Once upon a time, I won a man in a contest. You don’t see that every day – a man up for grabs. Actually it was a company contest to win a date with a man whose name was not divulged, but the newsletter called him ‘Dr. Timeshare’. He had a monthly column in the Timeshare Company’s publication. I know what you’re thinking. Oh, that explains everything. It was those crazy timeshare people. Here’s more fuel to that fire. I had to go to Mexico to claim the man. Kooky, lawless, Mexico. Puerto Vallarta would host my ‘Dream Date with Dr. Timeshare”.
At the time, I lived on Maui and worked for the timeshare company. Why, you say, would I need to go to Mexico for a date when there are all those surfer- types on Maui? This story gets complicated, but let me divulge that when I won the date, I was almost unmarried to one of those Maui surfer types. Just substitute ‘scuba diver’ for ‘surfer’ and while you're substituting you might as well change ‘unmarried’ to ‘divorced’.
I entered the dream date contest in a state of boredom one Maui afternoon while I waited for my next podium speech to a group of tourists who’d signed up for the timeshare presentation. I was the gal who gave the introductory talk about how we weren’t going to rip you off, just show you a better way to vacation. Consequently I worked ten minutes out of every hour and had fifty off to read newsletters, enter contests to find alternative husbands and such.
To tell the truth, I actually thought the dream date contest might be a joke but with that truth-in-advertising law, I knew that a company couldn’t offer a week in Puerto Vallarta, plane fare and condo included, if they weren’t going to cough up the trip. It turned out that Dr. Timeshare was a flesh and blood, thirty year old man who lived in P.V., sold timeshare, and was single. He’d just come off four months of chemo and radiation for Hodgkin’s disease, was growing his hair back in and wanted a date. (These were details I found out later, in dribbles and bits, before, and after I met the good ‘Doctor’).
I’ve now given away the fact that I won the contest and ended up in Mexico but first let me tell you that only two of us entered, and the other gal was his best friend’s wife whose entry was merely a joke. Mine was serious, stemming from a great need for fun after a marital breakup. My entry included my 8x10 headshot (did I mention that I was an actress/singer?) and I must say it was a smashing shot of my head. Those were the golden years. To illustrate that fact I must recount that Dr. Timeshare’s co-worker/friend was on Maui for business, saw me in a bikini commercial on TV, found out I’d just left my husband, was recently single and called the Doctor in Mexico to tell him he’d better hurry with that plane ticket. “She won’t be single for long,” he said.
When the Doctor called me, I’d just signed on to do ‘Some Like it Hot” on stage and was going into rehearsals the next day. The first day I could fly to Puerto Vallarta was three months away and, being a cool dude, he told me that worked out perfectly for him too.
I was single for the first time in three years but didn’t date anyone. At all. Not even flirt. You say that’s no great feat when my leads in the play were both gay but I had some offers outside of my theatre friends. A chef, a gardener, a musician. Then the Doctor started calling. Dr. Timeshare, that is. We spoke on the phone several times and it turned out we had mutual friends and almost met on Maui at least once. He’d even chartered my ex-husband’s fishing boat for a tournament but had to cancel. Kismet was already at work.
Before I flew to my dream date, I tried to gather information about Doctor Timeshare, including his name. Roland. I’d been told conflicting information about his physical appearance but everyone agreed he was funny as hell and Canadian. Which is redundant, seeing all Canadians are hilarious.
My first glimpse of The Doctor at the P.V. airport showed that he was handsome, poised and well-dressed. I eventually found him to be extremely polite (Canadian again), and such a sweet man that I decided to do more than have dinner with him that week. We had breakfast more than once, but I digress. Back to the airport.
His Antonio Banderas Spanish impressed me like crazy as he helped me through customs in double time and together we drove to the timeshare resort to check me in. He’d left a Smart car-sized bouquet of flowers in my condo. Nice touch. I met him in the poolside bar for a margarita as big as a goldfish bowl which was probably meant as an ice breaker but ended up being almost a leg breaker. When I got up to walk to the bathroom, I almost fell down a flight of stairs and on my return, the Doctor had a nice stiff cup of coffee waiting for me. More brownie points.
During the week, he told me about his fight with cancer and I thought he was one of the bravest men I’d ever met. His outlook on life was one of optimism and exuberance and I found myself wanting to be a part of that life, that excitement. After seven days of laughing our heads off and falling in love, I went back to Maui without my new boyfriend.
When people asked about the dream date, I smiled and said “It was dreamy.” Countless phone calls later (before cell phones and texting) we met in Palm Springs for a long weekend. We’d been apart six weeks – too long.
“Do you ever want to marry again,” he asked me, “or are you done with that institution?”
“No!” I said. “I want to be married. I just want it to be someone who wants the same thing in life as me.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
We married a year to the day we met -- December 4th 1991, on a Maui beach in front of a hundred people. By then Roland had moved to Maui, leaving his conga line lifestyle, so I could continue my career in entertainment. A helicopter flew over us to drop hundreds of purple orchids. Roland’s touch. We were blissfully happy, nauseatingly in love and unaware that cancer would resurface only a year later.
When chemo was recommended, my brave husband endured weeks of it. He took a leave of absence from work, we moved into a little apartment to conserve money and held on tightly to each other, both afraid to voice what we feared most. He pulled through, but Maui wasn’t paradise for him after that, and we moved to Whistler, Canada where he set up a new timeshare company.
When I got pregnant in 1996, we couldn’t believe our luck. But, just before our sweet son turned one, Roland was diagnosed with recurring Hodgkin’s disease. Third time.
This time we headed to Vancouver to one of the world’s best Hodgkin’s chemotherapists. After buckets of chemo drugs and a stem cell transplant, Roland checked himself out of the Cancer Center in spite of the doctor’s warnings that he’d die with no immune system. He needed to get his counts up. Platelets were necessary before he even walked down the hall and out the doors from the bubble-like wing for stem cell transplant patients. Nothing I said could convince him to stay in that hospital bed and we headed home to Whistler one rainy day in November hoping his fear of hospitals wouldn’t ultimately kill him.
He survived. After a year off work he was itching to get back in the working force and took a job with an upstart company in Seattle (not timeshare). I finally gave up all aspects of my performing career. No theatre, no singing in clubs, no radio or TV commercials. I settled in to full time motherhood with our son and planned our next child while my husband endured the commute to Seattle everyday from our suburban dream home. In 2002 we adopted a baby girl from Taiwan to complete our family and we settled into living the American Dream.
As I write this, Roland and I are coming up on twenty-four years of marriage. Our kids are thirteen and eighteen. We’ve laughed our guts out over the years, cried a lake’s worth of tears and had our share of disagreements. We would probably get the prize for the messiest house on our street. Kids come and go, dogs track muddy footprints through the kitchen, sometimes I make a sit down dinner, sometimes we eat snacks on the run. But we’ve been cancer-free for over seventeen years and a day does not go by that I don’t thank someone for that.
Our love has evolved into something I like to compare to a great timeshare. We’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth and done things we might not have done. There’s been no wishing we took a different route, spent our money differently, walked away while we still had the chance. Marrying Dr. Timeshare was the deal of a lifetime. Lots of fun and no buyer’s remorse.