Everybody has got a good Pat story. She was that kind of person. You either loved her or you could go to hell because she wasn’t gonna be anybody other than Pat Maloney — short, fat and sassy — that’s what she’d say.
I can still see her sitting at the kitchen table typing dissertations for grad students on the weekend when we were little — it was her side hustle. I remember piling into the car for what seemed like an hour’s drive to pick up “the good” typing paper at Greetings and Readings up in Towson. I didn’t realize it until I had gotten older but my mom wasn’t just typing for these Ph.D. candidates. She was editing for them. Strategizing their defenses with them. She was, in essence, advising them. And that’s why they came to her. They knew, like most people on campus did, that if you wanted something done at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, you called Pat Maloney.
My Mom loved to work. It gave her purpose. But it also frustrated her. In her world, you couldn’t go anywhere without a terminal degree and one of her biggest regrets was not getting her education. She might have become the first female President of the University if she’d have had those letters behind her name. Seriously. She knew that place forward and backward. She was smart. She was strong. She was decisive. And extremely savvy politically. You’ve gotta be in the committee driven world of academic administration. She was a no-nonsense, no-excuses, get shit done kind of person. And she was universally respected for it.
For most people, retirement would have been a happy day. But to be honest, I think it was a sad day for Mom. And, frankly, I’m not sure that she ever recovered.
I was blessed to be born with a good school brain. I just remember stuff. And Mom was so proud of my academic success. I remember going to her office often as a kid. She’d have some doctor of some sort in her office. She’d say “Marky — tell Doctor Whoever what you’re gonna be when you grow up.” I’d say “a pediatrician”. And she’d beam. And then she’d ask me to spell some crazy long word like “antidisestablishmentarianism” in front of the guy like some kind of circus monkey. But I’d gladly oblige. Because I could see how proud she was. And I loved to make her proud. Hell — I still do. She was so proud of me. Get a fuzzy navel in her and she’d get all misty and start singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to me while gazing lovingly into my eyes. Anywhere. At anytime. No matter who was watching. Didn’t matter. I was her hero. And she was mine.
Making her proud is, and will remain, my finest achievement.
Being the source of that pride carried, for me, a lot of responsibility and expectation. And when I told her that I was leaving graduate school without that Ph.D. to design websites for a living, I was certain that I was breaking her heart. But, in typical Pat fashion, she supported me wholeheartedly. She may not have understood but she believed in me and wanted me to be happy. And that was enough for her.
We butted heads. A lot. Because we were so similar. We even have the same luxurious salt and pepper hair. Thanks Pop. But unlike me, she was unyieldingly supportive. Of everyone. Her heart, her home and her wallet were open to whomever needed help. She didn’t judge. She just gave. She gave to a fault. To her own detriment.
And Christmas. Forget about it. She was the frickin’ reincarnation of Kris Kringle. She even played Santa every year at the Woodbourne Center for abused kids. She loved Christmas. Loved it. I’d chastise her for buying too much for my boys with money that she didn’t have and she’d snap back and tell me “it’s my time”.
It sure was. And I’m not sure it’ll ever be the same without her.
My Mom had faults — don’t get me wrong. Her temper was legendary. At the dinner table once she told me, in all seriousness, that she would stick a fork in my eye if I didn’t shut my goddamned mouth. She once threw everything I owned out of my bedroom window because I refused to clean it. Clothes. Furniture. You name it. Right out the third story window.
And her road rage was off the charts. She was fearless. And so aggressive. She didn’t care who it was. If you crossed her, you were gonna get an obscenity laden earful. With the windows down. In the very worst areas of Baltimore City. Oh my God. My buddy Read was genuinely rattled after his first ride with Pat. He was certain that we were gonna get shot. To be honest, I’m surprised that we never were.
Ironically, she loved to drive. She’d told me on several occasions that she’d like to drive a cab — just like her dad did. And drive she did. My going to Calvert Hall meant that my high school life — school, friends, parties, sports, girlfriends — you name it — were at least half an hour away. And my closest friends lived in Phoenix and Kingsville. That’s a long drive from Dundalk. But she never refused. She never complained. She’d even drive up there to pick them up to bring them back down to Dundalk. Crazy. She just wanted to make sure that I was safe and happy. And that my friends were safe and happy. I honestly think that her inability to drive later in life was a huge blow for her. And not just because it was a sign of her declining health but because she genuinely enjoyed it.
She loved football too. She’d tell me stories of how her and Dad would go to Colts games together back in the day. She used to sing the Colts fight song every time the Ravens scored. She literally started crying when they brought back the old Colts fight song for the Ravens. She actually shed tears over a fight song. Repeatedly. In fact, her and I went to the first game that the Ravens ever played in Baltimore. It was a preseason game against the Eagles, if memory serves. We saw Bill Cosby. She was so giddy. Predictably, she sang the Colts fight song the entire time.
Lastly, I’d like to touch on her grandsons. She loved you guys so much. You have no idea. Michael, Brennan, Carter and Bennett — you guys brought Nanee so much happiness. She was so proud of each one of you. More than you could ever know. And she still is. Her body might not be here anymore but her love for you will never go away. Ever. You’ve made her so proud. And I ask you guys to keep her in your hearts. Keep trying to make her proud. It’s a strategy that has served me well my entire life.
We can keep her legacy alive by working hard, doing what’s right and loving with all of our hearts. Be kind. Be generous. Be passionate. Walk with your head held high and your shoulders pulled back. Let your deeds — not your words — do the talking. Help people when you can. Not because of what they can do for you. But because it’s the right thing to do. Be proud of who you are. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not an amazing person. Because you are.
Because you are Nanee’s grandson. Like I’m Nanee’s son. And we’ve all been incredibly blessed because of it.
So Mom — and I know that you’re listening — I just want to say thank you. From the very bottom of my heart. Thank you for the example that you set. For the life that you gave. For the sacrifices that you made. Thank you for the hours that you worked. For the tears that you shed. For the joy that you brought.
Everything that I am or ever will be is because of you. Rest in peace.
You deserve it.