In the 40 years that Carol Stark and I were friends, we had only one argument. We disagreed about an editorial change she made in my column regarding the use of an apostrophe followed by an "s" when forming the possessive of a singular noun.
I argued that it didn’t matter whether the noun ended in an "s." To make it a possessive, one had to add an apostrophe and an "s." I threw the MLA Style Manual, the Chicago Style Manual, Strunk and White, Warriner’s Grammar and a dozen other sources at her to bolster my point.
But Carol was adamant. The AP Stylebook was her bible, and it said no to the final "s" if the noun itself ended in an "s": AP decreed Charles’, not Charles’s; Harris’, not Harris’s.
I finally said, fine, she could leave off the final "s" as long as she knew that she and the AP were wrong 17 ways from Sunday. Then we went out for dinner and drinks after she got off work and never talked about apostrophes again.
Carol and I met when she was a young reporter for the Carthage Press and I was new on staff at the Carthage Public Library, fresh out of grad school and working part-time for $3.10 an hour. When she interviewed me, the first thing I noticed about her was that she could write voluminous notes on her steno pad without once breaking eye contact.
We bonded immediately over our love of reading and flower gardening and the importance of the First Amendment in library and journalism issues. Over the years, when I was spending a good portion of my earnings at Ozark Nursery on Saturdays, she and I would spend more time exchanging book recommendations than talking about perennials and shrubs.
We survived Diet Center together, sharing hints about the best clothes to wear on weigh-in day and indulging in mutual commiseration over what fatty foods we missed the most.
We both loved jigsaw puzzles, and Carol seized upon the idea of doing a little feature about puzzle addicts. I was at home, beset with a miserable case of bronchitis, when Carol decided she needed an interview. She also wanted a picture. I protested; I didn’t feel good; I looked like the wreck of the Hesperus; she should talk to Elliott Denniston because he liked puzzles.
Steamroller Carol ignored my pleas and showed up at my house. She promised the picture would show only my hands fitting a puzzle piece into place. She lied. However, the resulting article, with clever graphics done by Tricia Courtney, turned out to be one of my favorites. I laminated it, and it is still stuck on a bulletin board in my basement.
Carol would frequently drop by our house after work to share dinner or to work on a puzzle or just to have coffee (what my husband called “Carol’s coffee-flavored milk and sugar”). After she moved to a house just several blocks from mine, we saw each other a great deal. We had regular TV evenings with other friends, watching "The Good Wife," "Downton Abbey," "Poldark" and "Outlander."
After one of her surgeries, Carol spent a week recuperating at my place. That was when I discovered her absolute fascination with HGTV. She introduced me to marathon sessions of "Property Brothers." Now that I know more about those twins than I’d have thought possible, I think I can even tell them apart. We also watched hours of those Waco fixer-uppers, Joanna and Chip Gaines. If I ever see another shiplap installation, it may be too soon.
About a month before she died, Carol came over for dinner and a movie. She asked specifically to watch "Calendar Girls." When it finished, she asked if we could watch another and picked "Murphy’s Law." It was a wonderful evening, and it was the last time she was in my house.
A couple weeks ago, the new TV Guide appeared with the cover showing the actor playing Ross Poldark emerging from the Cornish sea, shirtless and dripping water. I thought of how much Carol would have enjoyed that cover image, and how we would have made fun of each other for our politically incorrect admiration of that admirable torso. I so wish she were here to watch the final season of "Poldark" with me.
I will miss her for the rest of my life. I am not alone. Carol would have been delighted to know that she broke the Barnes-Jewish Hospital record for number of messages received by a patient. Carol was an award-winner to the very end.
Carolyn Trout lives in Joplin.