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December 29, 2014: Carol Clemens Past and Present

A few years back, I wrote a dispatch about our friend Carol and that she had breast cancer. I also put up one of her I-pad paintings. She did it in our kitchen. She was, up to a point, a good friend. We had some good times before she fell ill. We went for some horseback rides – she rode Signy – and we went to the state fair together. I once went with her to Anchorage and we watched the movie “Committed.”

Carol had long, white nearly iridescent hair and was tall, making her easy to spot in a crowd. She was single, didn’t want to be. And in fact, she told me shortly after she learned that she had cancer – invasive ductile carcinoma, that she was opposed to getting a

Carol's iPod drawing

mastectomy because then no man would be interested in her.

I do recall that our neighbor Jim once helped her fix her car. Like her, he was single. It was a set up on my part. I was walking down the driveway and I saw two pairs of long skinny legs, sticking out from under her vehicle. Like hers, his jeans were torn and dirty. But, a match was not to be. Carol was quite interested in Jim, but he was not interested in her. I guess he saw her place and thought she’d be too high maintenance.

An older fellow named Henry loved Carol dearly. However, she considered him to be just a good friend.

Pete and I ceased hanging out with Carol a year and a half ago because all she could talk about was her illness. The cancer consumed her physically and the thought of having it consumed her mentally. She attempted to deal by taking a holistic approach, eating all organic foods – juiced – and doing daily coffee enemas. This was a part of a health program advocated by a fly-by-night natural foods are the best thing for you healer. His name escapes me.

Carol went to Mexico and had surgery there – she had a lumpectomy and was given drugs that boosted her immune system. She also spent time in Washington State, with friends who had a similar ideological outlook. Carol was not able to handle the water there – said it had fluoride – and returned to Alaska.

Carol then hunkered down at her place – she lived in a trailer for a while, then after deciding that it was too moldy, she move out into her RV. Others continued to assist her in maintaining a huge vegetable garden that she had on her property. Her health and mental attitude got progressively worse. Pete and I paid her a visit last July – we didn’t stay long because we could not get a word in edgewise. There was a lot of talk about local doctors being inept and doing the wrong thing.

Now and then I knew that she had a story to tell, one that was to a large part about the failings of Western medicine. How frustrated she must have been about her state, and about the situation in general. But there wasn’t anything any of us could do to help because she didn’t ask us to assist her in coming up with solutions.

Yesterday I went to her place. Our neighbor Gary’s recent suicide got me to thinking about lonely people in general, and that perhaps Carol was lonely and could use some company.

I drove over to her place. The driveway had been plowed but there were no footprints. The RV was locked. And, where the trailer once was, was a beautiful new, two-story house. It was so new that there were stickers on the window. There were notes taped to the house door and to the RV door window, indicating that anyone looking for Carol should call Stephanie. I did this when I got home.

Stephanie told me that Carol is now in Sutton and is being cared for by Carol Overby, a friend and nurse. Carol’s cancer has spread to her brain, liver, and other parts. She’s now only semi-lucid and is not expected to live that much longer. Stephanie said that Carol’s made peace with family (there was considerable contention there) and that she has her cat, the Big Headed Pinto Loaner Kitty, with her. Visitors are asked to sign a notebook – when she’s better, those with her talk about those who’ve come to see her.

I am of course feeling very sad about how things worked out for Carol, because she was very much a kindred spirit. Had she made the right decisions early on, in this case going a more traditional route, she might be okay now. Had she had someone she trusted and loved with her the entire time, the outcome might have been different.

What bothers me is that Stephanie said to me that “she prayed with Carol.” I find this hard to fathom for Carol was as irreverent as I am. There is a strong religious right around here, and undoubtedly these are the people who in her final days at her place gave Carol a helping hand. I do not know the full extent of this. I do know that some of these individuals were originally going to build her a new house.

Carol’s current situation has got me to thinking about the nature of altruism and if such a thing really exists. I think not. Well, at least Carol won’t die alone, in a drafty RV. Rather, she’ll die in a warm bed, and surrounded by well-meaning individuals and hospice volunteers.

I thought about going and saying goodbye to Carol, but I think that I’ll instead go for a walk and wish her well on the next phase of her journey, for she was and always will be a kindred spirit.

Next: 349. 12/30/14: The Writing Life: If Wishes Were Horses