We made a good team. Two women doing the heavy lifting of finances in our relationships while our spouses each pursued a doctorate. Two women who sometimes weren't so happy about how long that degree was taking and often homesick and out of sorts in the small town we found ourselves in.
Our work styles complimented each other and Phyllis was better at some things than I was. When we got new calculators that involved a multi-step process inputting rates and terms to come up with a loan payment, Phyllis read the manual and taught herself how to use it. I couldn't seem to get the hang of it, but with Phyllis around to do it for me it didn't seem like such a big deal.
While I longed for my days in Chicago working on Michigan Avenue, Phyllis longed for her home state out west. When she booked her flight to return home for two weeks at Christmas she was giddy for months. In four years in a little office at the back of the bank I listened to her talk about Montana every single day.
Enough with the Montana I used to think to myself some days.
When we took our first trip out west years ago I told Mark we had to stop in Bozeman to see Phyllis' home town. It was stunning. Nestled in a valley with a mountain view in every direction, I finally understood how jarring the flat central Illinois landscape must have felt to her. Because of her I have always had a sweet spot for that state.
Mark had the opportunity to go to a meeting at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, Montana, and so we took a road trip and spent this past week in my former coworker's home state. My sweet spot turned to a full blown romance.
When Mark finished his degree we moved out east for awhile. Phyllis and Bill left after we did and eventually made their way back home. Some years I hear from her at Christmas and some years I don't. I have looked for her on Facebook with no luck, but everywhere I went on this trip I thought of my partner in consumer loans. I looked for her blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes at the gas station, grocery stores and every shop in town.
"Phyllis, I know you're sick of me asking but can you show me one more time how to use this calculator? I promise it's my last time asking you."
"I'll show you again," she said. "And if you don't get it this time I'm going to throw my calculator at your head."
Those Montana cowgirls know how to saddle up.