Carol and the Castle

Not again.

Not another old friend gone too soon.


Although in this case, unlike the last time I wrote on this subject, “old friend” might not be the proper description. I had seen Carol only once in decades, briefly in the parking lot of a Hartford grocery story. Truthfully, as I’ve thought over the past week about her and our brief history together many years ago, I don’t know if it really happened or if I just imagined it. Maybe everything I know of her after high school was filtered through my sister, who had known Carol since elementary school. Some, what, 50 years? She, my sister, was the one really shaken by Carol’s death, even though she knew it was inevitable, after Carol got the diagnosis of lung cancer. Stage IV.

Carol never smoked.

It was too painful and untimely an end for someone as sweet and kind and warm-hearted as Carol. That much I know is not a false memory. That I experienced first hand during the time we spent together so long ago.

For some reason,  I always think it was 8th grade when we really connected–8th for me, 11th for her. Though given her history with my sister, we probably crossed paths earlier, in school, or at one of my sister’s sleepovers. Why she and her friends put up with the bratty little brother at those affairs, I don’t know, but I have vivid memories of taking part in the “levitation” game and the other activities that went on.

So, whether through school or something else, Carol and I had our conversations. About what? No clue. What did a 13-year-old have to say to an “older woman”? I remember mostly her laugh and long hair and a shyness that belied a sly sense of humor.

IMG_0264 (2)Over the years, even if I didn’t see Carol or hear much about how her life unfolded, I thought of her often. How could I not, with the castle sitting on my dresser, always, no matter where I lived, holding  my spare change. The castle that Carol had made for me. Now, she could have just made it as a lark in an art class and then decided it would make a nice little present for her friend’s little brother, but there was nothing random about that gift. Because in the bottom, before she fired it, she had etched, “To Miguelito, luv Me.”

Miguelito. Only she called me that. I liked that, that she cared enough to give me a nickname only she used. As far as “luv,” well, that’s just something people write at the end of letters, or maybe on the bottom of clay castles they intend to give as gifts. It doesn’t really mean anything, right?

I don’t remember how long after Carol gave me the castle that my sister told me this: Carol had had a crush on me, the bratty younger brother. WTF? My gangly 13-year old smart-ass essence had somehow stirred something in her? How could this happen? And why didn’t I know then? Not like the infatuation would have necessarily led to anything. But still…

Over the years, I learned about Carol’s hearing difficulties, her efforts to overcome them, her desire to help others with similar problems. I knew she had stayed in the vicinity of our hometown. I saw, if that parking-lot chance meeting really happened, that she was still tall and thin and a little shy. In her obituary,  I read about her love of animals, especially cats. I realized she was someone I would have loved to stay in touch with, even if she hadn’t had a crush on me. Even if I still didn’t have the castle.

So, within six months, the deaths of two women from my past. We are at that age, hmm? I know several female friends who have had cancer in recent years, and another is currently dealing with it. The prognosis is good, but it is still an ordeal. And with all this, I think about my own wrestling with the Big C, thirty years ago this summer. For me, it was an easy pin, but when stray pains arise and don’t quit, I have to wonder…

One thing I’ve thought about a lot lately is cherishing the people I love. I don’t always say it to them, but I know I should. And for the ones who pass out of my life for whatever reason, I cherish the memories. I wish I could have said it again to her, but this will have to do: Thanks for the castle, Carol. It will always be on my dresser, holding my spare change.



~ by mburgan on May 1, 2018.

2 Responses to “Carol and the Castle”

  1. Hey Michael,
    Your writing, as usual, hit home. My husband, on December 20th, had a surgery to remove what the thoracic surgeon thought was a stage I lung cancer tumor. He also doesn’t smoke. It wasn’t. Thank god.
    I’ve been through so much in my life. I tell my kids, “tell people what you feel about them. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They say they don’t feel the same? Ok, cool. At least you know and can move on. “.
    I’m sorry about your friend. Really sorry.
    Never hesitate to be you.

  2. Thanks, Colleen. Glad to hear things turned out ok for your husband! I think it takes us awhile–if we get there at all–to realize the importance of saying what we feel to people around us. It can be scary if they don’t feel the same, but better to be honest. Thanks as always for reading, and for taking the time to comment.

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