She wore white linen to my wedding, and that’s how I remember her: she had a cool elegance, but also a tender compassion; she was never aloof or distant.
She confided in me about her illness in a way that surprised me at the time. I couldn’t imagine how someone 20 years my senior would take me into her confidence that way, but it didn’t make me uncomfortable. Well, maybe a little. But she told me how the cancer had first shown up in her colon, and later spread — “metastasized,” she said, always accurate in her vocabulary — to her liver. And somehow it made me feel she loved me, that she would be willing to share such details with me. I loved her back.
In the spring when the Legislature was in session we walked to the state capitol to present testimony in support of the the Judiciary’s annual budget, which we had worked together to prepare. We sat on a wooden bench outside the hearing room, and she said to me, softly, “I’m not ready to die. I don’t want to leave my kids.”
Her children were in high school then, both were graceful, soft-spoken, athletic. She was 50 when she died, five years younger than I am now. Her daughter was 15, her son was 17. Her son became a dentist and lives in Arizona. Her husband was an attorney, a southern gentleman, a tall Virginian with a slow drawl. He remarried some years later.
At Christmastime she invited all of us in the office to her home for a holiday party. She served us osso buco for lunch. She described how it’s made, and I remember how as a young newlywed I was in awe of the complexity and time involved in such a mouth-watering preparation. To her it was nothing; she changed the subject and told us a story about how every year on Christmas Eve her family would go night fishing. Then they would eat fish for breakfast on Christmas morning.
She was a life-line for me, in a way: she gave me a job two weeks after I was abruptly fired from the TV station where I sold advertising air time. I worked for her on contract so that I could continue to look for something in my so-called career path. Looking back, it seems like such a mistake: the thing I was pursuing was so inferior to what I had right there. There in that old historic courthouse, in our second floor office, churning out pamphlets and speeches on a ridiculously primitive word processor. It was a mistake because I loved what I was doing then: writing. Writing for Carol, who was my mentor.