My twin sister Pam and I were born in October 1951, surprising our parents on their thirteenth wedding anniversary. We grew up in Mercer, Pennsylvania.
Pam and I started talking to each other in our own language as twins often do. Pam eventually talked clearly to others, but I never successfully made that transition. My voice remained hypernasal until I had plastic surgery in June 1970 at the age of 18 to correct my hidden cleft palate.
My fourth grade teacher didn’t make any effort to understand me. I waved my hand indicating that I had the answer and she ignored me. We took tests that determined the track for further education (academic or secretarial). When Pam and I had similar scores, some misguided person suggested that I had cheated.
Thankfully Mom, a fourth grade teacher, came to discuss the situation with the administration and both Pam and I ended up on the academic track to attend college. Just to be clear, Pam and I were so competitive with each other that the very idea of cheating off each other was never a possibility. We graduated sixth and seventh in our graduating class of 129 people.
The solution to my hypernasal voice was found just before I went off to Thiel College in August 1969 where I majored in mathematics.
With my hidden cleft palate fixed with a pharyngeal flap in June 1970, I finally could speak more clearly. Over Christmas break that year, I started dating Jim, a man two years older and born on my birthday. He was a senior at Case Western University in Cleveland, studying electrical engineering and working summers at a local television station.
We married in June 1973 and I joined him in Cleveland. In January 1974, I started working as a programmer for AT&T in their data center. Jim loved working amateur radio contests and spent hours secluded in a small room making quick contacts with people all around the world.
I wasn’t happy. I got promoted to be a manager on a total rewrite of a system. In attending a management training class in Chicago, I realized that I wanted more.
Mom had both her breasts removed during the first two years that I worked for AT&T. Her older sister Mary Jane had died six weeks before Pam and I were born.
I wanted to be happy. I had no clue at that point that the journey necessary was inward. I could only see that I needed to be with someone who wanted to spend time with me and not with his radio.
I made the choice to divorce Jim and found an apartment in downtown Cleveland close to work. I worked very strange hours to be present with the people designing the new system during the day and my team that worked at night to do their testing.
With my project completed and my divorce progressing, the data center announced that it was closing. I had already started interviewing for a job in Chicago, at the regional headquarters.
Pam left her husband and we lived together in an apartment just off Lake Shore Drive. I rode the bus to work and met some interesting people. Pam and I became active at the St Pauls United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park.
I had several short connections with men, almost always married. I wanted to move into a condo and found one close to our new church. Part of that process involved selling some AT&T stock. I didn’t have any contact to do so… until I met Lee on the bus.
Lee worked at a commodity brokerage and his friend Tony ran the affiliated stock firm. We started a relationship where we often had lunch and spent evenings together when his wife stayed at a farm.
Lee, Tony, and I went on a fishing trip (no fishing gear went into the car) and had a long weekend away. I returned to work with no energy and feeling awful. Through a series of tests, the doctors found a congenital kidney defect. The doctors wanted Pam to get checked but she didn’t want to spend the money.
Pam started dating Fred after meeting him at church. Some time later she curled up in a ball at church and I took her to the emergency room. Her kidney had the same problem that I had.
Lee and I went our separate ways after a couple years. Pam moved in with Fred and wedding plans soon were in the works.
After I came home to find my condo has been burglarized, I started a search for a new home. I decided to buy a small apartment building near Wrigley Field.
I’d been traveling to New Jersey as part of my job with AT&T. A corporate reorganization changed everything. I’d done huge projects with several different organizations and wanted to find a stable place.
The only common connections with everything that I’d done was the regional vice president. I made an appointment and he heard my story. A short time later, I had promotion with a job working in the regional financial organization.
I had a wake-up call when I attended my twentieth high school reunion in June 1989. I’d done some work and felt happy about who I had become. I wanted to go to this event to show the classmates that had diminished me. I arrived at the first event to find that the behavior would continue. The host had created a “Not Pam” name tag for me. I had more work to do for I felt devastated.