High up on the facade of the town's old high school, now in its last days as a middle school, is the inscription "New Occasions Teach New Duties."
I am in the middle of a new occasion.
After eleven years of having almost all of my oncology appointments, labs, and treatment handled locally, I now drive 45 minutes to reach my oncologist and his office. My oncologist is no longer affiliated with our local hospital (owned by a behemoth centralized non-profit corporation). Many of his patients, when the break came abruptly, followed him to his home office.
That's the new occasion.
I am still learning the new duties. The new location is a stand-alone oncology facility, about the size of a small, regional hospital. In atmosphere, it is more like the Mayo Clinic than any other medical facility I have been in over the last eleven years: soft colors, no blaring televisions, soft words from staff. They know who I am and what my treatment is without missing a beat.
But I am the new kid on the block. I don't know my way around the building yet. I don't know any of the staff by face yet (let alone by name), I don't know much of anything.
I don't know the faces of the other patients. At the old place, I generally knew half the waiting room as friends (and family) from the community, not just as cancer patients. Here they are just all cancer patients, at least for now.
As I write this, sitting at the Zang (the nickname for the new facility), it is ten days until Christmas. The Zang is decorated for the holidays with wreaths, poinsettias, and red and green ribbons everywhere. The lobbies and the central desks are festive indeed. There is a quiet fountain (the overflow type. not the spouting type) behind me, with water running down onto the rocks surrounding the copper fountain bowl. As part of the holiday decor, three oversized red globes float on the water.
My oncologist, whom I know well after more than eleven years. is clearly more relaxed and at home here. This is, along with his partners, his building, his practice, his baby. Pride of ownership shows.
With time, I will fit in and be my usual self. For now, though, I am smack in the middle of a new occasion. For now, I am concentrating on how to find this place, and where to go once I find it, and waiting for the new feeling to go away. And for now, I am learning my new duties.