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A Song of Life

“A carole:  [old French]: a song to celebrate joy and victory.  [auld English]  a  Free Person and, a Song of joy and mirth, sung loudly.”

  ~  Oxford English, and Merriam-Webster dictionaries.

The first time I saw Carole was in Jesse’s Anatomy and Physiology class there at VSCC (Vol State Community College). She and I, as were other women and men, were referred to in a PC-manner as “returning students”;  those folks well-over 18 and 19 who had jobs, kids, families, finished military service, or could simply ….. finally …. manage to go to college. To feed a thirst for knowledge, education, discovery, advancement, or just-plain-love-of-learning.

Carole introduced herself and spelled her name. “It’s pronounced ‘Carol’, only with an -e. Though sometimes I am Ca-Role-e. [On a roll, with an accent mark over the E.]  It depends on my mood.”  Prophetic truer words never spoken. I was forewarned. Ha!

Back at VSCC, Jesse paired us up in Lab. (Probably taking pity on the younger students!) We were tasked with the dissection of a rabbit. I made some comment about the Monty Python bunny. Carole cackled.  Ahhhh…. friendship at first laugh! 

While many students ‘eewww’d’ over the task at hand (dissecting said bunny), Carole and I decided to name the soon-to-be dead rabbit. (Hey! Everyone deserves a name on a tombstone!) I came up with ‘Thumper.’  Carole chortled and agreed.  Jesse gave us both the professorial ‘eye’ and a quick shake of the head. (He also grinned at us.) Onward we went. And over the years and decades we never stopped laughing.

Onward… through those initial classes, graduations, through different jobs, divorces and remarriages, through good times and bad. Through deaths and griefs, successes and commemorations, calamities and celebrations. The beauty was, even with time- or distance-separations, the reunitings were instantaneously perfect. All time and no time had passed. Thus is the mark of a treasured friendship.

The Carole I know was a free spirit, a gifted artist, a (sometimes good – 🙂 song writer, a music lover and player, an avid learner, an autodidact when a college course was not readily available. She read Kierkegaard and quoted Proust, devoured anything she could find about Mt. Everest, and humorously, a favorite book was the story about a mouse who rode a bicycle. Eclectic. Varied, curious, and fascinated with life.

The Carole’ I know was opinionated. manic at times, and loved (and fought) fiercely, be it her East Tennessee heritage (“beans HAVE to be cooked with side-meats”), her children, or her husbands.  “You know, I loved each one” she told me. Each fit with the who-Carole-was at that time in time, and melded with her phenomenal interests, wit, drive, and passions: homemaker and mother, wanderer, enjoying the bling and travel within the entertainment world, sowing and picking acres of tomatoes and bee-keeping, and later learning about real estate development and the country club. Thus the “lives and loves” of Carole and Carole’..

The Carole I know was never half-hearted about anything. Either full-tilt-boogie, or a shrug-of-the-shoulders indifference. I have been ‘driven to tears’ by Carole’ and her callous arguing, and shed different tears of gratitude at her generosity. Then, oh then, ….there were the tears of gut-busting, shoulder-shaking, laughter … with her wit ~ and sometimes even her naivete as she heartily laughs along.

There are a hundred-and-one-plus stories and memories floating through my head. I could write about them for pages and ages:  the Annual joint-birthday dinners and TPAC performances with Nita, Carole and me celebrating three great women, year after year. Car-bras; her grandfather’s leather medical bag still with potions and tools inside. Heirlooms or  rocks that spoke to her. Carole and Carole’.   

The Carole I know endured heart-wrenching loss. The adult death of two of her three offspring, each, separately, through a freak turn of events. No-one should outlive their children. Carole did. Not once, but twice. That third offspring? He’s a championed, admired, dedicated, intelligent, humorous love of her life. Still is, even now.

The last time I saw Carole was at a physical rehab facility where she was working on recovering from a medical freak turn of events. As on the many visits, we laughed, as usual, and also spoke of this enduring friendship. Little did either of us (or at least I) know at that visit this would be the last time we were in each other’s company.  As I was turning to leave, Carole stopped me and asked that I turn around as I left the room. She didn’t want to see just my back leaving. I got that!  So I turned and slowly backed out the door, each of us waving and blowing kisses to each other. Playful. Loving. With laughter.

Thank you Carole for that vivid, enduring memory-picture, my friend. I continue to miss you, and think of you often, sharing – sometimes out loud – amusing, funny, ironic events and thoughts with you. I hear your laughter.

Kiss noises.

… and Namaste’