Most of you know me as a person who has few female friends. The ones I do have you can count on Facebook. They are mostly from my high school and college days, and from places I’ve lived and worked in the past. I think I got this from my mother. She wasn’t a joiner, and she didn’t have many female friends, mostly because she thought a lot of women were just plain stupid. That was her. This is me, and this post is about my dear friend, Becky Ries, a fellow traveler on the journey we’ve both called Butler University for the past almost 20 years.
I came to Butler in 1995, three or four days after we had the truck unloaded in Lebanon after moving from Wyoming. I remember Becky had her office in Jordan 307, that office where Brian and Robert and the Booth staff now are. She was in there with Molly Cleveland and Susan Sutherlin, and we were all three friendly. Becky and I had a kind of love/hate relationship at first. We snipped at each other in a friendly way, but our closeness didn’t develop right away. Then she left to go down to the LRC and I was given two of her classes for the spring semester and was full time. The job at the LRC didn’t last long, and she was soon right back in the English Department, right across the hall from me, as head of the Freshman Writing program. That was when we really started our friendship. I even worked with her for a year as an assistant, a job I gladly relinquished when there was no more money, not because of Becky, but because it was the biggest hassle I’ve every come across in my teaching career. It gave me a new appreciation of what all she did for the program, the department, and the university. I’m not sure she was as appreciated in that job as she might have been, at least by some.
Somewhere along the line she hired Katie Rauk and Jane Sidey, and, along with Carol Reeves, we started going out to eat at the end of the semester, and once in the summer. Jane left for a full-time job, and Katie eventually returned to Minneapolis with Adam. Carol, Becky, and I never replaced them, but have continued to go out to eat every semester’s end for the intervening years. It is always fun, and never dull. We’ve never gone back to Binckley’s since the waitress spilled the Ranch dressing down Carol’s jean’s leg, and I’ve learned a lot about Indianapolis restaurants over the years that I would never have known.
Becky tried to have meetings of the EN 101 staff, but after I told another instructor, who insisted on quoting statistics to me about how students learn to write, that I didn’t give a damn about his damned statistics, she quit trying to have them so often. I swore I’d never go back to one, and she said don’t worry, I won’t be having any more right away.
I also got a great deal of fun out of teasing her about Steve, her husband. I told her I didn’t really believe he existed. She always talked about him but we never saw him. He’s real of course, and I’m sure they will enjoy their retirement together.
My fondest memory of Becky is the one from when I found out I had breast cancer. I did not want it widely known, so I only told my family, and few friends. When I called Becky I had to leave a message and she called me back, asking what was up. When I said “I have breast cancer” she immediately replied, “Oh fuck”, and I burst out laughing. It was easier to say those words after that. I just though about Becky’s response. It still makes me smile today.
So why am I going through all this? Because Becky is retiring at the end of this semester. She has mostly cleaned out her office, and the three of us are planning to eat out next week for the final time as employees of the University. I’m sure we’ll continue the tradition, but it won’t seem right not to see Becky in the hall, in her office, at the copy machine, etc.
So goodbye my friend of years. Thank you for your friendship and for keeping my secrets, such as they are. Thank you for never shutting your door to me, and for listening to my gripes and grumbles about this and that. You will always have a special place in my life, and I warn you, your time with me isn’t over.