Tis the season to be sappy – no, just kidding (sort of). But, this time of year does make me think of my dear friend Carol who (I want to say the word died here, but she was murdered….. so yea, she did die but it wasn’t of like natural causes or and accident or anything like that)……… where was I? Oh yes. Carol. It was around this time 2 years ago that we buried Carol. Because her death was tragic and shocking, I don’t think that the people that knew her remember her or talk about her life like they should. I don’t want people to forget her, she had a wonderful soul and a huge heart. So, here is my story of what I know about Carol.
Carol was adopted when she was 3 by a very Catholic family in Oxford, PA. Her adopted father was a war hero and a very influential person of the Sacred Heart Church. She was the first of 4 children to be adopted and she was also the oldest. Her adopted parents did not see the need to change her first name when they adopted her – which perhaps was the start of her problems. At the age of 3, she became known as Carol Carroll and was henceforth known as “Carol Carroll stuck in a barrel, must be a pickle.” The things that I am about to say were told to me by Carol at a stage in her life where she was very aware of her own mortality due to her MS and she felt the need to get things off her chest, to have answers and reasons for why things turned out the way they did. Although I could provide very little comfort, I was there to listen and so she told me her story. I cannot say for sure that her accounts are true, but I believed them and still do and I think that was very important to her.
Carol’s parents adopted 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. But they also were very active foster parents. Due to their involvement with the church, they had alot of children passing through their house. Carol’s opinion was that her parents did this for money – not for the love of children. She says that her parents treated the foster children very poorly. They didn’t spend the money that they received for fostering on the children. They got very little to eat, crappy clothes, and they were beaten often. In later years one of the children even committed suicide. Here is where I asked – Why didn’t anyone notice anything?? Surely one of the kids would have spoken out. But, back in the day the foster kids were home-schooled and no one would believe that such a highly decorated Catholic family was capable of such behavior. Carol says that her and her adopted siblings were expected to treat the foster kids the same way that her parents did and if they complied, they were treated very well. Carol did this for only a short time before something inside her told her it was wrong and so she began refusing to treat the foster kids poorly. Instead she would sneak them food and make them clothes, offering them whatever small condolances that she could. Because she refused to participate in the awful behavior of the rest of her family, she was shunned. If she was not going to treat the foster kids the way they wanted her to, then they would treat her as one of the foster children. But to Carol, she didn’t care – she was not going to be a part to the suffering. Eventually when Carol was grown and out of college, some of the foster kids tracked her down and came to her to thank her for what she had done for them. They told her that she was the only light of hope that they had during that terrible time.
Carol went on to college and became a CPA. Right after college she got a good job and was living in a 2 bedroom apartment in Delaware County. It was then that she began to notice that something was wrong. She went to doctors and was frustratingly misdiagnosed and told that nothing was wrong with her. But Carol knew that something was definitely wrong and whatever it was, was getting worse. Carol decided that she needed to have a roommate. She didn’t think that it was a good idea for her to be alone anymore as her mental state was becoming “loose”. Carol put an ad on the local college campus bulletin advertising that she needed a roommate, just that and no more. What she got was Bill. Carol said that immediately Bill responded to her ad, and when she told him that she knew she was sick but didn’t know with what, he was ok with that. So the saga of Bill & Carol began.
Bill & Carol eventually married and moved to the Oxford area because Carol was from the area and she had a job at the local University. Bill was from a well-to-do family that lived in Delaware County and he had a very good job when they moved to Oxford. It was at the University where Carol worked that she and my mother met. They became fast friends and as my parents were going through a divorce at the time, I think Carol was a great shoulder for my Mom. She also helped my mom find a house, which is how we ended up moving to Oxford and living across the alley from Bill and Carol. It was the year that we moved to Oxford, 1989, that Carol was finally diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She continuted to work at the University for as long as she could, but she finally had to give in to the MS and quit. I know that this very much broke Carol’s heart. She was smart and loved to work, especially with numbers, and hated that a sickness made it impossible for her to work. This was to be the beginning of the downward spiral, one that ended in death, for Bill and Carol.
With Carol not being able to work, she had to apply for disablity – which was rejected 3 times before it was approved (people tell me this is the norm). They had a mortgage on their house and they needed both incomes to pay it. While Carol was waiting for disablity to be approved, they got behind in some payments. Bill still had a good paying job, but it was becoming evident that he was jealous of Carol. Jealous of the fact that he had to work while Carol could stay home all day and collect money from the government. They both had alot of friends, but mostly Carol did because she was from the area. During the day, friends would stop by to party and just hang out. I think that is what made Bill really jealous. Forget that Carol had an illness, she could stay home all day and party while he had to go to work and miss all the good times. Carol told me that Bill got fired from his job becuase he knew of some embezzlement going on and when given the choice to participate, he refused and was thusly fired. Only after Carol died did I find out that this was what he told Carol. What he told his employers was that he had to quit because he needed to stay home and care for his ill wife. That would have been most honerable, had it been true at the time. The truth was, Carol wouldn’t need someone to care for her every day for another 10 years. You see, Carol’s MS affected her neurologically more than it did physically. She was able to live on the first floor of their house and she even drove for a long time after she was diagnosed. One of the many battles between Bill and Carol was that she was frustrated at him for not working. She urged him to go and work so they could pay the bills. But Bill would get job after job and lose them because he didn’t really want to work. That was the heart of it, Bill was just one of those people that didn’t want to work. So as the years passed they became more and more in debt because they couldn’t pay the bills.
I first met Bill and Carol when I was ten and all I knew about them was they were nice people that were friends of my moms. We had to hang out there sometimes after school to wait for mom to get home becuase we were too young to be on our own. And, they had alot of cats. I wouldn’t really get to know Bill and Carol until I was around 19 or 20. I ended up living with them for a short time when I was 22 or 23.. can’t really remember. They were always taking in strays; people and cats so when I lived there I think there were 3 other people around my age living there besides B&C. It was like a commune at times, but there were always people around, people to laugh and cheer you up and there was always someone playing some kind of music or musical instrument at one time or another.
Anyway, Carol was a bit “Aunt Clara” like……. I think it was because of being part hippie and the other part was the MS. She would put her shirts on backwards and insideout (and not know it). She wore shorts in the winter with knee high socks and sandals. She always had 3 pairs of glasses at one time, but they were all broken in one way or another. She would put chicken or turkey bones in a pot and cook them for days straight and then eat the soup. She loved to drink vodka and milk. In the middle of a conversation she would leave the room and come back 15 or 20 minutes later with whatever object you were talking about. She loved to play, listen, and sing music. She watched the Simpsons and Oprah religiously – you weren’t allowed to speak while they were on. She always wanted a fire in the woodstove – even in the summer. She hated to take showers and wash her hair. She laughed alot – sometimes so hard she cried. She was always changing the furniture around and trying to recover a chair or put a 4th leg on a 3 legged table. She always took apart the Tiffany chandeliers to “clean the crystals”. She loved cats and would take them in and feed them in a heartbeat. She went into debt and ran up a huge vet bill trying to get them all spayed and neutered. She kept up on current events and loved a good political debate. She was always trying to hand out books and get us younger people to read. She loved to be outside and did so whenever she could. She always had a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers because she was always digging “tiny shards of glass” from her feet – even though no one else could see them. She listened and offered very good advice and a neutral point of view on alot of things. She was a wonderful person to talk to. She had and told the best stories. She taught me that it was ok to express my feelings when I felt them and I would be better off for it. She taught me to stand up for myself using my words without losing my point. She wouldn’t let anyone come around when her sister visited because she didn’t want anyone to see how she was treated by her sister. Even though her family treated her like shit, she defended them and was by her father’s side on his deathbed – playing his favorite music as he lay dying. She hated liars, theives and cheaters (Bill cheated on her once and she found out about it when she got a veneral disease).
I have been composing this post for a week now and so I am going to finish up. Carol cried to me once and asked me how come if she sacrificed so much in her younger years to help the foster children, then why did she end up with MS and have to live the rest of her life sick and in poverty? I cried with her as I didn’t have any answers. I just told her that I thought she was fortunate to have known her purpose in life. She was there to help those children, as no one else would. And she was fortunate enough to live long enough to know that she did have an impact on their lives. Although she had MS, she didn’t have it as bad as most where she suffered terribly. Her suffering was at the hands of her twisted husband.
2 years ago, 2 days before Carol’s 50th birthday and 1 day after her brother died, Bill flipped out and killed Carol. He knocked her over the head with something and then strangled her to death as she lay on the floor. Bill said he did it out of mercy – Carol was suffering and he wanted to end it. That is the biggest load of self-serving bullshit that I have ever heard in my life. Bill wanted to end his suffering. I admit that Carol became more neurotic and bitchy as the MS progressed, but certainly she didn’t deserve to die the way she did for it. There were always more than enough people to care for Carol if Bill had left her. She did so much for so many people, we would have made sure that she was well taken care of and she didn’t have to go into a home where she wouldn’t have been able to live out her life as she wanted. Didn’t she deserve that, at least?
I miss Carol. She gave me my first snow globe, with an old-fashioned santa inside. I look at it now and think about her and what she did for me. Some people judged her because she lived life the way she wanted to and didn’t care what people thought. She drank when she wanted to and smoked pot when she wanted to….. who cares? Who’s to say that if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness that you wouldn’t do the same? So, I remember the good things about Carol and hopefully after reading this, someone else will know or remember what a generous, wonderful, giving person she was.