In 1970 my career path took me to the business office of New England Telephone in Manchester, New Hampshire. My first position there was as a service representative. This was the location where I would meet a treasured lifelong friend.

Gail Caiazzo, left, of Saco, and her longtime friend Pammy Robertson, right, of Amherst, N.H., who met as service representatives at New England Telephone. Photo courtesy Gail Caiazzo

Her name was Pamela Monty. She was, first and foremost, extremely intelligent. She was also tall, blonde and beautiful. She walked like she had a book balanced on her head, so straight and proud. She had an impressive and extensive vocabulary, coupled with a quick wit. She never talked down to anyone, adjusting her vocabulary to her audience.

One of the responsibilities of being a service rep was to collect unpaid phone bills. On one occasion, after several failed attempts to collect a bill, she informed the customer that his phone service would be disconnected that afternoon if the bill was not paid.

The customer’s response was “(Bleep) you!” Pammy replied, “I am sorry, sir, but your monthly rate does not include that.” The man on the other end of the line cracked up and showed up at the office within the hour to pay the bill in full.

Very soon into our friendship we became roommates. I was 25 and she was 26. We rode together to work every day and partied every night. We did not go out on the town every night, but we would share our meals, have a glass of wine (or two) and talk about our lives. There was so much laughter it made my sides ache.

We were from opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Pammy grew up as a child of privilege. She attended the Emma Willard School for girls. She had a trust fund and wore expensive jewelry. She was a debutante, and her family belonged to exclusive country clubs.

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She never once made me feel inferior.

Pammy married Roland Robertson; they had two boys. I moved back to Maine, married Hank and had two children.

During my 32-year marriage, she was always just a phone call away. When I left Hank because I knew he was being unfaithful, I drove to New Hampshire and stayed with Pam and Roland until the logistics of my divorce were worked out. She never stopped being a source of comfort and encouragement through all difficult times.

She also never stopped making me laugh.

When Pammy was diagnosed with cancer everywhere, she made the decision to not have any treatments. After she told me this horrible news, I cried for days. She encouraged me to not be sad, that she had had a wonderful, full life and she was prepared to die.

She continued to make me laugh, even when I was so sad. She told me I would hear her voice forever.

That year after I returned to Florida for the winter, she called to say, “I am not good, and I miss you.” I flew up to Boston, rented a car and drove up to Amherst. I was with her when the ambulance came to take her to hospice. Because I saw firsthand how sick she was, I can take comfort in knowing she is no longer suffering.

I am so lucky to have had her in my life, and our memories make me smile every single day. Some even make me laugh out loud.

I will hear her voice forever.

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