Anyone who knows me knows I don't cultivate close friendships. I sort of have the idea that if you really got to know me, you wouldn't like me, so why bother. However, ever since the mid-seventies I have had one steadfast friend who never faltered.
It started, I believe, in 1977. My kids were eight and ten years old, and I felt like it was a good time for me to go back to work, having been a stay-at-home mom for all my married life. Back then there were many places to find work just ten miles away in Lexington. My main problem was that I didn't drive, so before I could get a job, I had to find myself a ride to one of those places. I mentioned this to a neighbor on my road, Rosie. She knew someone who worked at Whitaker Cable, a widowed lady who had just bought a car and would be glad to have a little extra money to help her make the payments. She gave me Carol's number, I called, and my ride was secured. Then I applied at Whitaker and got a job on the assembly line.
When you spend five days a week going to and from work with someone, you get to know one another pretty well. We had some adventures on slick roads in the winter, and had fun sharing stories of our co-workers on our way home. We talked about our kids and our bills. When I had too much garden produce, Carol would take any of my excess tomatoes and green beans and stay up until midnight after a hard days work on her feet at the factory, canning that stuff. Sometimes a local church would have a revival, and the two of us loved revivals. Carol would pick me up and away we'd go.
Whitaker was bought by Murphy, which didn't last all that long, and then they closed the plant down. Carol and I went to various places together to apply for jobs, but had no luck. When apple season began, we worked at the local orchards, grading and packing apples.
By this time, Carol was going to a different church, fifteen miles away. She kept telling me how great it was, how wonderful the preacher was, and how I should go there and try it out. Finally, I think maybe I made Cliff go with me one time... his mom went to the same church. It seemed like a nice bunch of people and all, but who wants to go fifteen miles to church? However, when announcements were made, I heard something about a ladies' Bible study and told Carol, "Now that's something I would be interested in."
So, just for me, she started going to that weekly Bible study. I became acquainted with a lot of nice ladies, and before you know it, Carol was picking me up for Sunday morning services. She didn't go for Sunday School, just church. One day I said, "We ought to try Sunday School and see if we like it. Sometimes Sunday school is better than the main service."
Seems like I was always talking her into something new.
So we did. But Sunday School classes were short-lived for us, because an announcement was made that nursery workers were needed during the Sunday School hour. "Carol," I said, "we should volunteer for that. We would have fun playing with the babies."
And we did, for a period of about eight years, I believe. In fact, long after I moved on to other places of worship, Carol was the faithful Sunday School nursery worker there until her health declined to the point she wasn't able to do it any more.
When I had my book of poems published, I dedicated it to Carol. See, her route to the church in Oak Grove did NOT lead her past my house. Carol was never prosperous, but she cheerfully picked me up three or four times a week (because yes, we went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and don't forget Ladies' Bible study), going an extra six miles out of her way each time, if you count the round trip.
I will never, ever forget what a wonderful and faithful friend she was. A confidante, someone who absolutely overlooked my faults and thought I was the greatest.
She's been in the hospital, very ill, for several days, and things took a turn for the worse. They were going to take her off life support yesterday morning and then decided to try something else, but her son just called me and said the kids have been called to her bedside. The extra measures the doctors had hoped would help did not work, and they are going to let her go.
My world is darker, knowing I won't be getting those occasional phone calls from Carol. She never had it easy during her time on this earth, but her faith never wavered. She deserves a rest from her trials.