If you heard this one side of my cell phone conversation, what would you think?
"Hello, yeah, is he gone?"
"What? You said he'd be gone by 5:45. I'm not just going to keep driving around waiting for him to leave."
(second muffled reply)
"Okay, well, then I'll meet you down by Bishop's Supermarket. Hurry up."
You would probably assume I was in the middle of some illicit affair with a married woman. If you thought that, you'd be wrong.
It was me arranging to pick up my dinner.
Let me explain.
My ex-wife Arlene and I have a very good relationship. It is a much better relationship than the one we would have had if we had actually stayed married. I hope my kids can appreciate that fact. There are untold horror stories of divorced couples using their kids as weapons to hurt each other. There are divorced couples who, even after 30 years, can't stand to be in the same room with one another. And then there's Arlene and me. Even though we're divorced, she handles and drops off my taxes at the accountant, picks me up when my car is in the shop and we sit together (along with Dennis, her boyfriend) at all our kids' events. Arlene buys me presents for Father's Day and I buy her presents for Mother's Day, although those gifts are supposed to be "from the kids."
During Hurricane Irene a few years ago, my townhouse lost power. I called Arlene whose house was still functioning in the storm. She told me Danny (our youngest) was stuck at his girlfriend's house and couldn't get home because of all the downed wires -- although, I'm sure Danny wouldn't have used the word "stuck." But, that being the case, there was an extra room, and she asked if I wanted to stay there. I thanked her, packed a few things (scotch) and headed over. What normally would have been a 20-minute ride ended up being a two-hour ordeal. Streets were blocked by fallen trees with power lines draped across their broken branches. I maneuvered through back roads that I didn't even know existed; I followed some innate primal urge to get safe and dry (and drunk) and eventually made it to Arlene's house.
After I unpacked (poured a drink) I gathered in the dining room with Arlene and Dennis along with Amanda (daughter) and her boyfriend, Paul. To round out this menagerie was Arlene's sister Andrea who had come for a visit, but was now trapped (stuck?) unable to get back to her own town.
After we had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner Arlene announced, "Let's watch a movie."
Dinner, drinks and a show.
Don't get me wrong, I am very happy that this is the type of relationship we have. I just couldn't help think how odd other people would view this arrangement. One thing that has evolved over the years between Arlene and me that even I find strange is our relationship with food.
For some reason, and I don't know how it all started, Arlene feels compelled to feed me. I certainly don't have a problem with that: Arlene is an excellent cook. It's the manner how I get the food that is strange. Like something out of a spy novel, we started to have food "drops." I'm not sure why because I'm sure Dennis doesn't give a damn that Arlene gives me leftovers, but it was just something that happened. I would walk in to pick up the kids and Arlene would whisper, "There's a bag in the front seat of my car -- baked ziti".
She might as well have said, "The frost is on the pumpkin" then stroked her index finger across the side of her nose like Paul Newman in The Sting.
The food might show up anywhere: in my son's room, the front porch, a hollowed out copy of War and Peace. It's come to the point that when I pull into the driveway I check the mailbox for a forgotten veal parmesan sandwich.
As for the one-sided phone conversation above, I pulled into Bishop's parking lot next to Arlene's van. I got out of my car with a bag full of empty Tupperware containers from previous drops. She got out of her car with a bag full of containers filled with ravioli, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.
We quickly exchanged packages, got back into our cars and drove away. Another successful prisoner exchange.
There is a consequence, however, to having such a good relationship with my ex-wife.
I really need to drop a few pounds.