Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I've Been Everywhere With You (Except When I Haven't)

Curtis, meticulously packing his bags with exactly fifty pounds of goods...
  I’ll follow you into the park, through the jungle, through the dark
Girl, I never loved one like you
Moats and boats and waterfalls, alley-ways and pay-phone calls
I’ve been everywhere with you, that’s true
  Laugh until we think we’ll die, barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you
And in the streets we’re runnin’ free like it’s only you and me
Jeez, you’re somethin’ to see
    Home, let me come home
    Home is wherever I’m with you…
-Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, “Home”

Less than a year after Curtis and I were married, we spent over a week apart. I have often heard many a romantic story about the couple who “never spent more than a night apart”, but this hasn’t really worked out in our marriage, and that was a trend set early in our relationship.

Though we went to the same college and competed on the same team, our school year togetherness was a stark contrast to our summers apart. Many of our friends assumed, given our common home state, that we saw each other often throughout the summer months. The reality? Curtis lived on an island, and I wasn’t pulling in the “big bucks” it took to get out there. (Can we say airline monopoly? Yes we can.)

Money aside, flying out to an island (or into the city) would have been a pretty big statement about the seriousness of our relationship, one that wasn’t going to be made lightly, and thus the summers were spent emailing and writing letters, with a weekly phone call that lasted far longer than either of our non-phone-talking personalities should have been able to handle.

Then, we got married.

Spending every night together? The norm perhaps, but not without exception. The reality of medical school is that it is all consuming, and with a school calendar offering me a summer of possibilities, I wasn’t going to pass up an extra week with my family, or a weekend away with friends for the sake of camping at our apartment to soak up the twenty free minutes Curtis might have when he got home from work for the night.

Call me independent; I’m just not that girl.

Thus, even in our first year, we split up from time to time. I went to Florida to chaperone a senior trip. He stayed in Alaska an extra week to finish a rotation while I had to report back for the school year. I travelled hours away to boat and play with my friends. These separations were typically accompanied by phone calls and sentiments of missing one another, but not enough to call off the trips altogether.

And then there was Duluth.

In the midst of Curtis’s fourth year of medical school he travelled a lot to interviews and rotations literally all over the country. I went to visit whenever possible, but on a tight budget and a rigid school schedule the visits left something to be desired in the midst of us being just tired of being apart. One two week rotation found Curtis driving seven hours home so that we could be together for 24 hours on Easter weekend, a time when it was just depressing for both of us to be separated. But that two-week hiatus felt like nothing compared to the three-week monster that happened in December of 2009. You know all those wonderful holiday social activities that happen after Thanksgiving? He missed all of them thanks to a rotation 1,000 miles away that stretched from Thanksgiving to nearly Christmas.

It was after this that we determined we needed to add a caveat to our previously loved freedom: We like having the freedom to be apart…but not when it’s a really long time, and not when one of us is stuck in the middle of nowhere.

This summer has proved to be our biggest time apart yet, with Curtis being out of town for eight weeks, and me being with him for two weeks of it. His departures weren't terribly negotiable, with six weeks being required and two weeks being a “really great learning opportunity.” The non-negotiable six-week stint happened to be in a rural Alaskan village that you have to fly to. The good news? Someone pays for spouses to fly out and visit (think: future recruiting). The bad news? It’s out in the middle of nowhere, and this girl likes to keep busy.

And so, I am off: anxious to be reunited with my long lost husband, feeling like over a month apart (with a brief stint of togetherness in the middle) is more than either of us can even pretend to like, and ever confused about whether I love or hate Skype, which provides grainy, delayed communication that both energizes and frustrates me—sometimes at the same time.

I have 150 pounds to pack (mostly food, some clothes, and several books), and an adventure or two to find. The way I see it, the worst-case scenario will find me bored out of my mind, finished with all of my books and the two credit online course that I am saving for this trip, and anxiously watching out the window for Curtis to arrive home from the hospital for the day so that I can have some company.

If the end of the day finds me under the same roof as Curtis, I will happily endure the boredom that it costs to find that--at least for a little while. As much as I love being in my own house, with the freedom for projects and adventures and dates with friends, there is little that can compete with coming home to my husband wherever he may be, rural Alaskan village, stale bland apartment and all.

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