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He stood in the War Room (appropriately named I might add) giving himself a silent pep talk, hoping no one would discern how terrified he was. The room had a slight chill in the air but looking at him you would think the thermostat had been turned up 10 degrees. He bit his lip as he loaded everything he needed, using the routine of his actions to pull himself together. He visualized his presentation, marked changes where needed and thought about the impact this moment will have. One hour. All the sacrifices he made the last five years boiled down to one hour.
The committee members trickled in one by one, shaking hands with each other in passing. Everyone settled in around the massive conference table, them on one side and him on the other. The only barrier to protect him from what was to come.
Then visitors came in to sit on the sidelines. Some there to show support for him while others were there to witness what was in store for them at a later date when they too would take the stage and defend their fate.
Then it was time. Time to begin. The quiver in his voice was imperceivable to most in the room except me. My heart was in my throat as I watched helplessly. The Firing Squad (the nickname I lovingly gave the committee of judges), showed no mercy, pulling the trigger on their questioning right away. Questions that would make most weak in the knees and almost collapse under pressure. Not him. Shoulders back, chest raised, head held high, he defended his research ferociously and without waiver. That one hour mark I so anxiously watched for, passed, the presentation and onslaught of questioning continued. It felt like it would never seize. Finally he concluded. In that moment I realized I had been gripping the arms of my chair so tightly my fingers had gone numb. I thought the worst was over, until they turned to all the visitors asked them to leave. He was now left alone and surrounded by the Firing Squad.
Watching through the window I held my breathe thinking this is it. It wasn’t. Time was suspended. What felt like another hour (in actuality it was probably no longer than 10 minutes) passed, they questioned him even more. I turned my back to the window not wanting to watch but at the same time not wanting to miss anything. Then the sound of the door opening jarred me from the silence. As quickly as it opened, it shut again. This time he was on this side of the door standing beside me. Then we both waited anxiously as the Firing Squad continued without him. I could feel the energy pulsing. His heart raced with anticipation. Then it came. The door to the War Room opened and he was summoned back in. I watched with deaf ears and tried my best to channel my skills at reading lips. Then realized I had no such skills. Need to work on that.
I watched for any signs that things were leaning in his favor. Nope. Nothing. Just when the suspense was going to make me faint, he walked over to pull out a sheet of paper. He placed it on the table. One-by-one, each member of the Firing Squad stepped forward and signed their name for his freedom.
Finally it was done. Now we can begin living our lives again.
I cannot begin to express how proud I am of my husband, the newly titled Dr. Nelms. This has been a journey unlike any other. One that seemed to be doomed from the beginning. Just after he had taken the first step to begin this arduous pilgrimage we found out we were pregnant. Not only were we pregnant, we were having twins. To make things more exciting, I was placed on hospital bedrest at only nineteen weeks. And the boys made their debut two months later at 27 weeks, far sooner than anticipated. Through all this he endured. He held a full time job, made daily trips to the hospital to see our preemie sons, and pursued his dreams of a PhD. He could have given up, and to be quite honest there were a few times he almost did, but he pressed on. I am so glad he did. Not only is this his legacy it is our family legacy. Sacrifices were made by us all, which only makes the taste of victory so much sweeter.
He missed the cutoff for the graduation ceremonies so we will have to wait until Spring to see him take the stage, but who cares….he is done!
However, if he comes to me in a few months and says he wants to pursue an M.B.A……..I will not be responsible for my actions!