I go. To the sturdy chambers of your heart. Here, what is beautiful from a distance pales to the wonder that is visible on the inside. The particles dance brownian, spurred on by the periodic lub and dub. And I listen closely.
    The melody is beautiful, but the stirring, the soul searching, the seeking to break free, is audible in the gentle monotony of your heart’s impulse.
    Please o please, don’t let me slide off of this surfboard, this catheter, because I fear that I will be propelled powerless, to a vessel too narrow for my size and stick there. May it not be one that races to the lungs. Before I catch in your breath.

    I know that was weird, but for some reason, it just came out that way.

    Now, there’s a little piece of home in everyone, tugging, pulling and making us question what we have found, what we seek still, as the trajectory lengthens away from home…
    I hope we both are able to find peace.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
    As always they are an inspiration to me.


    • Love this!!!! Thanks friend. It was not weird at all! It was beautiful! The whole point of writing is to create a shared emotion. I think we had that! What has God in store for us? For our field of work? For the patients that seek our care? I long to go back home to where doctors held their tools in black bags and made house calls. I don’t know what has become of medicine (especially in America). It is twisted and cruel. How did we get so far away from home?


  3. First I am so sorry for the loss of your mom.She gave birth to you, you are a part of her and she is a part of you, so you carry her with you where ever you go. Remember her with joy.I am sure she is very proud of you.
    Second, this is a beautifully penned post.
    Third, I am not a doctor, and, I am 74, but, my mom passed in 1973 she was only 55 and I still miss her, that feeling will never leave you, but my memories are of all the wonderful years she was with me and my five other siblings.
    And, last but not least;
    I also remember when doctors had offices in their homes and made house calls.Medicine has become a corporate business now and you are not alone in your feelings.
    I know quite a few doctors that have opened private practices, some in a group and others alone, they too were tired of the stress. All I can say is follow your gut instinct and do what makes you happy. You might not make as much money, but you might be rich with happiness. Does that make sense to you, or does it sound like just the ramblings of an old woman?
    Life is too short to waste.
    Now that you are all grown up you will find that time will start passing quickly. I think you will find the following to be the truest quotes. “Home is where the heart is”, and “Time waits for no one”. Deerfield Beach is now my home.Born and raised in New York I will always love it there, but the winters are not for the elderly. My own quote is; “Money can not buy, love, peace, health or happiness”.
    Sounds to me like your mom has raised a wonderful daughter. Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this. I can’t believe that you are in Deerfield! What a coincidence. I had the absolute urge while driving home yesterday to just keep driving until I reached my beach. I would just cancel the rest of my week and just sit there. I didn’t do it. The kids needed dinner and to be tucked into bed. The dog was waiting to have his head scratched. So I went home to my family. My real home. I am looking into some options that would mean less money, but more time with my patients and getting back to the foundations of medicine. Taking out the middle man that has taken away the fundamentals of doing good for people. I have a year to figure it out because that’s when my current contract runs out. Life is short and that year will likely fly by even though it feels like I’m swimming in molasses. Will you do me a favor? The next time that you are at my beach, will you pick up a seashell and bring it home with you? Will you put it in a windowsill, in a little ray of sunshine for me?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Glenn Redus says:

    Helluva post, Doc. You got skillz.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 2ndhalfolife says:

    Yes, that’s close. I can understand missing your Mom ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 2ndhalfolife says:

    You sound like you grew up close to where I must live now? Funny how home resonates so differently for different folks. I am having such a hard time with living here, yet for you it sits so fondly. I grew up in NYC, and while I don’t think I could live there again, each time I drive back and see the the skyline, my heart skips a beat and I think: HOME. Maybe the years and years of 2 months in summer camp make my real, deep heart think of home in a country setting? I heard an interesting piece today on This American Life about summer camps and what they can come to mean to us and how they come to shape our lives…I think it did mine. It turned me into a country girl, although I did end up moving rural as a young teen…. Who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I grew up in Deerfield Beach. I think it’s true about summer camps, though, because being outdoors at camp and a family trip to North Carolina sealed the deal from for me on where I wanted to live. I’m here now but it’s amazing how the beach calls me home especially during hard times. Plus I’m just missing my mom.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It just breaks my heart to read this as it kills me that greed has replaced common decency and values. After spending sooo much time to become the professional you are – shouldn’t you be entrusted to do what’s right with the patients vs getting beat up by the big wigs if you’re not seeing 8 patients a minute?!! Also, the prove fact now that those with good relationships with their doctors are less likely to be lawsuit happy! One of my doctors feels this total frustration for being told he wasn’t keeping the patients moving in and out fast enough-I giggled when he told me is retort to his people – oh like when Dr. X saw my patients and his and gave (me) penicillin?? (Yes, it could have killed me).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I swear I don’t understand this love affair with money! Maybe I’m the weird one because it just doesn’t drive me like that! I hope I never understand it. I have everything I need. I don’t want more, but I do want to do more to change it. Mistakes like that happen because trying to turn illness into big money is wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Money’s never driven me either so I don’t get it…but my point in mentioning my particular opps moment is they were so busy cramming the substitute doctor’s schedule that I could have died which would have cost their practice a huge lawsuit and of course bad press, so getting the extra money for seeing all those patients in the long run would have been counterproductive financially even so even just looking a the “bottom line” (financially) – in medicine, it’s never s good idea! Plus it’s so awful to think how many doctors like yourself went to school for so long, have so much student debt, etc. only to be forced to instead be fast food type doctors-sad all the way around! God bless you for caring!!!

        Liked by 2 people

      • You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Squeezing money out of every encounter and piling on the work is counterproductive

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Susan says:

    This post is beautiful, and sad, and beautiful. I’m honored to get to read it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Dewy says:

    Reading what you wrote brings back memories. It’s all about money now. The first time I encountered it was 95-96. I started working in 94 , fresh out full of ideals. It jolted me and it was in a public hospital.
    Just this year in a private one I thought I was saving them money by working as quickly as I can settling everyone to go home on Saturdays as I was on a higher pay rate than my colleagues. Nope was I wrong. No you didn’t dispense enough. Every email was accusing, what I didn’t do . And yet we all stood on hard concrete floors all day and they didn’t bother about OH&S and getting us mats despite me requesting.
    I left after my 3 months was up. They’ve since phoned me to ask me if I’m happy to take on another contract . I’ve declined.
    It’s soul destroying. Now I use my time volunteering. I find it makes me happy.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. bren1000 says:

    Your prose gives me a shiver of recognition. I too am from Myrtle Beach, albeit South Carolina. My father recently passed. I work in healthcare and I’m transitioning to a different field within healthcare as the machine that is our system makes the Cath Lab untenable. We drive bodies through shoving stents in arteries without a breath between and are called upon at all hours yet are constantly understaffed and watched for “adherence” to profit margins. It becomes a matter of spiritual crisis. I am so drawn to your posts because so seldom do we in healthcare speak of these unspeakables. We “man up” and we comply. Well, I am exhausted. I feel your exhaustion and distress. Honor your mother. Honor your profession as best you can and then if you must, let it go. I wish you peace and offer my condolences.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. V.J. Knutson says:

    The corporation not sending a sympathy card is so emblematic of how mixed up our priorities become. I admire your ideals, and your courage to leave your comfort behind, and I hope that part of you is not lost in the cold hard facts swept in by the tide. I have faith in your choices and the purpose that calls you.

    Liked by 4 people

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