Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why, Yes. Yes There Is a Doctor in the House.

The African elephant, I recently learned, has the longest gestation period of all mammals—22 months. That sounds painfully exhausting if you ask me. But I can tell you with certainty that the African elephant has nothing on the American PhD candidate.

Nine years ago, when we had one tiny baby (and we thought our lives were busy), we moved to Dallas, Texas, where my husband would pursue a Master’s Degree in Literature. A year later, he was enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Dallas and was on his way to earning a PhD.

I, naïve young thing that I was, truly believed that in a mere three, or at most four, years we’d be walking away from that fine institution cradling a sweet little diploma in our arms.

I, of course, ought to have known better; I have had a college student in my household for all but a few short years of my life. I have had a graduate student in my immediate family for half my life, at least. Higher education is and has always been my bread and butter. My own father, if I’m not mistaken, was a college student for fourteen years, and I was old enough to remember when he finished his PhD. (There was great rejoicing.) So why I assumed that my husband would have no trouble accomplishing such a feat in a few short years, I do not know. Looking back now, the expectation seems completely ridiculous.

“I recognize a workhorse when I see one,” said my husband’s professor as he introduced Jayson before his final public lecture two weeks ago, “and when I took one look at Dr. Grieser’s faculty description on the website of the college where he teaches, I could see that that’s exactly what he is.”

It’s true. Only a workhorse (or maybe an elephant) would do what my husband has done. But at that moment, I wanted to stand up and tell everybody present, “You don’t know the half of it.”

For the young, childless bachelor living on nothing but student loans and ramen noodles to complete a doctorate is nothing to sneeze at, I suppose. But for the family man who does the same thing—while simultaneously retaining a full-time job, a social life, and a church life, as well as the love of his wife and five children—some special honor should certainly be added to the degree: PhDE, perhaps (Doctor of Philosophy, Extraordinaire.) Give that man an extra stripe on his academic robe, say I, and an extra tassel on his tam. It wouldn’t be too much, would it, if I followed him around town holding a flashing neon Applause sign over his head, would it? Surely not.

Plenty of people have asked me, “Isn’t it such a relief for him to be done?” And the answer, of course, is yes. But it is more than a relief; it is pride and gratitude and euphoria and fatigue, all rolled into one. If you have ever given birth to a child, you know exactly what I mean.

But just as with the birth of a child, when one kind of labor is finished, a new kind of labor begins. Much as I may wish we could take an extended vacation to celebrate the completion of this degree, I have to remind myself of the saying repeated every year at graduation by my husband's students: Omni cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. (To whom much is given, much is required.) Jayson, workhorse that he is, had hardly taken on the title of "doctor" before he moved on to the task of planning new classes to teach and making improvements to the classes he currently teaches. He finished his glass of champagne, and then took up his books again for the work ahead. After all (as Shelley once observed), "nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon."

Now that the dissertation is complete and successfully defended, you can only imagine how good it feels to be delivered of that 250-page burden. It took my husband nine years of graduate school to bring forth that baby. Nine years. That, if you're counting, is the gestation period of the African elephant five times over. So if you notice a new lightness in his step, you now understand why.

After all these years, I am delighted to finally report that yes, there is indeed a doctor in the house.


Bree said...

SO happy for you all.

Erika said...

Good work Jayson. And, congratulations to the whole family!

Anonymous said...

oh Hannah many congratualtions!!!

Jeremy was in school since Carter was one, she is now 8 and we too are sighing with relief and laughing because he graduated this last June 12th in the evening and started his new job June 13th in the early AM, no rest for the weary!
3 big cheers for hardworking husbands! (and their supportive wives). Carissa

kelly said...

Jayson, Congrats, You earned it!

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