Here’s Looking At You, Doc

When we first met in college, John (then known as J-Whit) was studying for his MCAT. I remember asking him what he wanted to do and he responded by telling me what he was going to do. I started jokingly referring to him as Doc one night when a tipsy sorority girl kicked off her heels and cut her foot open on a broken glass bottle before formal. I ran through the Castle with a bottle of peroxide yelling “It’s fine–he’s going to be a doctor one day.” (This surprises no one.)

And then one day is today. Medical school isn’t an easy journey, it isn’t supposed to be. But for us it’s been an all out war. I watched you struggle through the first year–wanting to quit because you’d never gotten a B before–realizing you were now surrounded by the rest of the #1s. I watched you balance fatherhood and being home for dinner and playtime with Rose which meant sitting at your desk hours after we went to bed to prepare for the next day. I watched you leave every day at 6:00 am to study for your boards and saw your hands shake when you opened the email with the results. I remember the rotations in your third year when I watched you move from the classroom to the clinic and the OR. And you excelled. This was your world, out of the books, working with people–helping people. You were so hesitant to fall in love with orthopedics because you thought you weren’t enough. “Let’s do it,” I said. So what if it’s competitive. Let’s go for it. And it meant months away from home for away rotations and you felt so guilty for leaving us girls. But we opened the match email and cried. It was worth it.

Four years ago at your white coat ceremony we didn’t know anything. Just two dumb kids that had a newborn baby in a new city and we no idea what was coming down the stretch. There were days we didn’t know that we could make it. We stumbled and stammered and mostly guessed our way around figuring out marriage, parenthood, and life. And well–to be honest, not much has changed. Just two dumb kids with a 4-year-old (crying) and no idea what’s coming down the stretch.

Through it all, you somehow managed to be what everyone needed you to be. You were where you needed to be, studied what needed to be studied, came to dance class, coached soccer, got up with Rose in the middle of the night, and still made sure we made it to church on Sunday morning with a little bit of dignity (and no sanity). You love God and you love your girls.

Today when Doc officially becomes Dr. John R. Whitaker, the world will keep spinning for most people, but for me, it’s going to stop for just a minute. Because it hasn’t been pretty–it hasn’t been neat–and some days it was just about surviving. But you did it. You put this family on your back and kept your head down. You never ask for any credit or recognition–you just work hard because it’s in your bones. And as this chapter closes, as we move from our first home and into the next, and the challenges of residency come, we’ll get through in the classic Whitaker way–by having no idea what we’re doing, but loving God and each other a whole heck of a  lot.

And in the words of ole Frank:

“I planned each charted course
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.”

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

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