Refusing To Settle
December 31, 2007
Merry Christmas! I’m crimson with shame that I haven’t gotten the holiday letter out sooner. The packing and unpacking has taken quite the toll on me and the rest of the family. (As we speak, Robert, silly goose, is scrawling spread formations on the suite walls!) Kelsey and Nick finished their exams in Georgia with solid Bs, and we’re still speaking with the principal and the fire department about Katie’s spring reinstatement. Bobby Jr.’s lessons are going swimmingly; his stuttering is r-r-really disappearing! I caught his neighborhood friends lifting him by the shorts. It must be a going away ceremony.
It’s been a long year for us, but adversity is just God’s friendly shove on the swingset of life. And even the windowless breakfast center of the Radisson can’t shut out the light of Petrino family love! We started in Louisville in January. Robert had just finished sipping his dinner and settled in for the evening. I joined him after I helped the kids with their homework, baking, and uncontrollable sobbing. During the local news I saw a Home Depot commercial on TV. Robert told me not only did he know the founder, but also to be ready to meet him in the morning. How I love surprises! The commercial said that Home Depot offered great service you can count on, and darn if the next day we weren’t on an all-expenses flight to Atlanta! I confess I had a drip of vodka in my first class ginger ale, and Robert had a drip of ginger ale in his, too.
Naturally we were relaxed when the plane touched down and who did we meet but the Home Depot guy! His name was Arthur something and his teeth were very white. I guess he was a marriage counselor too, because over the next few hours we talked about “being the right fit”, “commitment”, “hard work”, “being a professional”, “putting a good face on everything”, and “how quickly can you come”. I told Arthur that I would be remaining faithful and we had just renewed our vows last year, but that only got a glare from Robert. After a while the big black conference room fell silent and Robert looked at me with those mournful brown eyes just like Raul Julia, so of course I just about melted and gave a “Whatever you think is best for us and the kids, dear,” and that was that! We were moving to Atlanta! Unfortunately I didn’t look the part of southern Belle; I was wearing a ten year old Utah State sweatshirt. My gosh, that was six jobs ago! I asked if we could go back to Louisville and pack up a couple boxes. Initially Robert shook his head, but after some jostling and a little bit of love, I reminded him the kids were still home and we had only paid through 10 pm for the sitter.
Well, as you know we spent a couple of months in Atlanta. Let me tell you: we don’t know what that General Sherman was thinking! That city is chock full of interesting history; Katie would tell me she was “going out” and wouldn’t be back for days at a time! Kelsey and Nick finished their exams and then started at Jimmy Carter High in February. And Bobby Jr. became our little Georgia O’Keefe, spending hours up in his room just quietly sketching cow skulls. I don’t know whether to ship him out West or to mail his artwork to Highlights! Robert wasn’t around too much for February, or March until September for that matter. He really throws himself into his job, because he’s the breadwinner and we don’t do enough on our own. Not having him at home is no prob (Bob); the other family members just pitch in to help raise themselves. Kelsey and Nick finished their exams without asking for help, Katie did two stints of 45 hours service at a clinic in April, and Bobby Jr. pitched in as ballboy for Daddy’s new team for a practice, until a young man named Mr. Crumpler just about crumpled Bobby’s left knee. And what’s that? Wonder what little old Becky did? Well I just quieted my sniffling and set up to make lemonade out of lemons. To complain causes pain, so always be restrained! I repeat that each morning to remember.
Now everything was yogurt-smooth until apparently the quarterback’s dogs got sick in July; the young man said they “didn’t have no fight left in them”. (Aside: Bobby Jr. is no longer going to his sessions and knows that Bend It Like Barkham isn’t waking up.) Robert came home in a grumpy mood, swerving down our street and sideswiping a few Girl Scouts. We bought a few cookies to make nice. We were able to have our first family dinner in two years, what with Katie’s bracelet keeping her home. Over the chicken a la king Bobby Jr. promised to be a “big boy” in the fall when Daddy traveled to road games, and Kelsey and Nick told us stories of all the tough exams they had recently finished. Robert must have felt quite the patriarch right then, because he pulled out a Bible from the family room and made the whole family swear not to “be a faggot and ruin my one good chance at getting out of all this”. Scout’s honor!
Well, I guess one of us must not have held up our end of the bargain because come Christmas time Robert’s new team only had 3 wins! I asked the owner (argh! What’s his last name? He always says call me Mr….something) how to be a better wife for Robert, and Arthur just furrowed his temples. Alone in the dimly lit sitting room, I decided I’d make another one of my shame quilts. Nothing ties a family together quite like a stitched “We failed you” in embroidered calligraphy! Despite his trying to sell three of them during our last yard sale, I know the hubby loves ‘em. Well one nippy Monday night I had wrapped myself in an old “The cat will not look you in the eyes after overtime losses” throw and nestled myself in for a warm night’s sleep. Robert startled me and gave me a firm love shake. His breath had the scent of gin, which it always does when he’s thinking. He told me to hush and pack away the kids, Goddammit. Twenty minutes later the 4-Runner was filled with three sleepy youngins, a pesky 17 year old bedwetter, and two lovebirds off on a new adventure!
Over our midnight drive I learned the supposedly nice Arthur had attempted to force Robert to work an extra three more Sundays in a row! Robert had signed some little promise before he started the job and I just felt awful. Well the Petrinos cave to no one, as Robert’s daddy said when he negotiated my dowry. Thank heavens the GPS pointed us to Fayetteville, where I guess Robert has some friends. He’s now teaching football class at Arkansas which he said he likes, this week. (Just to be safe, we’ve started putting our furniture on rollers.) Kelsey and Nick are looking forward to next year’s exams, Katie keeps saying she’s going to meet up with her boyfriend at the Forrest City Institute (not with those grades!) and little Bobby Jr.…well, not all of Jesus’s miracles are the fishes and the loaves.
Well, that’s the Petrino family’s 2007. Sorry to end so suddenly, but cooking a full New Year’s meal on short notice for 57 athletes can be taxing without a kitchenette! Thank goodness my better half said he’s providing drinks. So we wish you a happy 2008 from here, and look forward to seeing you next Christmas from wherever we’ll be next year. I hope Michigan; blue calms Robert down during his rage cycles, and the shimmering golden maize reminds him why he works in the first place: to mold young men into selfless team players! Merry Christmas!
Yours in Christ,