A dear friend from North Carolina paid us a surprise visit for a couple of days. This woman is a mother figure to us, a sweet and gentle soul who has been there for me through my darkest days. I tell her that she saved my life, and I mean it with all sincerity. It is rare in life to find someone who truly loves and supports you like family through thick and thin, believing in you when you don’t have the strength to believe in yourself. Such a gift.
With ‘Momma’ Carol…
Carol hasn’t been able to visit us in a few years, so it has both been fun to catch up as well as to see the changes in our old home through her eyes. She was here to help me begin my new life in Birmingham seventeen years ago, and was the first of my close friends to meet Dan and fall in love with him and our found happiness. She helped us move into our ‘Chez Gainey’ and so has seen it from the beginning of its transformation….and also the beginning of my own transformation.
Sophie and Marley joined by their North Carolina cousin, Teddy.
We sat on the sunporch with the dogs and talked last night, delving into the past, an old life of pain and fear, and loss. Carol stood staunchly by me as my first marriage crumbled, her shoulders often wet with my tears as she held me and listened as I sobbed out my sadness. She supported me as I somehow taught and finished my doctoral degree in the midst of it all. She went with me as I studied with my mentor in New York and researched for my dissertation and ultimately the book I had published about him. She cheered me on each step of the way, a cherished friend and a mother figure when my own mother couldn’t be there. She readily adopted Dan, too, and he adores her.
Carol with my mentor, clarinetist Kal Opperman and his wife, Louise, circa 2000.
As we talked, it felt as if I was discussing that life as an observer, not the one who lived it. Such a strange feeling. It made me reflect on the incredible changes in my world since those days, the hard-won growth and happiness that have come from that darkness. It made me feel even more gratitude for Carol and my other tight circle of friends who were there when the worst happened, who held me up and enabled me to keep moving forward toward this ultimate place of joy.
It truly takes a village to get through some of life’s challenges- how fortunate I have been to have friends like Carol in my life who stood with me and helped me find my way through. How wonderful to come to the place where I see that I deserved to find joy and happiness in my life, that the lessons I learned, the pain I experienced, were all a part of growing to the now. I won’t forget that- nor will I ever forget the kind people who helped me get to that realization. Momma Carol is most certainly one of those treasures.