Marian was 82 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a number of years and the attendant paranoia that comes when reality jars with one’s version of the way things are.
She was Friday’s child—loving and giving—born on the autumnal equinox in the same decade as my own mother. Her only brother, a couple of years older, was born on the other side of the calendar, at the vernal equinox. They made a fitting pair of opposites—he, a thoughtful, feet-on-the-ground sort of boy who later in life became a lawyer and judge, his sister’s protector in their younger years when she was a dreamy, out-of-body sort of person.
I first met her in 1975 when I began dating her son. I was 22, she was 47 and stunning, her modeling days far behind her but her beauty still going strong. Her thick mane of hair was done by Kenneth, in NYC, whose waiting room she once shared with Jackie O.
She was working on her first master’s degree, in philosophy, a changed woman since her lackadaisical days in high school. Ironically, her second master’s, in gerontology, and her one-course-into-a-PhD in the same field didn’t help her when the vagaries of old age struck.
I loved her for many reasons, but she won my heart from the start by siding with me in a disagreement I was having with her son. About what, I can’t remember. Like most petty arguments between couples, the matter was insignificant and I’m sure my view was just as silly as my boyfriend’s. To my future mother-in-law, it didn’t matter. She stood up for me then and forever after. Not at all insignificant, that.
Yesterday my husband and I gathered what was left of her clothes and pictures of her wedding, her grandchildren, her modeling days, and her many framed degrees. We went for our usual walk downtown, two miles from the library and back. It was bitter outside and felt much colder than the 38 degrees registered. I was glad I had a new wool hat to wear. My husband said it made me look like a model. Of course it did. It was Marian’s.