THE LIGHT IN THE SHADE
She left this earth with one final request,“ Give me one more smoke.” Her cracked, parched lips performed their resolute task as the cigarette protruded from her mouth in an act of defiance. Her fate was sealed. One farewell kiss forfeited for the drag. No regrets - her will be done.
Marilyn Maxine Sohn was born on February 4, 1935, to Doris and Roy Sohn. She was a farmer’s daughter. Both my parents were children of dairy farmers, who toiled the earth; plowing the cornfields, getting up at dawn to milk the cows so as to provide for their growing families. She was the fourth child to a matriarch of German-Irish decent who was dealt a cruel blow, losing her husband early in their marriage with five children to care for.
She had her first smoke at sixteen, loved a good margarita, and spoke her mind. She made no apologies for her independent spirit. She kept her figure well into her 40’s. She liked to think, “I still have it.” Indeed she did. Having five children wasn’t going to stop her from feeling sexy. She could hurl curse words as lethal weapons to corral her unruly children into submission. It worked. Honesty was her credo. She told it like it was, sometimes without a filter, which could get her into trouble. It is a quality I share. She was the life of the party and knew how to entertain. With a cigarette in mouth she had a way of ordering her children to perform daily domestic tasks, always projecting an attitude of self-confidence. We knew who was in charge.
She came to realize, only too late, how much her love for her husband, Martin was something she took for granted. It came after his untimely death, leaving her a widow, just as he had retired.
Keeping a diary was her way of getting through each day. She filled five books over a three year period. The loss became her daily companion. The same three sentences were repeated over and over again. It was her mantra, her rosary, her daily prayer devotional. As I held her hand the day she left this earth, the hand with her wedding ring, I noticed her purple nails. I thought, “How strange, it’s not even close to Easter.” It was late January as snow began to fall. Snow would blanket the hilltop cemetery in a shroud of white as we laid her to rest. No purple drapes were drawn this time but I like to think the man in the blue denim overalls who never had a chance to say goodbye was rising and calling her name on that solemn day.