Marilyn and I both have rambunctious, outspoken 9 year old boys. We are “older moms.” But there are differences. I am 52 and Marilyn is 75. Her son is her first child. She is a single mom and a widow. The story of this remarkable woman and child are related in her recent work This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes now available in paperback and eBook from Harper Collins.
Both she and her book are page-turners. Forced to close the chapter on a vibrant marriage, she embarked on a new story. In the same month that she buried her husband (Don Hewitt), she was researching elementary schools for the arrival of a child from Ethiopia, whose spine was contorted by tuberculosis, and whose life was saved by Dr. Rick Hodes.
On a recent morning, over coffee, we spoke about the current literature on widowhood. I am mid way through Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story and was deeply moved by Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I asked Marilyn why she did not succumb to the disorientation of grief, as experienced by Didion and Oates, or as JCO describes, “My husband died, my life collapsed.”
Although she says she was never a do-gooder, she attributes the fact that she finds herself saving the life of a child — who in turn is saving her life — to circumstance and synchronicity, not to long term planning. In choosing parenthood, she has evaded a period of magical thinking for a magical life. One that she never before experienced and had not envisioned. In doing so, she has redefined widowhood. She is not the woman left behind. In fact, she embraced an abandoned child. She has opened me, all those who know her, and all who read of her journey, to the possibility of crafting an unimagined, unexpected life out of loss.