That Little Souvenir

Pamela Michelle Young Hudspeth has died. She was 58.

I was unmarried and lonely in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In May 1992, I started dating Pam, and, quite honestly, she was incredibly beautiful. She was so beautiful, in fact, that it blinded me to more realistic considerations, such as the fact that she believed in things that I didn’t: spirit photography, the “inner child,” Satanism, astrology and much more.

This is Pam in 1991. She was waifish and delicate, both physically and emotionally.
This is Pam in 1991. She was waifish and delicate, both physically and emotionally.

Still, I was so taken with her, I probably would have married her if she hadn’t moved away. Despite her odd canon of beliefs, she was always interesting.

The Writing Group

Over the years I have organized several groups that got together on a weekly basis to share our writing and challenge each other to write. Among other things, the endeavor was intended to get me closer to attractive women, and in particular, attractive creative women.

I shot this Polaroid of Pam at her desk in the newsroom. Later, she hand tinted it.
I shot this Polaroid of Pam at her desk in the newsroom. Later, she hand tinted it.

I found it very attractive that Pam wrote. She penned a column at our newspaper, often politically unpopular and inflammatory, and claimed she wanted to write books, stories, and an autobiography. Along with Frank Rodrigues and Melissa Price, Pam joined my writing club in 1991. Oddly, it was hard to get her to write much, and now, decades later, her claims of wanting to continue to write had never come to fruition.

At one point in that group, Pam and I sat across a kitchen table. She looked at me and asked, “Richard, are in a lot of pain all the time?” Now, knowing her intense spiritual pain, I realize she wasn’t asking me, she was inviting me.

Music Guides My Heart

As I write this, I listen to music that brings back those days.

My Pam playlist includes…

Here’s Where the Story Ends, Goodbye, and Wild Horses by The Sundays

I Must Have Been Blind by This Mortal Coil

Ghost and The Girl with the weight of the World in her Hands by The Indigo Girls

All I Want is You and Love is Blindness by U2

Friday I’m in Love, High, and To Wish Impossible Things by The Cure

Season of Hollow Soul by k.d. lang

Torn, High on a Riverbed, and Don’t Go Away by Toad the Wet Sprocket

Three Wishes by Roger Waters

The One by Elton John (after she heard the lyrics “a spirit born of earth and water” and said she looked up our elemental signs to find she was water and I was earth.) At one point I had the cassette single of The One, which we listened to in her car.

While we were dating, I brought her cassette mix tapes. She fell in love with the music of Phil Keaggy, so In the Light of the Common Day puts me right there on her couch with her.

Despite her emotional shortcomings, Pam was petite and beautiful, and my feelings for her were honest and genuine.
Despite her emotional shortcomings, Pam was petite and beautiful, and my feelings for her were honest and genuine.

A Brief and Difficult Romance

Pam and I attempted to get romantically involved starting in the late spring of 1992. At first it was just an invitation to dinner at her apartment or mine, but our relationship quickly grew into romance.

She was never comfortable with that. On some of the evenings that I had hoped and planned to spend with her disappeared because she was so threatened by genuine intimacy.

We talked about getting married. We talked about ideas. Of course, we were both working journalists at the time, so we talked about that.

Despite her efforts to do interesting things and have fun times, Pam's very posture was guarded and defensive, and her eyes seemed to have the "1000-yard stare."
Despite her efforts to do interesting things and have fun times, Pam’s very posture was guarded and defensive, and her eyes seemed to have the “1000-yard stare.”

Her perfume was Tribute. She smoked Virginia Slims. Her smell on me at the end of the night was oddly intoxicating.

Evenings with her were always charged with emotional energy, a promise of drama in the midst of her smoke and perfume that would light my night afire. She would always “need to talk about it.”

I knew that our night was going to be full of closeness when she would invite me to sit close to her on the couch with her legs across my lap.

At the end of all our evenings, we’d walk out to my car parked at her apartment, where I would gather her waifish body, and we would hold each other close, so close.

At one point when I could feel her withdrawing emotionally, I asked, “Do you feel it when I hold you?”

“Sometimes,” she answered.

She decided that her problems were getting in the way of our romance, and her well being, so she decided to go to a 28-day treatment facility in central New Mexico, the details of which she would not want me to share. I wrote her almost every day. She wrote back five times.

As part of the program, I joined her for the third week, and there, in the midst of a thousand tears, in the perfect New Mexico sunshine, we broke up.

We’ve been sharing so many words and feelingsAge is heavier, it seems, than years aloneBut, I told you things I wouldn’t dream of telling anyoneAre we drying out, like flowers from a forgotten someone
Don’t go awayI can’t feel the same without you
Don’t go awayI can’t feel the same without you
~Toad the Wet Sprocket

 

I Flew Away

My saving grace was that I was, at the time, learning to fly, and the exceptionally positive learning experience of aviation couldn’t have come at a more perfect point in my life. She moved away, and I devoted much of my time to flight training, so it was easier to let her go.

This key fob was "that little souvenir." Family members of the clients all got one. For this photo, it is sitting on a "God bag," which bore the "serenity prayer." The idea is to write down your problems, thus "giving them to God."
This key fob was “that little souvenir.” Family members of the clients all got one. For this photo, it is sitting on a “God bag,” which bore the “serenity prayer.” The idea is to write down your problems, thus “giving them to God.”

That Little Souvenir

It’s that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
It’s that little souvenir, of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside… ~The Sundays


In the decades that followed my short time with Pam, I have thought about her often, and stayed in touch, more so in the last couple of years of her life. In those conversations, she expressed endless regret at letting me go. “Now,” she said in an email, “I know with all my heart, you were who I should have been with. You were the best man I ever dated, period.”

Pam came to Ada for the first time in many years for her grandmother's funeral March 2, 2022. I only saw her for a short time, but we had a good talk, and she held me tight when it was time for me to leave.
Pam came to Ada for the first time in many years for her grandmother’s funeral March 2, 2022. I only saw her for a short time, but we had a good talk, and she held me tight when it was time for me to leave.

In one written correspondence not that long ago, I asked her what she wanted. “Out,” was her answer.

In August of this year, she and I hatched a plan to have lunch in Henrietta, Oklahoma, halfway between her home and mine. We both got pretty excited, dreaming about the buffet at Mazzio’s Pizza and spending the afternoon together. But as the day grew near, she called it off, saying she was sick again.

In tremendous physical and emotional pain for years, and no longer wanting to live, she died at home this week in hospice care.

This is from the evening Pam and I went to Robert Erwin's Cole Porter Party. It was a great time.
This is from the evening Pam and I went to Robert Erwin’s Cole Porter Party. It was a great time.

Goodbye, Pam.

7 Comments

  1. Pam would have loved this: Tracey and I listened to, and had an extensive conversation about, The One yesterday, before you told me she’d died.

    Have you noticed how all the women you’ve dated regret parting from you? That’s got to feel awesome.

  2. This tribute brought so many memories flooding back to me. I will always remember Pam (and you) the way we were back then. So ambitious. So creative. So excited for the future. So sensitive. And oh, so very young.

  3. From Robert (Alan) Edwards

    I worked with Pam at the Ada Evening News in the late 1980s / early 1990s and two memories are burned into my brain:
    —I was in the newsroom, being myself (meaning I was shooting my mouth off and probably saying something inappropriate) when she called me a shocking profanity. I’m certain I deserved it, but coming from someone so tiny and proper, it really shook me.
    —Not much later, my mother died of cancer. One Saturday, I was sitting in my tiny apartment, crying like a little kid — and Pam showed up. She was so kind and so supportive (especially given my personality), that I never forgot her. It sticks like hell that she didn’t know how much she meant to me. ????

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