Saturday, August 29, 2009


Theoretically, we can be born anywhere, at any time, but in actuality, we're born in one place, at one time. There will forever be a precise moment, and an exact location, where we entered the world. (And where we'll leave the world, too -- but only the former do we know about, unfortunately. Or fortunately, depending on your point of view.)

This simple concept occurred to me the other day when I read that St.Catharines General Hospital would soon be replaced by a bigger, better, shinier place, one fully equipped with lasers and light sabers and all kinds of cool stuff.

I suddenly thought: The place where I entered this life will soon be no more.

Not that I spend all that much time thinking about St.Catharines General Hospital. Aside from being born within its walls, the only significant amount of time I spent there was as a teenager, getting rehab from an athletic injury. (And the therapist in charge of my rehab? My main opponent's mother. Hmmm...) Recently, the only time I ever thought of it at all was to note that comedian Dave Thomas, of SCTV fame, was also born there. I found that kind of cool. Me and him, coming into our own via the same brick and mortar. Other than that, I haven't given it a mental glance in quite some time.

Still, I always knew it was there, that hospital. It was a real place with definitive, solid stuff that helped me gain my initial balance. There was an exact operating room that served witness to my birth. There was the room where my mother spent the night, me lovingly wrapped in her arms. (And puking on her chest, and shitting in my new, miniature diapers, but hey -- I'm trying to be, like, eloquent here.) My first breaths were taken inside of that concrete building. Everything that came into my life started there.

And soon it will be kaput.

Which is fine. Seriously. The new should give way to the old, and it's only a building, after all, and a new, more advanced facility will help more people, save more lives, allow other babies a better shot at surviving the first few hours of the difficult but joyous existence that awaits them.

I am having thoughts, though. Strange ones. Evocative ones.

I want to find out the number of the operating room I was born in. I want to locate, precisely, where I slept my first night. I just want to be there, in those places, to complete some kind of strange, circular loop. I want to look at those walls, the same ones I looked at for the first time ever. I'd never seen walls before, being, like, five seconds old and all, and yet those were the very first ones I witnessed. I'd never breathed air before, either, and yet I breathed oxygen there, in that place.

I would like to occupy that slot again, if only for a moment.

Not to remember (because I can't), and not to reminesce (because I won't), but just to be there, in that place, as I once was almost thirty-four years ago.

To crudely connect the baby to the man.

I will stand there, and watch the nurses, and smile, and feel silly.

And then I will leave.

I won't actually do it, of course.

Actor John Ritter, whose work on Three's Company provided pretty much the highlight of my childhood years, was born and died in the same hospital, and, as tragic as his passing was, I always thought there was a morbid yet appropriate symmetry to that act, as if that was how it should be for all of us, and yet almost never is.

To exit where we began, as it were.

Not that I want to exit exit, you understand.

I just like the poetic symbolism of it all.

Soon St.Catharines General Hospital will be gone, however, and yet I will still be here. Me, and the thousands of others over the decades who came bursting and bawling into Earth from behind its doors.

We all start at one place, and one place only, and that was my place.

Buildings can't feel a thing, but we can. If I were there, now, I would touch the main door, softly. I would slowly walk across the floor, careful not to stamp too strongly. I would search for that first room of mine, where I slept my first sleep. I would silently say thank-you before I left, and take the bland, efficient, hospital silence as a weary, worthy 'you're welcome'.

1 comment:

Noi said...

Nice post. I'm with you on the desire to go back and see for myself where "it" all started, at least for me. I feel nostalgia for the part of NY state I was born and only spent 2 or 3 years that I can't even remember.

Of course, if I think about where "it" really started, maybe I'd have to go back to conception, which brings me back to my parents. And yet my story only partially starts there. Because in a way, it's also their parents' and siblings stories, and their parents and so forth. Thus my obsession with history and more specifically family history.

There's sort of a beauty to the symmetry of being born and dying in the same spot - ashes to ashes, dust to dust - but with so much having happened in between.