"Smell this," she'd order, holding a gardenia-scented candle under my nose. Or, "Feel this," she'd demand, and then I would touch the coolness of a silky scarf.
When we shopped we always looked at these things: sweater sets, CDs (hello, Frank Sinatra!) and DVDs (hello, rom-coms!), items of home décor (especially framed prints), stuffed animals, silver jewelry and pieced quilts.
Marilyn loved big chunky rings she usually wore two or three on each hand. And the quilts? She was passionate about them. They represented the remembered rural Idaho of her youth, and she kept them neatly folded and stacked on the foot of her king-sized water bed.
"I had a good childhood," she'd always say. "I had a good mother."
On the way home from shopping we might stop at the grocery store to stock up on treats for her dogs (two poodles and a maltese), as well as Nalley's chili and chocolate milk for herself because they were easy to fix Marilyn was supremely indifferent to food. Then we'd drive back to her house. If another car cut us off on the way, she'd grab my knee in alarm and swear like a sailor. Then she would laugh. A huge, big, gusty laugh.
And all was right with the world.
Marilyn died of colon cancer, and as those of you who have watched it up close and personal can testify, it's not a pretty death. I spent part of that final week in her home, along with family and other friends, trying to make her comfortable, trying to assuage her thirst while reading the anger in her eyes: I can't believe I'm dying.
She did not go gently.
After Marilyn's death I promised myself I would get a colonoscopy when I turned 50. I owed it to the people I love. I owed it to Marilyn's memory.
Only I didn't. And I didn't for six years after that either.
I've been wondering why. What makes us put off the things we know we should do? Denial as in "it won't happen to me?" Or fear as in "it will happen to me?"
Some people are put off by stories of the extremely unpleasant(!) prep the night before. For others, expense is the problem. I have a friend who puts off getting a colonoscopy because her co-pay is too high.
My own excuse is lame beyond lame but here goes. The days and the months and finally the years just got away from me. Seriously, it gave me a little start to type that opening sentence. "Today I am thinking about my friend Marilyn Thomas who died seven years ago."
It's been seven years since Marilyn and I said our goodbyes against a chilly Idaho sky. Time flies, as they say … whether you're having a good time or not.
So. Marilyn. If you're there, I'm making good on my promise. Finally!
Thank you, friend.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/columnistcannon.