By Chandrama Anderson
Love (not Zero)Uploaded: Apr 2, 2021
Once while soaking up the beauty of Taos, New Mexico, and the surrounding mountains, valleys, rivers, Rio Grande gorge, aspens, wild flowers, desert terrain, thunder and lightening storms, red rocks and wild skies of Georgia O'Keefe's and many peoples' ancient homes, I read Dr. Abraham Verghese's book "The Tennis Partner."
This is a powerful story of many topics, and one could write about any or all of them. I will write about one small paragraph in which he talks about his marriage and how he might have saved it if he had given it the attention that he gave to tennis and his journals about tennis.
Before I comment on that further, I want to say that Verghese's sharing of men's friendship, which I have seldom heard discussed or written about, and I would venture to say, is of vital importance for men, is reason enough to read to this book.
I see many men who are isolated with their own struggles and issues of relationship, career, success, desire, anxiety, pressure, and more. Some men share this with their partner. Many do not. These issues do come out in couples counseling, either organically, or if not, I ask.
In one of the few gender-based comments I make, men tend to have what are called "side-by-side" relationships with each other; i.e., doing things together, watching sports, etc. In this true story, Abraham and David play tennis and are doctors together, and have flashes of intimate conversation.
Equally potent, and central to "The Tennis partner" is the story of addiction, denial, questions of co-dependency, helping, and heartfelt care.
The sub-theme of secrets, and that one is only as sick as one's secrets, is present, and to me important because there is not much written on this topic and its impact on those affected by secrets.
The comprehensive writing about tennis remind me of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," in which there are detailed descriptions about race car driving. If you are a tennis fan, you'll love the texture and language of these sections. After a practice session or game, Abraham writes about angles, hand-holds on the racket, foot positions, placement of his body on the court, the net -- every little detail.
The demise of Abraham's marriage and his worries about his boys are universal themes that are well written, even if they are a lesser part of his story. Which leads me to relationships and paying attention.
In one paragraph out of the entire book, he notes that if he had paid as much detailed attention to his marriage as he did to his tennis game and his written analysis of it, his marriage would likely not be failing. And he is probably right. From what little he describes of their relationship, presumably to protect their privacy, he likely leaves a lot out. He and his wife have a few differences and grow apart.
My point here is not to say what Verghese coulda, woulda, or shoulda done, but to help you, reader, understand that you have the opportunity to pay attention to your partner, and put in time, attention and love (again). You have a good shot at having a wonderful, healthy relationship; to go from being being partners to being a couple -- again. I see it happen all the time. Love (not zero).