Birthday parties & bathrooms

Two weeks ago, it was my first family funeral. On Saturday, it was the first family birthday party. This was for my two grandchildren, who live, interestingly enough, with their parents, my son and his wonderful wife. They live across the lake from Montague, in Whitehall. I don’t hold it against them.

The party was at my son’s pizza joint, Rebel Pies. About thirty people attended. Notable among those in attendance was my son’s mother who, interestingly enough, was my first wife. It was the first time Kim and I saw each other since I transitioned.

A year ago, when I was set to go public, she was understandably concerned. Her number one interest was our children. Everything happening with me was hard enough on them. Now, for my story to be known by all, who knew what stresses would enter their lives?

I absolutely agreed with Kim’s concerns. I could not tell her, “It will be okay. I have this figured out. Trust me.” No, I had nothing figured out. I could guarantee nothing about how it would go for the kids. I only knew that I had to proceed, that I would do so with care, and that I would be patient and calm with everyone.

By October, things were coming together very nicely with my kids and I. I hope that I did my part as I needed to for their sake. I am thankful for their love for their old dad, that they were able to grab onto the wonderful love that we built throughout their lifetimes, for which their mother was largely responsible.

With this March birthday party on the schedule since January, I took the leap with Kim. We had not talked or emailed since last spring. I needed to break the ice. I had been wanting a favorite recipe from her. A month ago, I wrote an email in search of it and then shared some family news in the manner that she and I always had kept up with the kids through each other.

The Kim that I always admired and respected came through for me. She sent the recipe and wrote the usual newsy, friendly, fun email that is a mark of hers. Since then, we have traded several emails, always having lots of kids and grandkids news to share since we have four children together, and now seven grandchildren.

We were ready to see each other on Saturday. Julie and Swis and I had arrived when Kim and her husband got there. Very quickly, Kim came over, greeted me with a big, happy, “Hi, Gina!” and we hugged, and we chatted and, goodness, I am so pleased about this. Thank you so much, Kim.

The party was a grand success. On Sunday, we gathered with that son and family, and my daughter and family who came up from Indy, at a restaurant for brunch. It pleases me so that my kids and grandkids can go out to eat with me and NOT ONE THING is different than ever before. I am so pleased with my kids!

Readying to leave, I was standing in the crowded lobby, where a couple of dozen folks were waiting for tables, while Julie was using the bathroom. Talk about feeling on display while standing among that bunch. One woman, maybe fifty years old, could not stop looking at me. I kept glancing back her way and, yup, she was looking at me. Thankfully, things like that don’t unsettle me.

As Julie and I drove back to Indy, we stopped at our usual place, which is about the halfway point, to get gas and use the bathroom. Know this about that: When making the Indy to Montague trip by myself—which I did eight times last year—I held it for the entire 280 mile, 4:45 trip. While I’ve used women’s restrooms a number of times since last July, I don’t make it a habit, and I prefer not to do it without Julie.

We pulled into the station. I would pump the gas and Julie would go in to use the restroom. Strike one: I would have to enter the restroom alone—so much for my bodyguard! Finishing with the gas, I went in. Oh, gravy: Not only was it busy, there were ladies, inside the restroom, standing in line for one of the two busy stalls. Strike two: “Here we go, Gina, your first time standing with women waiting for a stall!”

As I stood there, Julie exited her stall, washed her hands, asked me for the car keys, then proceeded to leave. So much for her being my muscle, for running interference for me. Harrumph.

Thankfully, that was not strike three. No one paid me any particular attention or, at least, they didn’t show it. I sensed no stares. I heard no giggles. After I got my stall and finished, I exited to see, of course, a couple of new faces. Again, no one paid me any never mind. Still, I was thankful to get my hands dried and exit the restroom.

With this experience, maybe, just maybe, I can flush my fear of solo public restroom visits. I certainly have jumped a taller hurdle which I once found insurmountable. In July of 2013, during those months when we were trying to figure out if I would—if I could—transition, we were driving home from the out-of-state wedding of our son. I was bawling, “There is no way I can ever be a woman in a setting like that, with my kids and other family. We have to find a way for me to remain male.”

I was wrong. And, wow, am I ever dazzled, dumbfounded, and delighted how we have been able to negotiate every twist to the family dynamic and each turn of events. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and care. Thank you, Lord, for my family’s love.

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