Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This Old House...


The old house on the hospital grounds is being prepared for demolition. A workman removes the brass portico which will be incorporated into the new wing that is to be built. The old house is perhaps 80 years old and was built to house sanatorium staff who used to live on the grounds. Antibiotics closed the TB sanatorium and some of the out buildings were neglected over the ensuing years.


The young operator gently taps the bricks with the dinosaur head of his big machine. One brick falls, then two then three, and a whole row tumbles to the ground. The bricks will be stored in case one of the other old buildings needs repair.


All materials to be recycled are removed and the frame is pushed to the ground. Water is sprayed on the building throughout the demolition to reduce dust that may enter the hospital ventilation system. The work must progress on schedule as the ground breaking ceremony for the new wing is planned for next week.


The old man watches from the window. He too was new 80 years ago. Life was good, then he lost his business, lost his wife, lost his child. We tell him he needs to live in a nursing home. What more can he lose?

He asks me to take him out for a smoke and we stop by the tuck shop for some ice cream on the way back to the ward. The doctor wants him to stop smoking but he resists strongly. What difference will it make now?

We sit together in silence and watch the house come down.

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18 comments:

  1. I wonder, does that man feel like the building? Watching my parents deal with loss after loss, so sad.
    We take so much for granted, that the people and things we value and hold dear will always be with us.

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  2. I am saddened, by the loss of the old building still looking solid, watching the wrecker even tenderly tap the walls, and a life has passed by maybe soon another ground breaking ceremony. Very moving piece Ruth. I'm glad for the recycling.

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  3. Ahh Ruth--a very poignant post. Even though there may good reasons, I always feel a loss when a building goes down.
    I agree with your dinosaur appellation for the machine. Prehistoric unthinking destructive.

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  4. Very touching and sad story. Why this man is so alone? Has he no family, no friends? Old and alone. So sad.

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  5. My grandma was in here 70s when the young doctor told her to stop smoking. She remarked," Young man, I have been smoking before you were born."

    I like the way you took the old man's photo. Just a hint of it .

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  6. a very thoughtful post, Ruth, it will stay with me all day I am sure. I was heartened that they were able to save pieces of the building to re-use. Thanks for watching with the man and for sharing that picture of him watching with his ice cream.

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  7. 80 years is a long time to live and the last picture makes my heart ache. A very touching post.

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  8. It's sad to see it be demolished, but it's good to know they are using the bricks and such as they can.

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  9. Very touching post. Such reverence for the old building and the old man. So often, it seems, buildings and people are just casually cast aside with little thought for their still usefulness.

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  10. I agree with the others: A poignant post. I remember when the local elementary school came down about 4 years ago, feeling empathy for my dad. He had done the wiring on it over 50 years ago when it was being built. Now he was watching it being condemned and demolished in his own lifetime. That, I think, was hard.

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  11. That's a powerful wrap-up.

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  12. Sad to see such a nice looking (at least from the outside) old building come down. Ahhhh ... progress!

    Just catching up on my blog reading ... I'm WAY behind.

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  13. Very touching post. I also think the old man identifies with the building being torn down. Must be tough. I like the pic you took of him.

    How do you know so much about demolition? I hadn't a clue. Thought they just smacked away with the wrecking ball or crane and that was that!

    I'm glad they are careful about it and recycle the materials.

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  14. Thanks for the comments. I felt sad watching the house come down and wish they could have renovated it instead. I have asked the construction team and maintenance staff many questions. I learned a lot about the demolition process and the recycling that way. Watching some of my patients is far more heartbreaking than watching a building come down.

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  15. Very nice post Ruth. You tenderly and touchingly deal with the themes of Time, age and loss.
    I agree with you...what difference does it make now to stop smoking.

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  16. Lovely and moving post, Ruth. We all need to reflect on what is important.

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  17. One of my patients lived nearby. I would see her walking by, age 91, headed for the store smoking a cigarette. She died 3 months after breaking her hip at age 93. Her smoking doubtless contributed to her fragile bones and diminished lung capacity post-op hip repair, but we all die sometime of something.

    Wonderful picture of the old man at the window. Fabulous egret pics!

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  18. Ruth, that's so touching.

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