My Mother had a strange smile on her face as she spoke to me. It would be our last real conversation before dementia began closing the windows and doors on life as she knew it.
“Treat your wife decently”, Mom looked at me with her eyes growing larger for emphasis, “Marilyn is a good woman. Make sure you love her. Tell her you love her. SHOW your love!”. It was surprising because Mom never seemed to like Marilyn, never showed any real affection for the woman who’d married her oldest son 15 years earlier. Hey, I was 48 when I finally decided to try marriage for the first time. Mom wasn’t exactly losing her baby boy. But the divide was always there between my Mother and Marilyn until that last conversation. Too bad Marilyn couldn’t have heard Mom. Too bad because Marilyn has been part of my life for more than half a century.
Marilyn and I first met as college students in 1964 when we and our world were young. We worked at the college radio station, seemingly a haven for shy, odd and eccentric people bound together by a passion for creativity.
I was shy. Very shy. I smoked a pipe and tried to look thoughtful. Marilyn didn’t seem shy. She was always talking, always full of life and laughter. She also wore her sweaters very well. I don’t know why but I found talking to Marilyn relatively comfortable. She put me at ease. I couldn’t do that with most of the other coeds I knew. But Marilyn was my best friend’s girl friend and very soon his wife. Somehow, our friendship continued and I became Godfather to Owen, Marilyn and best friend, Jeff’s son.
Matter of fact, the newborn son was named Owen Garry in my honor. Humbling stuff. Our relationships would soon change but remain in many ways. Marilyn would be the constant.
Fast forward across several decades. I pursued a career as a TV news reporter with a 31 year run in Boston. I was the free wheeling bachelor from central casting. The only constant was my relationship with Marilyn which had blossomed from friendship into something deeper. We had a frequent flier relationship between Boston and New York. The names and faces changed in my other relationships but there was always Marilyn.
Sometimes it got pretty complicated. Things got more interesting as Marilyn’s first marriage ended. She and Owen moved to Israel to find their roots which included marriage number two for Marilyn. Geography didn’t hamper my feelings for Marilyn. The friendship grew stronger through letters and phone calls. The names and faces kept changing in my life but Marilyn was my life line even if I didn’t realize it. As a regional “celebrity”, I popped up in tabloid gossip columns a lot. I was the carefree guy who would never settle down. Never say never.
I’m still not sure how it happened. (Editor’s Note: Yes you are. Liar, liar pants on fire!) Marilyn and Owen had returned to the States. Marriage number two was history for Marilyn. The revolving door in my bachelor apartment was slowing down. Marilyn was becoming my constant companion. There was a conversation one night about marriage. Apparently I said “yes”. It would be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life!!
Marilyn and I are now a year away from our silver anniversary. It’s hard to believe. It’s difficult to believe because of all the life and death medical crises Marilyn has endured over the past dozen years. As I write, Marilyn is staring down yet another potentially life threatening medical crisis. It might be trite to say she is a trouper. But Marilyn really is a soldier even as she grapples with fear of how I and the rest of the family will survive while she yields to the specialists and surgeons.
Marilyn has always put everyone else ahead of herself. Now, it’s her turn!! Marilyn has seen me through some very difficult times that I’ll never be able to repay. As a guy who has had a life time love affair with classic movies, I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the best leading lady one could ask for in real life.
This is not the end. I am hoping, wishing and praying that this latest chapter will end in relief, smiles and laughter for Marilyn, My Fair Lady.