Portraits of a Petey

Not Petey.

The first view of Petey is an actual portrait.  It’s a school portrait from the seventh grade.  My ever-loving spouse is about 13.  His dark wavy hair is cut short, as befitting the son of an army officer.  His bright blue eyes twinkle and are made brighter by a complexion one might call, “English Rose”.

He’s wearing a groovy turtleneck in a color that was called harvest gold, under a sweater in the far out 1972 shade of burnt orange.  I didn’t know him at this age, but in this photo, he looks exactly like season two Greg Brady.

greg b

Not Petey either.

The second view is his high school junior photo.  Greg Brady has left the building.  His now curly dark hair hangs well below his shoulders.  The eyes are still blue, the skin alabaster, and the cheeks still pink.  His shirt is silky with collars so long they almost brush his wide, white leather belt.  Dad has retired from the army, and military precision haircuts have been retired as well.

Petey lived here, but this is not Petey, it’s a sign.

The first time I see him, I’m 15 and at my best friend Kitty’s house.  There are two brothers in the Murphy clan, Michael and Chrissie.  Petey’s best friends with Chrissie and lives across the street.  He’s cute and nice, unlike cranky Chrissie.  But I barely register him, because I’ve been madly in love with Michael since I was nine.

But, Petey’s awfully cute.

The hospital we both worked at, but this is not Petey.

When The Murphy’s move to Indiana, I begin working at the hospital, where Petey works as an orderly.  We bond over missing our friends.  We spend way too much time fraternizing at work and talk on the phone every day for hours.  He’s sweet, really funny, and I make him laugh.

And his white orderly uniform looks really, really good on him.

Jerry Lewis, not Petey.

He’s wearing that uniform on New Year’s Eve when he stops by a party I’m attending with mutual friends.  He has to be in at 11PM, but decided to swing by on the way to work.  Two things happen that night.

Right before leaving, he asks me for a New Year’s kiss.  Then he says something that changes my life, forever.

Not Petey, but dates (Get it? Dates?).

“I’ve been wanting to date you.”

With the quick thinking and nimble tongue for which I’m internationally famous, I reply, “You’ve been wanting to what me?!?”

Possibly because of the uber sangfroid I display, we actually begin dating.

Nope. Not Petey.

I glimpse a new side of Petey.  When he looks at me, his eyes get soft.  My friend Kat says it’s love.

A little over a year later, he’s wearing a gray tuxedo, and watching me walk down the aisle.  He’s standing next to the magistrate, who’s waiting to marry us.

A hotel room, still not Petey.

The next day, I peek in the bathroom of our honeymoon suite at the Williamsburg Inn.  He’s sitting in their swimming pool-sized claw-foot bathtub.  He’s singing and swilling a bottle of our wedding Champagne.

Fast forward nine years, as he smiles, and says, “Well, hello there.”  The eyes of our minutes-old Kid open for the first time, and instantly focus on the most familiar voice in this newborn’s world.

Cameron Indoor Stadium, and not…Petey.

Eighteen years later we’re sitting in Cameron Indoor watching that baby receive a high school diploma.  In a move that shocks only him, Petey cries.  He later confides that the entire life of our child flashes before him, and he is reliving the milestones all over again.

The movements are slower, and due to illness, a bit more hesitant.  But the twinkle in the eye, the twinkle I’ve relied on for more than thirty-five years, is still there.  Often, I spy the softness as well.  But more likely, that’s just the onset of age-related presbyopia.



Thanks for your time.

Portrait of a pig

It wasn’t the name he was christened with, but Pig is how everybody in town knew him.  It was a versatile moniker not unlike Beaver’s name on Leave It To Beaver.  It was his name, “Hey Pig! How’s it going?” and when preceded by an article, it was a description, as in, “Anybody seen the Pig?”

He wasn’t a member of the porcine species, but a giant man-child, with a chest that would make any barrel jealous, and hands the size of hubcaps.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know him—for various reasons, everybody in Elizabeth City knew him.  But once I started dating Petey; his best friend, I got to know him very well indeed.

Sometimes maybe a little too well.  It seemed like every time we tried to sneak off for a little privacy, that boy would find us.  Listening for sweet talk in my ears, they would instead be assaulted with “Hooty-Hoot!”, Pig’s very own aloha.  This was the early 80’s but it was like we were both fitted with GPS trackers.  We would go to the mall or deep into the woods, it didn’t matter—The Pig would eventually show up.

This is kinda what it felt like.

With the conviction of medieval Crusaders, Petey and I made a solemn vow to get our Velcro-like friend a woman.  But of course when Pig found his own mate, we didn’t think she was good enough for our colossal buddy.

Maybe it was because his first choice was already taken.  Once he sat at my mother’s table and ate her spaghetti and meatballs, he was a goner.  As a member of the National Guard, he’d eaten his way through Italy, but still insisted that my mom’s was the best he’d ever had.

And she had a soft spot for him.  Each December Mom has a luncheon to frost the hundreds of cookies she bakes for the holidays.  The rule was, if you break it, you eat it.  Which sounds awesome until a second cookie is broken at your hand, and a laser-beam like Mom-eye is turned in your direction, and you spontaneously combust, leaving behind nothing but a pile of smoldering ash.

She did warn us…

All except Pig.  His first year he broke every cookie he touched.  Holding our breath, us veterans watched, waiting for the cyclone of pain coming his way.  Except, it never came.  In a response that was never repeated for another soul, Mom smiled benignly and let the cookie plunder continue unabated.

The next year she made him his personal batch.  He inhaled them all.  But not before uttering a pro forma “Oops” each time.  This was Pig’s nod to the cookie interpretive dance he and my mother were performing.

His heart was as big as the rest of him.  When we moved across town, Petey and the Pig volunteered to help.  Early in the day, his eyes lit up while packing one of the bathrooms he spied a Hershey-colored fuzzy toilet seat cover.  He slapped it on his head and wore it for the rest of the day.  He looked like a French cave man sporting a beret made from the fur of a wooly mammoth.

I swear, this is what he looked like (minus the bones, and fur dress).

My brother still talks about that day.

We’d lost touch with the Pig for some time, then one day a couple of years ago we heard a motorcycle pull up, and then our doorbell rang.  I opened the door and was confronted with an enormous bald man.  I was perplexed, and not a little frightened.  Then he opened his mouth.

And said, “Hooty-Hoot!”

Thanks for your time.