The End[Sequel to "," published on November 25]
I think of Nick's final leaving of Pam in New York as the "tipping point," where Pam's brain's capacity for somewhat healthy reinvention began to dissolve. She was furious, and her calls increased, but she seemed sort of like her usual self. Then she began seeking and taking on increasing strange-for-her jobs for which she was ill-equipped, perhaps in her haste born of her terror at not having enough income for the lifestyle she expected. "NEVER touch the Principal!!!" she repeated as her mantra, though she had inherited about 1/2 million at her parents' death, and she eventually had both a small state pension and Social Security.
After a few abortive jobs in New York City, Pam realized that her funds from the sale of the condo in San Francisco would do quite nicely in buying real estate on the East Coast, and she bought a home in Essex, Connecticut and moved. She remodeled this house (something she had always loved to do and supervise), and then took a job as an assistant to a local lawyer for a year. Then she studied and got her Real Estate License and in the next couple of years sold a place or two (including her next home in Westport, Connecticut). And she worked in a high-class deli. And kept buying and remodeling and selling homes...even my address book lost track. As did the books of many others of her West Coast friends. She complained that the local stores in Connecticut did not know what artichokes were, and that getting the New York Times delivered was a hassle. "These people REALLY ARE provincial!"
DALLAS: Increasingly alone and bored with what the East had to offer, her pal and ex-hubby Andrew, one of her other frequent phone pals, suggested she move to Dallas, where he lived. The real estate was affordable and they could be friends and go to the movies. This seemed like a kind and friendly option. She sold her home and bought one in Dallas, and packed up her latest BMW (keeping the silver, a pistol, and her cat in the car) and moved. (Once she saw a newspaper article about a very small town in the Midwest that was for sale and she traveled to explore that option. "Nothing but no-neck monsters!" she exclaimed.)
Not surprisingly, Dallas did not work. Pam hated the people and still found Andrew boring and "prissy." She took more jobs, a cheese factory (cold and wet), Starbucks ("I told them I could not sweep floors...and I could not remember all those different drink recipes."). Then she fell on her elbow, requiring surgery and pins and casts...etc., and had a terrible time with the Dallas doctors; they refused to give her the one pain killer she could tolerate without nausea (Oxycontin...of course). She was selling the Dallas house and the "##@@$$&&it had culture and education and art. She bought a townhouse and drove cross-country to begin...again. She worked for the local newspaper in the advertising section. And argued with her neighbors (noise, the look of the front yards whatever). She found them provincial. Everyone was provincial to Pam.
After a few years, and getting canned from the local newspaper because she bad-mouthed a co-worker, Pam began to explore selling her townhouse and moving. She researched and decided that Marblehead, Massachusetts would serve. She bought a place there, and unable to sell the Ashland home, found an acquaintance to rent it.
TIT FOR TAT: At some point in all this moving, Pam's doctor determined that her saline "fake tits" needed to be removed.
In the early years of our friendship, at a late-night pool party in Los Angeles, Pam had drunkenly given a verbal tour of her bikini-suited body, pointing out her "saggy tits" to the six people in the hot tub. Some years later, Nick paid for a breast augmentation for Pam, which he desired, and which Pam showed to everyone. If even she knew it was inappropriate to lift her shirt to show "the girls" off--i.e., it was mixed company--she would simply press herself and the big breasts against all available males.
So now, underneath the bravado and typical swearing, I could hear her distress about the out-patient removal procedure. I offered to fly east and be with her for the outpatient surgery and a few days of recovery. She was sweetly grateful and ordered a limo to get me from the closest airport. The week was challenging for me. Not in terms of illness or caring--Pam was fine with all that. But each day we went out for two expensive meals and drinks, and her imperious ways made me crazy. When I laughed off my repeated inability to pay attention to the simple matter of the mechanics of how the screen door could be propped open, she snapped, "Well, clearly, you have never owned a home!"--said as if she were accusing me of child abuse.
As I left at week's end, Pam gave me a long and heartfelt hug and thanks. But, I was furious and finally wondered why I kept listening to her endless verbal abuse of myself and others. In the long limo trip and the plane flight, I considered this. I realized that Pam and I shared history (same generation) and language (hard to find a 25-cent word she would not recognize), she was still a New York Times reader and loved art and theatre, we had shared personal and work history, and though I disagreed with her negative view of many people, I had to admit there was a guilty pleasure involved in listening to her creative venting about...everyhting. Finally, I knew that she needed a friend and that I loved to be needed. I decided to keep to our once-a-week phone calls ...as long as I could stand it, but not to attempt an in-person visit ever again. Maybe I sensed it wouldn't be that long.
And, yup, even I can see the "doormat" in my behavior.
Finally, at about age 62, having lost the Ashland rental tenant, Pam could not sustain the cost of two properties. Both went on the market and Marblehead sold first. Pam packed up yet again and drove back to Oregon. She still mentioned a few friends and a few restaurants, and even began volunteer work as a tutor in reading with a young child, whom she did not particularly like. Again, she talked about jobs...even planning on being a phone-sex operator. Yup, I saw the employee manual they sent her...as an employee manual, it was very good.
The rest of Pam's story is a sad and scary tale of dementia and decline. Let's leave that for another time, shall we?
What? No, there is no moral here...other than, pick your parents well. Or use your intelligence to change your path. Or not. Or, don't be boring. THAT Pam never was.
THERE MIGHT BE one more Pammie story...or not.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan C. Price
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