Carol Winfield at six or seven degrees of separation

I still haven’t been able to get on my computer—something about too faint a connection to Hughesnet. I don’t want to ask the one computer geek I know, Sam Young, because he just won an election as representative to the Vermont House. (Which, we hear, may be contested, but all the same….) When he was just a smart and charming lad and near relation it was okay, but now that he’s become a seriously important adult…? I’ve e-mailed another geek, but haven’t heard back yet. So, I’m still at a bit of a loss.

Nonetheless, I have access to another computer, and writing this post is like a lot of things that may give us pleasure but are hard to do. If we stop practicing them, even for a few days or weeks we lose the will to keep on. So here goes.

I was thumbing through the local Vermont newspaper, the Chronicle, when I ran across an obituary for Carol L. Winfield, age 92. Took religion courses at Fordham, danced with Martha Graham, secretary to Rudolf Bing, became a yoga teacher at 70, and, in Burlington, “held court at musicale/salon gatherings in her apartment and served her renowned martinis.” I know her, I said to myself. Which isn’t exactly true. She’s one of those people we discover who turn out to be six—or is it seven degrees, away from us?

I ran into Carol Winfield on the Internet when I lived in California. I don’t know why I happened to look at her blog, although it’s obvious that I was preparing to start my own and the title “The View from 90” seemed relevant. There wasn’t much of it. A few posts, that’s all, and all of them a year or more old. But they were written with such verve and wit, I immediately liked their author. For example:

Alas, there are still far too many who ignore or refuse to acknowledge the wisdom, elegance, and fun the old can add to their lives—given a chance. Do they not realize the old are their history, their past, like the photo albums in a closet, in that old chest in the attic, even the bookcase in the living room? Not just their past, but their future!

I don’t know why I wrote to Carol. I don’t always respond to letters, much less posts by persons unknown. At any rate, I did, and she answered. She was still alive, that was clear, although she’d come on hard times where her health was concerned. I soon discovered that she was from Vermont and, in fact, lived in Vermont’s only real city, Burlington. It took me longer to realize that I knew her daughter, Madeline.

Maddie owned Newport Natural Foods then, and I’d been in the store looking for a natural remedy for hot flashes. As we surveyed bottles of black cohash together, she told me about her remarkable mother who taught yoga in her eighties and had written a book, “Yoga in the Morning, Martini at Night (or the First Three-Score and Ten Are the Hardest).” Not many weeks later, I met Maddie and her mother at a concert in Newport. I don’t remember Carol very well, only that I was left with a lovely impression of color and style.

Anyway, many years later, somehow and for no apparent reason, I found her on an over-populated Internet among hundreds of thousands of other bloggers. Looking at her posts again now, I’m most impressed by how she grappled with physical suffering. For most of her old age, she’d been healthy, until, in her nineties, her life was swallowed up by pain and she had to figure out how to live with it. It’s worth reading her blog to see how this woman, who was renowned for laughter and joy, struggled, and how she came out the other side. These are her last words on her last post.

I  still hurt like the very hell. I haven’t grown a whit spryer, no, nothing has changed except my reaction. It has made such a difference I want to share it with you, explain how it is being a frail, ragged, aching nonagenarian with not a single recourse except my own very private heart and mind-set.

Much as I want, I cannot evade a decision; either I re-evaluate my sense of self, or continue wallowing in grief and despair, dragging friends and family with me. I have decided to seize the moment, to turn it into not exactly one continuously blooming rose garden but at least into an occasional, sweet-smelling rose.

Will you join me?

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3 thoughts on “Carol Winfield at six or seven degrees of separation

  1. Good reminders! Do we want to drag down everyone around us or bring joy even when we do not feel joyful!

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