If you’re lucky, you’ll have at least one friend who listens to your every story, joke, worry, and musing, no matter how boring or seemingly trivial. You’re even luckier if they take an interest in everything you do creatively and in your life in general, rooting you on when it seems everyone else is too busy or just doesn’t care enough to take the interest. I was just that lucky when I met a silly old broad from New Jersey. (She loved being called that, so it’s purely complimentary.)
I met Carleen Zink in a car forum called Focus Fanatics—I had a Ford Focus, she didn’t. She had followed a friend of hers to the site after they met on another forum. She was just discovering the Internet and tried to stay around people she knew. I’m not sure her friend was amused that she had followed him, so she slowly made other friends on that new forum.
We were both a bit older, and perhaps a bit wiser, than most of the members, so we bonded on that alone at first. But we quickly became great friends. We confided many things in each other. At times her life unraveled a bit, and I hope I helped her hold it together. God knows she helped me stay sane when I had more on my plate than any reasonable person could survive, and it’s quite possible that I wouldn’t have survived much of the madness without her
We talked a lot about spirituality and her faith. We talked philosophy in general…and politics (which she hated), and the terrible news stories of the day. We also shared lots of “shits and giggles” as we called them. We had mutual love for simpler things like Little House on the Prairie and old movies from The Wizard of Oz to obscure classics on Turner Movie Classics. She also shared her love of Columbo and Peter Falk with me. And I taught her as much as I could about the internet, technology, and all the things from my generation that had eluded her.
Nothing good lasts forever, though. Carleen died in her sleep on June 2, 2012. She was only 54, and left behind a husband and son, whom we always referred to as “The Albies.” I know they miss her far more than I ever could. Her whole life was dedicated to her Albies, and she put their needs ahead of her own like any other guilt-ridden Italian-American catholic mother would. (She wouldn’t have it any other way!) When she wasn’t goofing online or watching a movie, her time was spent cooking, cleaning, and just being a mother and wife. But she was their cheerleader as well. And that’s what she was for me.
Funny thing is, Carleen was my cheerleader when I never knew I needed one. My entire life has been spent in some frantic game to achieve something better. She cheered me on at every turn. I will be forever grateful that her Albies shared her with me enough for her to do that. And even though my frantic game is almost over on the job front, not one day will go by that I don’t miss her.
Thanks for the shits and giggles, Carleen. Thanks for the reassurances, the admiration of my talents, and for 1,000 questions a day. And thanks for liking me just as I am…even if I often didn’t.