She’s Not The Nanny, She’s My Sister.

I had no idea I had something so unique in common with Fran Drescher. Or, maybe, in this day and age it’s not so unique as I once thought it was.

I was watching ‘Oprah, Where Are They Now?’ a little while ago and Fran was her guest. I was shocked when I learned that Fran had once been married to a man who came out first, as bi-sexual, and then as gay a short time later. Not only that, but when Oprah asked her about their current relationship compared to their married life, Fran pretty much echoed what I had thought and continue to think to this day.

Fran stated she and her husband had a very active and satisfying sex life. I can relate to that. My ex and I had great sex and were very happily married. We have two wonderful kids. I must have been doing something right, huh? I can’t pinpoint any precise moment or event and I can’t say, because I don’t know, what inspired my ex to step out of the closet. I just know that one day all was right with the world and the next, everything had changed – sort of.

There was one thing that has not changed though we’ve been apart for ten years and divorced for three. We still love, respect and emotionally support each other enormously! I must confess that there was a period of time that I felt very hurt and lied to. How could he NOT tell me? I was very angry for much longer than I cared to admit to anyone, even myself. It wasn’t like we’d never talked about our previous relationships. He had simply omitted a few key details. But, I loved him then as I do now. I wanted a life with him and our kids. Considering the nature of the world and its less than accepting qualities for people who are bi, gay or transgendered, what he did made perfect sense. He wanted a wife and children. He wanted to be ‘normal’. He wanted to be loved and accepted by his own family.

As the years went by and we worked together to keep our marriage and family intact, with some slight variations on things, it slowly became clear it simply was not working as we hoped. We still loved each other, but it took a lot for us to admit to each other and ourselves, that neither of us was really happy with the current arrangement. We had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for a while by then, making up once excuse or another to family and friends, including the kids. Living together and living this lie day in and day out, had become exhausting. As much as it hurt, we knew continuing this lifestyle was doing more harm than good to the friendship we still both desperately wanted to keep.

Eventually it came to pass that he moved out and got a house about ten miles away. As he was just outside the school system the kids attended, they lived with me and went to visit him as often as they liked. The rest is pretty much your standard story of separation. I still had bouts of anger. I still felt cheated of the fairy tale life I thought I was getting on our wedding day. I still cried into my beer and over spilt milk. And though every shadow of hope that I’d once had that we could make it work had been obliterated by the bright light of truth, I still loved him. And, I knew he still loved me.

We still faced life together. If there was a problem with the kids, we dealt with it as a couple. We went to school functions as a family. We spent Christmas mornings together as his place, as a family. When our son went off to college, we all went together to see him off. It was never a burden to work or be together because despite our differences, we had vowed to each other to be there for our kids and to both be parents to those kids. No one was to ever feel like a single parent, ever! We owed our kids that. And, in some odd way we have maintained our marriage vows to always continue to love and honor each other as people, to be there for each other, for better for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. It took living apart to grow together as friends. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a lot more important than staying married for the sake of appearances.

My ex-husband is truly one of my dearest and best friends in the whole world. I feel like one of the most blessed people in the world and one of the luckiest, too. We may not have beat the divorced statistics, but I believe we have beat the odds in another way that is far more important. We entered the marriage with love. We left the marriage with love. Because of that, we’ve both been able to continue our lives in ways that have brought us greater happiness and a truer, deeper understanding of what it means to love someone unconditionally.

It was a very hard life lesson. I’ve since left the hurt and anger behind me. In doing so, I’ve been able to embrace completely the new and wonderful life (and man) I now have and to accept people much more easily for who they are. If your heart is full of love and acceptance, there just isn’t any room for hatred and bigotry.

As for Fran Drescher, she’s no longer The Nanny. She’s now become a kindred spirit and an emotional sister. How cool is that?

Road Gators, Vultures & Turkeys, Oh My!

I got me one of those new-fangled ‘smart’ phones about a month back. My previous phone was pretty old, took lousy pictures, and internet was next to impossible. I balked at spending so much on a new phone considering how little I used the old one, but not wanting to fall too far behind in the world of technology and thinking having something better for an upcoming road trip might not be such a bad idea, I bit the bullet and took the plunge.

Miraculously, I was able to transfer my minutes from my old phone to my new and input my contacts all by myself. Over the next two weeks, amongst other things, I learned how to answer my phone! Remember when all you had to do pick it up and say, “Hello?” I wanted to get to know this new piece of equipment as best I could before my teacher, my 23 year-old-son, was no longer available. Amazingly, my computer geek boyfriend’s phone is even more primitive than my old phone! He would be of no help whatsoever.

They say there are two tests that will either make or break a relationship; a building/remodeling project or a road trip. A road trip with a smoker not allowed to smoke in the car and this unfamiliar method of phone GPS promised to be an adventure. I was assured his need to smoke would coincide with my need to use the ladies room. This was not quite how it happened.

Our trip west was just over 1600 miles long one way. He’d traveled the roads twice on his own before and we’d made the journey together one-way a year and a half ago. His trips took two days. Our prior one-way took three, but we were pulling a U-Haul with a car stuffed to the gills. We allowed ourselves the time he’d made it in, two days. It seemed reasonable at the time. It also seemed a simple enough plan to take along lunch and drinks and snacks for the road. These were strategically placed, or so we thought, so that the passenger could easily turn around in their seat and get whatever beverage or edible was wanted.

Long story short, someone had to stop to pee AND have a smoke a whole lot more that there was need of the ladies room. Course, being as my daddy always taught me never to pass up a chance to pee while on the road, I made use of these stops, too. There was no hope of visiting Boggy Creek in Fouke, Arkansas, let alone play at Dinosaur World in Kentucky, but we did see plenty of Road Gators. Clearly we have different priorities when it comes to travel! Next time, damn it! As for those snacks and drinks, ease of retrieval involved undoing ones seat belt, turning around and half crawling into the back seat while your pilot cruised along at about 70 miles-per-hour keeping an eye out for the numerous police cars. Of course, if a cop had been spotted chances are pretty high in our less than nubile conditions, we’d never had made it back into our proper forward-facing seated positions in time. Hot coffee in a foam cup or thermos top was a blast. It was an adventure alright.

Admittedly it took longer than planned. We would like to blame a generous amounts of stop and go traffic due to construction, but I think it had more to do with too much coffee, sore bottoms, tired arms, head and neck aches, full bladders, nicotine fits, leg cramps, hunger and just plain “I’m tired and I’m cranky” moments. We rolled into the driveway of our final destination at about 1:15AM, a good three hours later than we’d hoped.

Our return trip thinking may not have been as well thought out as we’d intended. It’ll be faster if we miss all that construction, right? What’s a couple extra hundred miles, right? We’ll be going faster, right? It’ll be fine. Even if we get in by midnight, that’s alright. Did I mention Jim had to be to work by 2pm the day after we planned on getting home? No? Well… yeah. That’s not quite how it worked out either.

We got off track before we even left Texas! This is where the aforementioned new phone technology comes into play. It seemed a simple enough plan. Instead of going through construction riddled Waco and congested Dallas, we’ll just cut across and head towards Shreveport, Louisiana. Piece’o’cake. ‘Cept somehow we found ourselves heading towards Houston. Why does the car’s compass say we’re headed southeast? Without a paper map, we had to rely on my phone’s GPS which I had used maybe twice before and, of course, ‘Connection To GPS Has Been Lost’. Eventually, it kicked in well enough and long enough for me to figure out where we’d gone wrong and get us back on track, while Jim expertly avoided hitting a flock of five or six vultures dining on road kill armadillo. Past experience told him that it was in our best interest to not be driving around in the Deep South with a dead vulture pressed into the grill of the car.

We zipped through Louisiana and Mississippi like nobody’s business, keeping an eye on the numerous road gators, making certain they weren’t flesh and blood gators. We even stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center and did a touch of site-seeing. Alabama welcomed us and at 9:30 we started looking for motels. By 10:00 our exhausted bodies and brains were settled in. As we unloaded the car, and the loud drone of whatever big and bizarre nocturnal bugs and birds they have in the woods of Alabama buzzed around us, we wondered what State “Deliverance” is supposed to be set in and if we were anywhere near there. (Answer: The remote northern Georgia wilderness on the fictional Cahulawassee River and no.) Course… there’s still Big Foot or Skunk Ape or whatever they call him down there, to deal with!

Our hopes high, we gobbled down hardboiled eggs, blueberry muffins, bananas, and coffee the next morning in the motel room and headed out, bright and early by 7am. Tennessee and Kentucky proved to be our friends. Yeah, we’ve made it to Virginia. I silently wished there was time to visit my cousin in Roanoke. And then, we saw the flashing lights.

“Urgent Message When Flashing” the roadside sign warned and told us where to tune for details. We tuned in. We listened. It didn’t seem to pertain to us. We sallied forth, returning to whatever decent rock station would come in, settling on country as we had to. Several miles later, “Right lane closed ahead. Prepare to stop.” Traffic reports on the radio told us there were delays ahead. We slowed to the pace of a rolling parking lot. Dead still and a walking pace swapped places for the next fifteen to twenty miles, at least. It seemed like a hundred. Jim threatened to get out and walk alongside the car while I drove so he could have a ciggy. It probably wasn’t really such a bad idea. I’m sure we’d have stayed abreast of each other well enough. Thank God neither of us needed to use the restroom.

Over the radio we heard something like this: “The right lane of Interstate 81 North in Botetourt County near mile marker 154 will remain closed until approximately 7 p.m. while crews continue clean up from a tractor-trailer accident. The tractor-trailer was hauling around 2,700 turkeys. Crews on scene are still removing turkeys from the area. Drivers are advised to keep watch for any other birds that may still be loose in the area.” What could we do but burst out laughing? I know, I know. It shouldn’t have been funny at all. Poor terrified turkeys and all, but all I could imagine were turkey running amok along the roadside like some sort of Warner Brother’s cartoon and an incident with my brother when he was just learning to read.

It was a different road trip entirely. I was seven. My brother would have been about ten. We were headed to Florida and suddenly he said, “Well, where are they?” One of my parents asked, “Where are what?” He said, “The chickens.” Confused looks were exchanged. “What chickens?” “The chickens I keep seeing the signs for.” More confused looks took place. He was instructed to point out one of these signs if he saw another and sure enough in only a few more miles he announced triumphantly, “There’s one! See! Speeding chicken by road! So, where are the chickens?” My parents both burst out laughing. “No, honey, that says, ‘Speed Checked By Radar’. My brother was quite disappointed.

We, too, were disappointed in some strange way. Not only did we not see any amok turkeys, speeding or otherwise, by the time we reached the accident site there was nothing but a dusting of white feathers scattered along the road while clean-up crew men picked up traffic cones and freed us to return to full highway speed once more. The Cracker Barrel in Bristol, Virginia fed us and the skies just outside of Winchester delighted us with a beautiful sunset. It was clear by now we were not going to make it home by midnight, not even close. GPS told us we still had five and a half hours to go. Stopping for the night seemed more sensible than getting ourselves killed.

Sleep was short and fitful. I felt so bad for Jim, knowing he was not sleeping any better than I was and that he had to be into work that afternoon. I took first shift driving, hoping he’d be able to get in a couple more hours of sleep at least. I’m pretty sure we were both feeling the stress more than either of us let on. We just wanted to get home.

By noon, we’d passed yet another test of our relationship. I realized along the way that different things about these trips and driving seemed to annoy us. That really worked to our advantage, because when one person was getting antsy and annoyed, the other was able to remain calm and interject some humor into the situation. We make a good team, me thinks.

Now… about that building project.