On October 28, one of our college’s beloved colleagues and one of my best friends passed away. Although Pam had retired several years ago, many faculty and staff had fond memories to share with each other. Stories of her generosity, kindness, and humor abounded.
One of my earliest memories of Pam is from my third year at the college. I was going on a trip to England to visit my grandmother. I had saved up a hundred dollars in coins, wrapped them, and planned to take them to the credit union to swap them out for travelers’ checks after work. Unfortunately, someone came in my office while I was in class and stole them. A few hours later, Pam appeared at my door with a personal check: “I can’t let some horrible person ruin your trip.” No amount of protest would dissuade her. She had made it her personal mission to right that particular wrong.
Of course, in a thirty-year friendship, things did not always run smooth. She was constantly running late, and I would sit smoldering in a restaurant because “something had popped up at the last minute.” Or she would cancel some activity because work had piled up.
In an episode of “Everyone Loves Raymond,” the title character gives a speech at his brother’s wedding reception after his mother ruined the wedding. He talks about the ability to edit out the bad stuff. And that is a skill worth cultivating. For there will always be bad stuff as long we keep hanging out with other humans.
Yes, her running late was part of who she was. But only one part. The laughter far outweighed the annoyances:
- After dinner before a concert, we’d both gone to the bathroom. When I came out of my stall, I was stunned to see her head, with its perfectly coiffed hair and flawless makeup, sticking out of the bottom of her stall. Always prone to claustrophobia, she had not been able to get the door open and was trying to escape. After I helped her out, she made me promise not to tell anyone. I did. When I got to work the next Monday, I found she had already told everyone.
- In her car, she told me about this new band she loved and was playing their new CD for me. After about thirty minutes of talking with the music in the background, I realized something:
“Pam, all these songs sound very much alike.”
“Oh, it’s the same song. I have it on repeat.”
“How are the other songs?”
“I haven’t listened to them yet.”
Pam was a wonderful colleague. She was a great friend. I miss her terribly.