Aorta, Vomit, and Elephants.

My husband is breathing again. I’m pretty sure it had decreased significantly over the past month, and then for two days last week, stopped entirely.

Last Wednesday Clayton took the Physician Assistant Certification Exam, codename: PANCE. I have so many “party in Clayton’s PANCE” jokes handy, but I’ll spare you those. For now. So, last Tuesday was full of chest pains and heart palpitations and sweaty palms for both of us. Here is what Clayton’s schedule has looked like since we returned from Christmas in Miami:

9am – wake up

9:03am – begin studying

2am the following day – go to bed

9am – repeat

You might think I’m exaggerating, but the concerned looks on my parents’ faces after we moved in with them would confirm this pattern. The boy has worked his butt off. And this test was the very last piece of the puzzle that we’ve been assembling since November.

Luckily, the results for the test are posted on Thursday of each week. Clayton had heard that his classmates were getting their scores between 9 and 10am. So, Thursday morning rolls around. Bryson does the usual, and wakes us up around 7:30am with a few face licks and incessant whining until I let him out. Then I go back to bed. I know Clayton is awake, but he’s not saying anything. So, I don’t say anything just in case he’s not thinking about what I think we are definitely both thinking about. For the next two hours, we both drift between shallow sleep cycles and silent panic attacks that all begin with “What if…” Finally, around 9:30am, I get out of bed and begin the normal routine of coffee making and casually flipping on the computer. Clayton follows soon after, but no one is mentioning the 300 ton tie-dyed elephant in the middle of the living room named “Test Results.”

Without having to say anything, I join Clayton at the dining room table. We say a quick prayer and take a few deep breaths. We still can’t find words to attach to this moment, so we abandon trying. We walk over to my computer, which is on the love seat in the family room. Clayton sits on the love seat, and I kind of melt onto the floor, having lost most control over my motor functions. It feels like I’m breathing out of a coffee straw, and I wonder if, after being diagnosed with asthma three years ago, I’m actually experiencing my first asthma attack. Focus, Natalie. Clayton pulls up his email, and It’s. Right. There. An email from the Something Important Sounding National Federation to the Council of Advisers with White Hair and Pointy Chins. Or something like that. I don’t know because my vision was blurring and I was choking on my aorta that had crept up into the back of my throat. Hopefully, Clayton could diagnose that problem after we checked his results.

Turns out, we had to click through 4 links to get to the actual results page. Every time we clicked, we thought the next page was THE PAGE and I’m positive that we both almost vomited on my computer several times. For real, Clayton told me that he almost vomited on my computer several times. Six billion minutes later, the screen with our future pops up like it’s no big deal, like sure, I’ll just take for-freaking-ever to load and just all of a sudden light up with a formal looking, 10 point font table, so carelessly placed at the top of the screen like our corneas are not exploding to find that one word…

And then Clayton screamed. And then I saw it, too, and I screamed.


PASSED. Clayton passed the PANCE. On his very first try. So he pulls me up off the floor into a hug overflowing with relief and gratitude and tears and joy at knowing that it is over. He can exhale in a way that he never could before, with nothing looming in the future to worry about. This was the destination, and we have, at last, arrived.

So Congratulations to my husband!

Also, he would like me to point out that while the picture makes it look like he received the minimum passing score, he, in fact, scored well above it. The form just likes to remind people how numerically close they were to living with their in-laws for three more months.

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