Bored, I had just finished packaging and addressing all my Christmas mailings and wrapping Hanukkah presents. I vacuumed, ran some errands, napped and finally, in desperation, I decided to motivate myself to finish a blog on why Latinos can’t seem to figure out their race…or maybe they have it right: we are all of the same race, the human race.
I digress. Before I opened up Word and my draft blog, I had to look up an address in my contacts. Scrolling down through the names of family, friends, and acquaintances, I came to Marilyn Howard, my dearest friend and fellow adventurer in the world. So close were we that my children and grandchildren called her aunt, my international friends knew her from her hysterically funny and loving letters, and my ex-husband insisted that she go with us on our trips—she would drink and stay up late with him in clubs and get up early to shop and take tours with me.
We met in the late 1970s at one of the research buildings on the Ohio State campus. I was a graduate student in Public Administration. Marilyn, a secretary, had heard I was a former cop and brought me a stem and leaves from a plant growing wild on her farm. “Is it a cash crop?” she asked, her voice hopeful. “Sorry. Its hemp, not marijuana,” I said, alarmed that she would want to grow a drug that I used to arrest people for using. Other than our height (short), we had nothing in common, and yet we created a bond that lasted decades. Marilyn edited my doctoral dissertation, double dated with me, supported me through my divorce, took care of my children and cats, traveled with me, taught me how to pee outside without getting my socks wet, traveled with me and my mother, cried with me, and got angry but always forgave me. It would take a novel-sized book to chronicle our life’s journey together.
Deep down, I knew. You always know. Surely, her sister Brenda would have told me if she was desperately ill or worse…surely. So today, fingers crossed, I emailed Marilyn and Brenda a short note.
The reply: “Glad to hear from you. I thought you’d gone to California, but Georgia is beautiful too. I have to tell you that Marilyn passed away January 7. I found her in bed looking quite peaceful. She’d grown weak and thin over the past months but was still driving and managing her bills and such. It was a total shock, but we’ve come through it. I spread her ashes under the prettiest raspberry bush.”
I’m sad. I feel adrift and guilty because I wasn’t there to hold her hand, to say I love you. I don’t have a way to mourn my friend. This blog is my attempt at closure.