My husband has learned about medical conditions and procedures that I can barely understand or pronounce. He has memorized volumes about the human body and especially the parts he focuses on for his specialty. What I find equally amazing, and perhaps even more so, is how he has learned to make the transition from work to home and back again on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis. In my mind, I picture Clark Kent rushing to that phone booth to change into his Superman get-up, and then back into everyday clothes, with no one figuring out it was the same guy the whole time.
Lately, and especially since residency has ended, the daily transition for my dear husband has been pretty smooth. A normal evening finds my kids and I at the dinner table when our Superman comes home. A quick visit to the phone booth, or in this case, his closet, and out comes Dear Husband/Daddy, having shed his crisp shirts and dress pants for an outfit more appropriate for his trip to the gym later in the evening. Sometimes he’s on the phone when he arrives at home, trying to figure out the best care for a patient, or ordering a prescription or a diagnostic test. The kids know better than to be loud or disruptive when their daddy is on the phone for work, but as soon as they see him hang up, he’s fair game. “Daddy, we did xyz today! Daddy, can we build a fort? Daddy, we’re having abc for dinner. Daddy, guess what I did at school!” He handles it like a pro, and one usually wouldn’t be able to tell that he deals with grave illnesses and complicated cases all day. He makes it a practice not to talk about work too much at home, especially in front of the kids. He’s not dishonest, and he will say when he has had a tough day, but he knows our young ones aren’t quite ready to handle all the heavy stuff he carries around in his heart.
Of course, not being Superman, he hasn’t always made seamless transitions. There have been stretches of time when he was physically with us, but mentally and emotionally he was worlds away. When you’re a parent, you learn to postpone the big conversations, the serious subjects, until the kids are peacefully asleep. It was torturous sometimes watching him try to play and be light, when I knew his work day was still going on in his mind, and that it probably involved a life-and-death situation. All I could do was silently pray, give his hand a squeeze, and do my best to give him time to process things. There were times during residency when I wondered when he would be himself again–funny, silly, light, playful, happy, witty, active–as he worked non-stop with maybe one good meal a day and nights filled with a noisy pager and trips back to the hospital that lasted into the next morning. All I could do was keep praying, as if for that one lost sheep among the flock of a hundred, knowing that just as in the Bible story, our Father God would go out looking for him till he was “back in the fold”. Especially during med school and residency, I had to learn to keep my expectations and hopes on the low side–whatever my husband was willing and able to give of himself at home, would have to be enough. I knew he was giving 100% in more than one direction, and that is a hard pace to keep up for any length of time.
I can boldly say that it is by the grace of God alone that our marriage, our family, his faith, my faith, and his career are what they are today. None of us is Superman. Learning humility isn’t easy. Most of us love to think that we can do things on our own strength, but as a Christian, I know that we believe the opposite. I got a great reminder of this truth recently, from an unexpected source: my two-year old, always trying to be like her older brother, was pretending to look up verses quickly in the Bible (our seven-year-old does competitions in school of this nature). She doesn’t have any Bible verses memorized. She kept saying, “I found John 15:5”, though. Very clearly I heard her. Looking it up to confirm my own memory of this verse, I knew I was getting a whispered reminder from God–“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Spoken from the mouth of a child. Obviously she didn’t know the words of that verse, but I still believe God was giving me a nudge to remember these words.
Back to my Superman/Clark Kent–the words of that verse are key to his ability to go from work to home and back to work, and give his best in both worlds. He’s not depending on his own strength. He would be a mess if he did. How else could he come home from a surgery that maybe didn’t go as planned, and then toss our little girl up in the air like he was living a carefree life? Conversely, how else could he focus on anything his patients were telling him when we knew I was having a miscarriage a few years ago? He prays constantly and acknowledges that apart from him, we can do nothing. It is a process, like everything in life. But, our hope is in God, and we know that He alone is truly “super”.