Tribute to Carol Roemer, my girl next door

To the Editor:

I am writing this for my classmates — Guilderland Central High School class of 1962.

I visited Carol at her home in Altamont on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, two days after our 50th reunion. I guess I should share it, since you guys all had a lot to do with it. I was just carrying all this love from being with everyone, and I was full of that when I saw her.

Carol was my girl next door. “I’m glad I was that for someone,” she said when I told her that a few years ago. She was still that when I saw her.

She truly did look good. Beautiful, in fact. Her voice on the phone was soft and sweet and then, in person, the same. Her eyes were the same. Her features were pretty. She looked young.

She was up and about, not on a deathbed at all. She met me at the front door. We sat on the couch. And we talked about you guys.

“We had such a smart class,” she said at one point. “I remember being in science lab. We’d have a quiz. I looked at people’s papers. Betsy had 91. Dave Warner had 100. I’d get a 50. It wasn’t till I was in college that I realized I was smart.”

The girl next door is the one you can trust. It’s deeper in lots of ways than the girl you date, who might cross you up and leave you confused. Carol was Dave Warner’s girl. You’d see them together in the halls, him carrying his books next to his ear like a quarterback. And, of course, he was the quarterback, which is the top dog in high school.

So, she was taken, and so was I. But one day it just happened that we got off the school bus at the same time and walked home together. We were doing the “just friends” thing the way you can do it in high school, and I tried to hide the fact that I was completely honored to be walking with the most popular girl in class, a cheerleader, and soon to be Senior Ball queen.

When I saw her, then, that last time, she didn’t seem sick really. She had some modest cap on, and she’d been having trouble with some swelling around the middle. But she just wore loose-fitting clothing and looked pretty, like always. I forget what the formal stages of dying are, but I guess the last is acceptance. She was completely surrendered.

Carol’s obit is so completely perfect, the picture of sweetness. She did, to her credit, have a wild side, too. In college, we’d go to Mike’s Log Cabin and some similar place in Watervliet; smoke cigarettes awkwardly because we didn’t smoke; drink beer, which was legal for our class at age 18; and talk about life and love and friends and what we’d be when we grew up and who we’d marry. We’d dance till they closed the place if we felt like it.

When I visited that final day, we remembered those things. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was as if the guardian angels were already there around her, and maybe some relatives from the other side. Her house was peaceful, blissful, and loving, as she was.

I had a dream a couple of weeks later, when I heard that she might not have long to go. In the dream I was thinking of Carol, and there were these colorful mountains in the distance — all greens and reds and yellows. I’ve never seen such perfect mountains on Earth, all filled with light. I felt comforted, that she was safe and taken care of and about to be in a wonderful place.

As I was leaving after that August visit, I was getting into my car, and she had come out into the driveway. “I felt really bad this morning,” she said, “but now I feel really good.” That was you guys, it truly was. I was carrying the love of being with everyone, so, now, you all can know that, even if you didn’t get to see her, you did send her your love before she passed.

Mostly, a lot of the time I felt OK about her passing, because it all seemed so smooth, as if she weren’t really leaving but just continuing. Sometimes, though, when I think about it, there’s something in my eyes a little.

The girl next door. I don’t think she was that just for me. She was the girl next door for all of us, and, well, you always secretly love the girl next door.

Jim Meade, Ph.D.

Los Angeles, California