Friday, July 3, 2009

Marrying A Medical Student: The Final Chapter

The night before our wedding we had a cocktail party at the hotel - a precelebration. Featured drink: 'Tamtini'. We snuck up to the suite to exchange wedding gifts just after 11pm. The days leading up to the wedding had us spinning with out of town guests, rehearsals, bachelor/ette parties, and final details. With friends and family waiting downstairs we knew we only had a few moments alone. And in those moments... we fell asleep.



Marrying A Medical Student: Part Three

With medical school in full swing we were living the dream, but it wasn’t easy. Like the day he studied for 14 hours while I remembered his dad’s birthday, did all of the laundry, went to the grocery store, lunched with friends, paid the bills, made him a dentist appointment and did it all with a headache and a paper cut. I spent that year studying Hebrew and attending classes to complete my Jewish conversion. I began teaching second graders the aleph bet on Sundays at temple. I kept up with the house and spent time with the cat while medical school pushed him to learn the highest volume of information the quickest pace you could ever imagine. Sometimes even the mundane jargon of everyday life got lost in the shuffle. I remember one evening, while grilling hamburgers, he looked at me and said, “Hey can you hand me the yogurt so I can flip these.” Without pausing I handed him a spatula and wondered how medical school could turn a grilling utensil into a probiotic pudding and my beloved into a zombie. There were mornings that he left to prepare for class long before I was awake, and I was dead asleep by the time he came home from studying. My serendipitous job attainment at the university meant that we were in the same building for most of the day. So early on, after days without seeing each other, we decided to have lunch dates. We met up each afternoon to spend a little time together. We would eat in the cafeteria amongst the bustling undergraduates and I would brief him on current events and he would vent about his upcoming exams. Over time, I learned to decode his sentences, work around his study schedule, cook edible food and respect that being a medical student was a full time job, and the endless hours he spent in the basement of a library were equally as important as the ones I spent working three jobs.

The summer after his first year of medical school, he proposed to me overlooking the ocean on the Oregon coast where he grew up. He fumbled with his words and reached into his pocket to present me with the diamond that belonged to his late mother. A woman I had never met, but who raised him to be the man that was standing before me stripped of all his brains and confidence, simply asking me to be with him forever. That day I said yes a million times over, cried tears of joy and felt a rush of excitement, the rush of commitment.

We gave ourselves eleven months to plan our Fourth of July wedding. The date chosen less out of our love for American independence and more out of scheduling necessity; we would wed two weeks after the medical boards and two weeks before he would start his clinical rotations. We laughed at the irony coining it, “Dependence Day.” I gathered magazines and played every minute of what it would be like again and again in my mind. When I was little, as most girls do, I would always picture my wedding day. I pictured the flowers, a poofy beaded dress, and my hair all done up nice and fancy. I would see myself dancing and laughing and cutting a towering white cake. All of these things were my idea of a wedding; but there was never a groom. Looking back it made perfect sense because, my dreams, much like everything in my life at that time, were about me. And then, I started picturing my wedding to this man, the tall broad chested know-it-all who sat next to me in graduate school. But I couldn’t see the flowers or the dress anymore – all I could see was him. I dreamt of him standing there at the end of the aisle waiting for me, and then us standing together, confessing our love in front of all of the people who we love and love us. I began to set the stage for our wedding, planning out every last detail on a shoestring budget. I wanted our wedding day to reflect who were as individuals and as a couple; his Jewish upbringing and my sentimental style. We wanted all of our loved ones to travel to the city in which we had built our young life. We wanted them to eat at the places we had shared romantic dinners in and sit in the reclining chairs of our temple where we had rediscovered faith together.

For six months, I worked on my vows each morning on my way to work. He committed to me by the ocean with unfettered words on bended knee. I wanted my words to echo what my heart had been telling me for the past five years: He is what you have wished for all of your life. With tears welling up in my eyes during each commute, I would recite out loud all of the reasons that I loved him. Things I always knew but never really told him.

“I treasure your advice; and whether I take it or not, I always grow from it.”
“You encourage me to speak my mind, even when it’s you I don’t agree with.”
“I have gone from someone who attacked the counter with Lysol at the mere idea of salmonella to a woman who stirs raw meatloaf with her bare hands.”

I hurried into work and jotted down my thoughts as I pieced them together. I wanted to tell our story. I wanted to tell him that he has made me a better person, because our love for one another is reflected in the way I live my life. With this man I felt more alive, more capable and more beautiful than I had ever known. A classmate, a teacher, a medical student, a son – he was so many things to so many people and soon he would be a husband to only me. There was not a dry eye in the room when I told him how I felt about him on our wedding day. I wept with joy because in that moment I realized the true meaning of commitment. In new-aged courtships, the etiology of a marriage is often years of togetherness, cohabitation and premarital responsibility to the nth degree. Lost are the traditions of brides over thresholds and wedding night jitters. In many ways our twenty-first century cart was before the horse. But on Dependence Day 2008, we met for the first time under the chuppah and walked out connected in a different and unexplainable way. My vows didn’t even say I love you, until the very end. This common salutation finished off the deepest cries of my heart on the most important day of my life.

I am applying to go back to school to obtain a terminal degree in my field. I will have married a doctor and become a doctor fulfilling both my mother’s dream and my own. I know now that feminism and misogyny don’t have anything to do with being a loving wife, and if it is your night to have dinner on the table, well then it had better be good. If you ask my mom, she will tell you that she is proud of me and of the man I have married and that through our journey, two stronger people have evolved. He’s not a rich doctor just yet, but every single moment of this life we’ve built together makes me proud to be his partner. I know our story is far from a fairy tale but I can’t help but think it is something special that anyone can have if they work for it. We are married because orange Jeeps and charismatic muscle heads were never enough for me. We are married today because of our friendship and two year’s worth of lunches together in the university cafeteria. We’re married because both of us committed to the complicated journey that is the medical profession, even if it does result in putting family second sometimes. We’re married because we worked hard for everything we have and somehow, early on, we knew that we were going to spend the rest of our lives making us work.

It’s funny how I eventually found myself taking my mother’s advice. I guess mothers do know best. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us. I see days filled with kids and travel but I am sure there is more beyond the scope of what I can imagine. Because I married my medical student and each day that passes is more than I ever could have dreamed of.

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