Exit Ramp

Future-Next-Exit-Sign.jpgLast weekend, Sarah and I decided to take a drive around the west side of Cleveland.  We didn’t have any real plan; just to head out to a small town on the Lake Erie shore, and see where we ended up.  Shelby was staying with Megan’s mother, so we were free to have a random Sunday.  


After having some lunch at an old soda fountain in a historic fishing village, we started heading east along US-6.  It hugs the shoreline, passing through many villages and towns along its route to Cleveland.  We observed and commented on all the large houses, the views of the lake between them, and the character of the various settlements.  I had never been through this area either.  Even though I grew up less than an hour away, I had never had any cause to drive around there.  All in all, it was a relaxing, picturesque cruise.


Once we neared Cleveland proper, we decided it was time to start heading back towards home.  I left this unfamiliar road, and entered I90, heading towards and through downtown.  Weaving through the construction zones, we were forced onto an exit ramp.

Suddenly, I was on one of the most familiar roads I had ever driven on. This exit led to the hospital where Megan had been treated throughout the years, the same hospital where she died.  

I had exited the highway at this ramp no less than 500 times over the past decade.  Never once had I been on this road for anything other than going to the hospital.  Unexpectedly, a wave of emotion flooded in.  I was thrust back into that feeling that I was going to be a widower soon.  


Sarah recognized this hitting me immediately, and I told her where we were.  To her credit, she let it happen, but comforted me at the same time. I turned off of Chester Avenue, onto a side street, and as quickly as it hit me, it began waning.  We were now driving through a new, unfamiliar, but beautiful section of the city...playhouse square.  Once settled, I began analyzing what had just happened.  It was somewhat shocking to have something as simple as a strip of pavement trigger my mind that quickly.  We couldn’t even see the hospital campus from where we were, but that slight curve to the right, followed by a sharp left towards the intersection was all it took.  


Cliche as it may be, our lives truly are a road we travel.  There are new and beautiful and fun stretches of that road, where everything is interesting and a fresh experience.  There are portions where you’re on cruise control, just going through the motions of the highway, perhaps hitting some traffic here and there, or the rough spots of construction, but you still travel onwards onto smoother pavement.  Eventually, we are all forced onto an exit ramp that signals the end of the high speed, easy driving.  Our lives take a turn onto a much slower thoroughfare, or worse, come to a stop.  


It was at the stop sign on the end of the ramp where the heaviest thoughts came over me.  We went from interstate speeds to a complete lack of motion in a few seconds.  Turning onto the surface road, with its potholes and low speeds was like learning of her rejection diagnosis.  It was still a rough, slow northern city road, as it had always been on it’s approach towards the hospital.  This stretch of road had  traditionally been the end of my journey to Cleveland Clinic almost daily, now it represented the final approach to the end of Megan and I’s journey.  


Turning off of that street onto yet another new road allowed me to view that journey in my rearview mirror. I will always wish I could have simply driven past the hospital onto the attractions that laid beyond, but I also recognize that the diversions onto other roads can be just as beautiful and exciting.


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  • commented 2015-11-11 19:39:22 -0800
    Two things struck me about your post – I know that “kicked in the gut” feeling of driving by the hospital where Meaghan died. I have that same experience when I drive by the hospital where my husband died 18 month ago, or even when I’m driving on part of the route I always used to take to the hospital. For a long time I avoided particular intersections so I didn’t have to experience that feeling.

    I love your analogy of life as a road, with beautiful stretches where we set the cruise control and just go, the slower, tougher parts and the times when we look in the rear view mirror and see where we’ve come from. So true.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
  • commented 2015-11-10 17:56:32 -0800
    Mike… I so get this…my husband passed away at CCF too… I can’t even listen to the TV commercials for the Clinic…..
    I practically lived at the CCF for 18 months and then some.
    The idea of being where you turned off made me have a gush of overwhelming feelings and memories…I know exactly where you were.
    Wow…. Your words offer so much hope… I am so glad Sarah was with you… Thanks for sharing.