The Old Office

        The old office was like a favorite uncle.  Just ’cause you knew his time had come and gone didn’t make you love him any less.  It’d seen thousands of sick folks, but it took time out to hear some mandolin music and fishing stories.  Everyone had a cake on their birthday back when I was the ‘boss’ if we really had one.  If the office had been a person it’d be about like Indie;  full of character and not one bit ashamed of being human.

          It had its flaws.  It was drafty and cold in the winter and every summer it got so hot in room six you couldn’t use it most afternoons.  Corporate let me keep my desk even though it had nicks and gouges and a few missing drawer handles where kids had tugged on them over the years.  The chairs in my study were condemned, though.  The stuffing showed through and they were deemed unfit for a brand new modern medical multispecialty complex.  (I don’t think we are supposed to call it an office)

        We only worked ’till lunch the last day then it was a mad dash to move and crank up for the new crib.  I’d already put away my favorite photos of my family.  The one of my wife was the picture they put in the Harvey Herald for our engagement.  My children were frozen in time as toddlers.  I promised to add a few recent ones after the kids protested they were too far out of date even for old Dad. 

         I got out my mandolin and tried “When You’re Smiling.”  A picture of Bill Monroe hung on my door by a single tack.  I put it aside along with a faded one of Earl Scruggs as a kid.  I’d put them up in the new office even if corporate objected.  Some things never change.

         By noon-thirty the movers had taken most of the furniture.  I dictated my last chart and downloaded to the computer, then they whisked it away.  Soon we were down to cell phones.

        I picked a few bars of  ‘Blues Stay Away From Me.”  Someone brought a pizza.  We ate and then most everybody left.  Then it was the ‘East Tennessee Blues’ in honor of Knoxville where I trained years ago.  The notes bounced around the empty building.  It was down to me, Lynn O’Carroll, and Myrd, the original three musketeers who started the practice on a shoe string.  At times we barely kept it all tied together.

       Lynn carted out a few more boxes.  “Me and Myrd are going on.  You coming, Doc?”

        “Yeah, I’ll be over in a minute.  I’ve got time to get a haircut but I’ll be on over.”

        “You okay?”


         Their foot steps echoed down the hall.

         A dust bunny rolled by.  I smiled and took a stab at ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ but didn’t know the whole tune.  I put my mandolin in the case and carried it to the back door. 

        I closed the door, turned the key in the lock, and didn’t look back.  We had done our best.

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “The Old Office”

  1. Ponder Says:

    Someone wrote in my high school yearbook: “Everything must change, to something new, something strange.” It’s tough to leave those old memories behind, but you end up making new ones. My best to you Doc!

    • drtombibey Says:


      As long as I have a stethoscope and three exam rooms I will try to give my people my best effort. In that sense nothing has changed. All the best my friend,

      Dr. B

  2. Lynn O'Carroll Says:

    We have done our best and the new place won’t change a thing in the healthcare of our patients. Myrd and I will be right there with you to open up your new place just like we were 21 years,4 months and 19 days ago. Bring your mandolin to the new gig. Lynn

    • drtombibey Says:


      The most important asset for a doc to be able to take care of patients is the right human beings. I was lucky to have you guys in both the old office and the new multi-specialty complex.

      Without the right people, bricks and mortar stand by in silence and are unmoved by human suffering. You and Myrd always cared for people and did what you could to help. It was an honor to serve with you both.

      Dr. B

  3. Dr B
    I do believe the walls and the very earth they rest on will remember you and your mandolin. Some day, a young fellow might find himself humming a few bars of “when you’re smiling” and not know why. That’s the power of place.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Sharon,

      It was a humble place but it allowed me to be the kind of doc I wanted to be. We always valued people over things. I also like to think a little music will rest there forever.

      Dr. B

  4. newt221 Says:

    New digs always take a little time to get used to. Before long though, you will be up and running like a top. And, you will play some of that mandolin stuff and christen the new office.

    Doesn’t mean you forget the old, or the past. They stay with you…

  5. Billy Says:

    My dad said when I took to the road: “Don’t forget where you have been but always keep your eyes on the road ahead.”

    • drtombibey Says:


      I think your Dad was a wise man. I keep my eyes on the prize of a life of grace and dignity. The fact that it’s like an effort to approach infinity does not stop me from trying.

      Dr. B

  6. Leaving a place with so many memories is difficult. My heart broke when my family had to sell my grandparents beautiful old house, and it hasn’t mended yet. I can understand the difficulties of changing venues, Dr. B, but I think you’re taking it with aplomb and with the wise attitude that you’ll remember that place and cherish it but won’t agonize over it.

    • drtombibey Says:


      I’ll miss it, but it was too old to bring any young people in. I didn’t want the practice to go away when I got too old to go on, ’cause it is bigger than me. With this change it can look to the future.

      It was something the town needed ’cause now there are two fine institutions which can offer care for patients and a place for docs and nurses to work. Competition is good for everybody.

      Dr. B

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