The Couple Who Studies Together…

I wrote this nearly two years ago, as I reflected on how long V and I have been together, and where our path has taken us.  It’s an interesting burden, being married to someone pursuing a career in medicine.  Our journey began in college, where our friendship deepened over hours of studying.  Studying has been a common thread through our relationship, which spans almost 14 years of marriage, including four years of medical school, five years of residency, and four years in private practice ENT.  And still we press on!

I’m enjoying some nostalgic thoughts as I sit here on a Sunday evening, at the tall portion of our kitchen counter.  V. is a few feet away, trying to finish a Home Study Guide to complete his continuing medical education requirements.  The Patriots football game is on in the background, the dryer is almost done with its third load of the day, and the kids are sound asleep.  We have a long history of studying together, and it was a catalyst of sorts, bringing our friendship into a deeper interest.

Backtrack 15 years.  V. was “the guy with the car” at our college where on-campus parking was scarce.  He was always the one ferrying groups of our friends to local coffee shops in New Orleans to study away from the dorms.  He always had fun music; I remember hearing Cowboy Mouth, They Might be Giants, The Beatles, among others.  His Isuzu Rodeo was always full of friends, off for some less-than-productive hours of studying.  It didn’t help that V. is one of those annoyingly smart guys who barely had to study, even for things like organic chemistry, while the rest of us pored over textbooks, notes, and anything that might help us get through.  During those years, my impression of him aside from his being very intelligent, was that he had a goofy sense of humor.  He was a fun friend to have, and there was a group of us who loved going out to dinner together, or grabbing a coffee together.  In a strange way, I started looking forward to end-of-semester study marathons in the university center.  The school opened up a large conference room with tables to students who wanted a central place on campus to study for finals.  One could say it was that very Kendall Cramm Room of Tulane’s University Center where our love began to grow.

As seniors, V. and I finished our finals a few days before many of our good friends, who were juniors.  With this newly found free time, we got to be alone together more than we ever had.  Separately, we each bought the same alumni sweatshirt from the bookstore.  We caught a few sideways glances for that.  Together, we played tennis and made brownies to bring to our book-weary friends.  There were a few weeks between the end of exams and the official beginning of our courtship, but I look back very fondly at those hours of studying across the table with him.  I remember becoming aware of how glad I was that he was near, of how much I was looking forward to seeing him each morning to begin another long day of preparing for exams.

Fast forward two years from college graduation:  that friend with the goofy sense of humor had become my husband.  A month after we got married in the same chapel where we met, he started his first year of medical school.  I laugh now, thinking that I had any clue how much he would need to study.  I had nothing to study academically at that time, so I did a lot of reading for personal edification, a lot of journaling, and a lot of praying.  We had a three-bedroom house near our old college campus, the same house I’d shared with two friends while V. and I were a dating couple.  There was no central heat, which meant during the “winter” of New Orleans, we would fire up the space heater in the living room and huddle close together.  There were hours of studying by that heater, with blankets and sweaters and thick socks.  New Orleans is more well-known for its summers than its winters, and we felt summer just as acutely in our poorly insulated house.  We had to choose between sweet silence, but dreadful heat, or an ear-bleeding hum of the window air conditioning unit, but a delightful coolness.  Our middle bedroom became our office, with a computer desk and small sofa.  More hours of studying.  That room had some bad floorboards, and we always had to remember to step over that spot.  V. forgot one time and almost went right through to the ground below.  Oh, that house.  That’s where we spent the first four years of marriage.  That’s where we brought our first child home.  That’s where med school started and ended.

The studying continued in residency, though it was less frequent, and was replaced by endless hours of work.  Instead of preparing for exams, he was in those five years preparing for surgeries, or learning about specific issues he would encounter in his specialty.  I think about how I’ve spent my time while V. has been busy reading and learning at home.  I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of writing.  Let’s be honest, though:  there have been many nights when I just longed to relax with him, talk to him, ask him about something that’s been on my mind, and I’ve had to wait.  Don’t even begin to think that he has ever been neglectful or uncaring.  We just both knew that we had to suppress our natural desires to procrastinate or slack off.  We shared a goal, and knew what we each had to do to achieve it.  There was no room for error in his job, with patients’ wellness and lives on the line.  I had to bring my selfishness, neediness, frustration, fatigue, and impatience in prayer to God countless times.  Complaining to V. about how hard all of this was on me, would not help him in the least, nor would it help me!

That brings us to tonight.  Two years out of residency, and he is immensely more present when he’s home.  Nights like this are delightfully rare, when he really does have to finish this work by a certain date to keep his knowledge current.  Much has changed in our lives, including the number of people in our household, our possession of both central air and central heat, sturdy tile floors, and academic demands.  I am glad for the flashback I had tonight, and even more glad that I started sitting at the same study table with that goofy guy.  Studying together has had more to do with our relationship than almost anything.  Here’s to many more years of studying together!

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One comment

  1. Lezlie Horst · · Reply

    Alison, I love to read your writings, and since you’re ahead of us by a number of years, it’s refreshing to read your honest yet uplifting views of where we currently are and esp. since Vien did surgery–it gives me a BETTER picture of what these next 5 years will be like. We found out very quickly when we moved here, that we are the odd resident’s family with already having 3 children. What you said about taking your frustrations, impatience, etc. to the Lord when you wish you could talk to your husband–I’ve been there alot in the last 7/8 years and still struggle.
    I think I’m going to have to get your phone number so I can call you for encouragement when I’m “fighting” Satan’s tactics!
    Bless you for sharing with us!

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