It was second grade. I had pigtails; she had bangs - both of ours crooked. Seems we had other things going on in our heads the morning of picture day. She, probably pondering the theory of evolution. Me, probably sleeping in late. Carol Dufer has been my friend for over 4 decades. She pushed me to get check-pluses in elementary school. She made sure I got all of my stars for my multiplication tables. She watched me suffer through algebra and when she knew there was no hope - slid me her homework in geometry.
Fiercely competitive when it came to grades, sports and righteous causes, even at a young age, she would battle for you until she bled, and even take a loss, if it helped you out of your jam.
Carol Dufer as in, “You do for me and I’ll do for you,” as she once said in an interview. She got the job. She got every job. And she will - do anything for you.
Carol’s fierce competitiveness mixes with a genuine need to contribute. Whether a job, a cause, a delivery (yes, as in baby), Dufe shows up first and leaves first, thus the nickname DRIVEBY. We all torture her about that because we never want her to leave, but over the years, we have caught on that she double and triple books us - that she pledges her services all over, and she is never a no show.
As a friend, her contributions come in the form of extreme loyalty. She need not her own opinion about the facts or the matter - when it comes to her friends, they are right. And, right or wrong, she has our backs, and her own back will be up if anyone dare pass judgment. Sometimes, I am amazed at her high level of loyalty, which is most commonly the force that accelerates her into motion.
She has been a nurse, a lawyer and a sales force within herself by trade. A booster parent and president, a commercial landscaper, a home health care specialist, a pool girl by necessity, and a club queen by passion. She also carries with honor her role as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend. No matter what her title, Dufe dives in. Her platform is built on the foundation of commitment to work, to friends, to family and to T.
It gives all of us so much pleasure to watch her run circles around her self proclaimed, "Mr. Big". Sure, she’ll do anything for you - but after she takes care of T. From getting him dinner to re-cementing the pool, there is nothing she won't do for him - side of the laundry. T. spins her and we revel in the motion.
Coming on five decades. Our friendship is the story of our lives. We have stood for each other and we have stood behind each other. We have fallen and found enough humor in the midst of our mishaps to ease the crash. We have watched each other become women and mothers and mentors for kinship. We are the aunts to each of our children. We are the first call in all crisis, the first to call each other out and the last call when we are out (that would be the rest of us).
One time, I began talking to Carol about my daughter, Aidan. At five, she was being headstrong about something. “Do you know what I mean?” I asked. She responded, “Do I know what you mean? I grew up with her!!”
Years back, we watched Carol lose her sister, Denise, in a long battle. At that time, Dufe was carrying Anthony, carrying a full time job and preparing for the Bar. She passed. Denise was a role model and Carol is a quick study. More recently, three of us have buried our fathers. When I look back on each of those days, I am filled with the warmth of our friendship and its ability to soften the pain of our losses. On those three days, it covered us and carried us. I see the one who mourned with four others directly behind her. It overwhelms me. On the day of Mr. Dufer's mass, we learned that he once said, "To have a friend, you have to be a friend". A quick study, for sure.
I know I speak for all of us, when I say that I am blessed to have a place in Carol Dufer Mele’s heart. I am blessed to know that no matter what I do, no matter what I need, whether I am too weak to fend for myself or too strong for my own good, whether right or wrong, successful or suffering, flying high or broken, Carol will be there. She will be there, as she has been, with a full plate of warm Hershey Kiss cookies, an even warmer smile, a wink and a beep.
Happy birthday to our friend and confidant.