Eric and Marilyn were known around town as the perfect couple. She was a raven-haired beauty with ice blue eyes that could literally light up the room, as she strolled in like a runway model. He was the traditional tall, dark and handsome man one would expect to see on the cover of a paperback romance novel. His thick, black hair was sprinkled with silver, teasing his temples. Marilyn referred to his hazel eyes as “mood ring eyes” because of the way they changed color.
Marilyn was a doctor who specialized in emergency medical care and worked for a large, well-funded hospital. Eric was the CEO of a highly lucrative pharmaceutical company, and a sometimes wannabe rock and roller. Their professions had brought them together ten years earlier and as they say, the rest is history.
Although Eric was ten years Marilyns’ senior, they seemed to be soul mates in every sense of the word. Three years after they married they had their only child, a daughter. Marilyn named her Erica as an homage of the heart to her husband.
Eric was a kind, gentle man who adored his wife and daughter. Marilyn was clearly the center of his world and Erica was the light of his life.
When they were together, they were always hand in hand or arm in arm. Their friends used to say that if there had ever been two people who were made for each other, it was Eric and Marilyn. Marilyn used to blot her lipstick onto a piece of paper and tuck it into Erics’ planner. She would write on the paper, “where would you like for these lips to be?”
Eric was just as sensual. He would arrange for Erica to have a sleep-over with her grandparents when he and Marilyn had a day off together. After a night of bliss, the next morning he would get up early, fix breakfast and serve it to her in bed, wearing nothing but a tie.
Erics’ third love was playing music. He and his fellow bandmembers weren’t paid for their gigs, but when they had one, Marilyn was his loudest cheerleader. After he finished playing, she would flirt with him and ask him to take her home, with the promise of doing things to him things that he would not soon forget. She loved watching him play, and seemed to be memorizing every line and curve of his face, as he belted out the songs of Mick Jagger.
Marilyn surprised him when she had one large room in the basement completely sound-proofed so the band could practice without disturbing the neighbors. She put in a full sized refrigerator, stocked with his favorite beer, and always made sure there were snacks for them to munch on while they practiced.
When Eric suddenly started having nosebleeds, accompanied by flashes of light and sharp, stabbing pains in his head, he tried to hide it. Marilyn suspected that something was wrong when he uncharacteristically started snapping at her and Erica for no apparent reason.
After Marilyns’ consistent prodding, a much begrudged trip to the hospital revealed that Eric had a brain tumor.
Surgery was quickly performed and the prognosis was cautious optimism. Marilyn knew what the odds of recurrence for that type of tumor were, but she hoped that he was going to be one of the exceptions. Two months passed and Eric hadn’t yet returned to work, nor had he returned to his music, but he seemed to be recovering nicely. Their anniversary was coming up and it had always been an anticipated celebration. Eric surprised Marilyn when he told her to get dressed because he was taking her dancing. When she asked if he was sure he felt up to it, he smiled and said, “absolutely.”
He asked her to wear a certain red dress, which had always been one of his favorites. They went to “their” place; the place where they had celebrated all of their anniversaries. As they walked in, they could hear the band playing, and a sadness came over Marilyn. She knew how much he missed being able to play.
After they had a glass of wine, Eric took her hand and lifted her from her chair. The dance floor cleared as they walked toward it. Eric motioned to the band and Marilyn beamed as they started to play “Lady in Red.”
As they danced, they seemed to be lost in each others’ eyes. Eric leaned over and whispered in her ear, “happy anniversary, darling.” She smiled as she took his face in her hands and said, “I want to thank you for giving me such a wonderful life. Promise that you’ll never leave me.”
He hesitated for a moment and then said, “I promise to stay with you as long as I can.” Marilyns’ smile slowly faded as she watched blood trickle from Erics’ nose.
Three weeks after their anniversary, Eric died. Marilyn was beside herself with grief and was absolutely inconsolable. How was she ever going to recover? He was the love of her life. When he was buried, she felt as if she went into the ground with him.
Erica was only five years old and really didn’t understand the concept of death. She just knew that her daddy wasn’t there anymore. Marilyn tried to explain to her that God had decided He needed another angel in Heaven, and chose her daddy to come be with Him.
Marilyns’ mother and father asked her to bring Erica and come stay with them for a while. Marilyn asked them if they would just let Erica stay because she needed to be alone to grieve, and she didn’t want Erica to see her cry.
Every night, Marilyn would go to the silent room in the basement. She knew that her screams would not be heard there.
Often, she would wake up the next morning on the floor, or sitting in Erics’ barber chair. That chair was one of Erics’ most prized possessions. It had been in his grandfathers’ barbershop over a hundred years ago. She could still picture him sitting in it, playing his guitar and smiling at her as he practiced a new song.
Friends and family called, offering condolences and help but Marilyn, as graciously as she could, always declined. She told them that she just needed time.
She knew she needed to return to work, and she knew that Erica needed her mother, and although she made her best effort to at least try to function, she was in an almost zombie-like state most of the time.
She refused to talk about Eric and all of her medical training told her that she was doing the wrong thing by shutting herself off, but she continued to withdraw.
She finally sought comfort in the counsel of Reverend Nick Hensley. She and Eric were members of the church but due to their schedules, they couldn’t always attend services.
Reverend Nick was a handsome man and a confirmed bachelor who always said he didn’t have time for a wife, because he was too busy serving God. He was well liked in the community and had a reputation for being kind and understanding. He had given a wonderful eulogy for Eric and had been Marilyns’ much needed crutch before, during, and after the service.
To be continued________________