MARYON ALLEN REMEMBERS the last evening they had together.

"We sat on the beach. We had a beautiful sunset. The sky had turned salmon pink. The boats on the Gulf were gorgeous. We were talking about how we felt, sitting on the edge of the earth that way, how we were reminded that man was so small; we talked about what infinity really meant. We even talked for a long time about how happy we had been together, how we had proved people were wrong about us when they said two people who were so different could never work it out."

The next day, after late seafood lunch and a nap, Sen. James Allen and his wife were getting ready to go out to dinner.

"I was in the dressing room," she recalls. "He had just gotten out of the bathtub, he was standing there in his underwear. And I thought to myself, 'Gosh, you're a clean-cut, fine, good lookin' ole thing."

"Then he was falling and he said, 'Honey, help me.' I grabbed him to break his fall. I guess I went down with him. I knew when I saw his eyes he wasn't going to live. He was in my arms. 'I love you Maryon,' he said."

She managed to get to a phone to call for help, then came back to hold her husband again. When the ambulance came and they tried to administer oxygen, he pushed it away. "He said, 'I need one more time to tell you I love you.' We had time to tell each other how much we loved each other, to say our goodbyes. Then he said, 'I'm going,' and I said, 'You promised you'd never leave me.' The very last words he said to me were 'I love you and don't ever forget that.' Not many people have that. I feel so grateful for that. And I feel grateful too that I had almost 14 years with a man who was, to put it, childishly, literally my hero."

If you're feeling sorry for Maryon Allen, don't. She's a tought cookie and she's going to be just fine.

Not because she's cold or callous. But because she is strong she is a survivor, she is southern and because she is a "Pittman girl" from Birmingham, Ala. And as they say in Birmingham, "Ain't nobody gon' run over a Pittman girl, especially Maryon."

Not to mention that she is now a United States senator.

She's not quite comfortable with that title yet.

Appointed by Alabama Gov. George Wallace eight days after her husband, Democrat James Allen, died at age 65 on June 1, Maryon Allen is now engaged in a campaign to win election for the two remaining years of this term.

So she was thrust from widowhood into a Senate race and she hasn't had all that much time to adjust.

One thing you have to get used to with Maryon Allen at first is the fact that she is so startlingly honest. So honest in fact that you wonder how she has ever survived as a politician's wife and how she will ever continue to survive as a senator.

"I have a penchant for being irreverent," she says. "I guess I'll have to start being dignified now." Then with a laugh. "I learned one thing in politics. The hardest thing to do is to keep your mouth shut. I never have before. Sometimes I just want to scream at some of these people and say 'you goddam idiot.' Some people wondered why I never got Jim impeached. But I have nothing to hide. Never had, I think the state knows me pretty well. But still, before I just spoke for me. Now I'm going to have to think about what I have to say."

She is late for lunch one day last week. Held up in committee.

After a brief wait in her office, livened up by her miniature poodle Alabama Coco in a rhinestone collar, her needlepoint pillows and a good many pictures of her late husband, her press secretary leads the way to the Senate dining room. Shortly afterwards she comes in briskly, sits down, greets a reporter and graciously agrees to autograph a picture of her husband for a young boy. "My picture isn't in here but can I do it above my sweet husband," she says. Then glances over, rolling her eyes. "My new celebrity."

When she is told that she is among a number of Alabama women being interviewed these days including Cornelia Wallace and her mother Big Ruby, she grimaces, at even the possibility of comparison.

"Honey, I got more couth and culture than Big Ruby ever had. Even on my worst day. Really!"

She is a small, fragile-looking woman, with delicate features, pale skin, very feminine, very elegant. She looks like a proper southern lady. She is conservatively dressed in a classic suit and silk blouse, her hair pulled back in a chignon. She looks her 52 years, the tiny crinkles around her eyes give that away. They also give away her sense of humor. Yes, the proper southern lady (she even wears white kid gloves; even on airplanes) until, that is, she opens her mouth.

Maryon Allen is a southerngirl .

There is a brand of southern woman familiar to those who have spent time in the South, so distinct it becomes the female equivalent of the "good ole boy."

She is irreverent, strong, funny and always completely independent. She was a "hell-raiser" in college, always a member of the best sorority on any campus. She was attractive to men, always had lots of beaux. She understood better than anyone how to act like to woman, how to charm a man.

Her language is sometimes profane, very southern and especially colloquial. She has a mind of her own and is disarmingly candid. She tells you everything and tells you nothing. Her impressive deeds belie her helpless words. She is - what in the South is one word - a southerngirl .

In the South, being a southerngirl is a question of style. Northerners sometime mistake the feminine approach for weakness, subservience, an antifeminist attitude.

In truth, a real southergirl is probably the most advanced feminist of all. For regardless of what hardships she may have to endure, she is survivor.

And anyone who expects her simply to follow in the footsteps of her husband is a fool.

When she begins to talk about her new role, she turns serious, for a moment anyway.

"I'm having a terrible identity crisis," she says. "I don't know who I am. The mail comes to me as Mrs. Maryon Allen or to Sen. Allen. To me Jim is still the senator.I don't let anybody in the Capitol call me senator. I don't think it's very feminine. I've asked everybody to call me Mrs. Allen. That was my best title. I don't want another one."

Part of that attitude is shell shock and part is having to adjust to two new roles, the loneliness of widowhood and the responsibility of being a United States senator.

"I'm trying to do this thing with taste and dignity, I'm not sure I can do it. Jim and I found each other last in life. We were close. I feel like I'm an open, bleeding, raw, walking wound. I have to cover it all up during the day here in the Senate with a front. Jim wanted me to. I hate the word widow. But if I hadn't done this I would have fallen into the poor pitiful. Pearl routine and felt sorry for myself. Jim wasn't going to give me that luxury. He gave me every other one. And I must admit, at my age it's kind of exciting to start a new career.

"I always teased Jim and said I walked three steps behind and carried a train. I never really was a pushy wife. A lot of political wives put on a big production like Cecil B. De Mille, a lot of them sit in the gallery and act like queens. I think that's kind of tacky. I never was a visible wife. When I was with Jim I hung back. Jim certainly didn't need anybody to tell him what to do. But he made me promise that if anything happened to him I would run. 'At least give it a chance,' he would say. 'I think you'd like it.'"

As she talks she asks to borrow a mirror. "Thank you," she says, carefully retouching her bright pink lipstick, "without a mirror I always end up with my lipstick halfway up my nostril."

She wasn't so sure she would like being a senator at first, she continues. At first she was only very scared and nothing else.

"Jim was so absolutely male," she says. "He has fabulous men on his staff.The day I was sworn in I looked around and thought, these men are not going to accept me. For one thing, they're all southern. I thought, 'How could you have dared to accept this role?' When I was waiting at the top of the aisle in the Senate for Fritz Mondale to swear me in, he looked 9 feet tall and I felt 3 feet tall.

"I looked up in the gallery and I saw my mother and I had trouble controlling my emotion. I wondered again how I dared do this. 'You've sat there and watched Jim with awe,' I thought. It sounds weird but I guess I felt he was with me. I didn't tremble. I didn't shake and they were all so sweet. I knew they were all thinking this could by my wife. Then I heard that oath and I thought, 'Can you do this, are you going to let Jim down?" Then the vice president leaned down and kissed me and hugged me. I had to sign the register and that really floored me. Putting my precious signature by Daniel Webster and Jefferson Davis. I got a bit shaky there. Then Fritz said, 'All the senators want to show their love for you' and do you know they all filed by and kissed me. I was so close to tears. And they would nervously say something like, 'I haven't kissed a senator all morning." They were just darling."

The most difficult part for the new Sen. Allen, she says, was in the Senate cloak room with Muriel Humphrey.

"I had a really emotional moment with Muriel," she says. "We just looked at each other, and put our arms around each other silently. Finally she said, 'You know I understand.' And I told her, 'You died a hundred times over with Hubert. You had it so much harder than I did. I only died once.'"

One of them told the new Sen. Allen later that "all those men were thinking, 'Here are these two women who had the guts to walk in here. Could my wife do it?"

"They've all made their little pilgrimage over to me," says Maryon Allen. "They'll all touch my shoulder or pat my hand when they walk past. Jim would have liked that. Now they'll tell me I'm doing great. They all stayed for my maiden speech the other night. They all paid a tribute. I thought if they didn't shut up I was gonna die. Even if I lose that will be the most important thing to me. It's like a family." Tearing Up the Dailies

Maryon Allen ain't gon' lose.

"I guess," she says, "I've always been success oriented. I think anybody can do anything. I don't think there's any excuse for not succeeding. If you really want to."

She got that from her parents Big J.D. Pittman and "Big Mama" alias Tellie Mae. "I guess you could say Mother and Daddy were prominent people in Birmingham without being tacky about it," says Maryon Allen. "My father owned the Caterpillar tractor, franchise; my mother was the character of the world. Her ambition in life was to be a fire chief. So for her 79th birthday I'm having the Birmingham Fire Department ride her around on the back of the fire truck."

The Pittmans were originally from Mississippi. Her father with a fifth grade education but a genius for construction engineering, built all the levees on the Mississippi River when he was just a young man. Her parents were married on the levee and lived their early years in a tent on the river.

"My mother had the only tent with a floor. Daddy called her his levee camp queen. One night he pointed to all the sparkling lights across from the levee and he said to her, 'One day I will cover you with diamonds just like those lights.' She believed him and he did."

Her father was a character too. One of Big Mama's favorite stories about JB had to do with the traditional rivalry between Birmingham and Atlanta. On one trip to Altanta, tired of hearing the locals brag about their fair city, JB remarked "If y'all could suck like you could blow, you'd have the goddam Gulf of Mexico right here in Altanta."

Maryon was the second daughter. Her older sister, Beulah Mae, was beautiful with "dreamy golden bouncy curls. Here I was a short chubby little girl with straight brown hair, this little plodding creature. Daddy expected me to be a boy and after I was born he called me 'son.' When all the little girls were wearing lace dresses and ribbons he dressed me in cowboy suits. So I realized a long time ago that if I wasn't going to be beautiful I had to outthink 'em. I had to learn to use my brain."

And she did. She went to the University of Alabama where she majored in journalism, a profession she continues even to this day, writing a syndicated column for a group of Alabama newspapers called "Reflections of a Newshen" and doing freelance articles for various southern magazines.

"My life's ambition is to write just one piece for either Esquire or The New Yorker," she says. "And I love to write. It's such a wonderful form of self-expression. In our family self-expression was never a problem.

"We never listened to each other. We just waited for the other to take a deep breath so we could get a word in."

While she was in college she met a lawyer, and he convinced her to drop out and marry, though she now says she didn't want to. "In those days, at my age if you couldn't talk about what kind of wedding dress you'd ordered you just weren't cute."

The marriage was a disaster. After 12 years they were divorced, and she was forced to go to work to support their three children. "I was in pitiful shape. I had no self-confidence."

She finally got a job as an insurance salesman. "I was the only woman in competition with all the men. They treated me like a mascot. Being the competitor that I am I thought, 'Well, I'll show you.' So in two months I headed sales.But I didn't like it. It made me feel distinctly unfeminine."

From there she went to being woman's editor of five weekly newspapers in Alabama. "I was tearing up the dailies," she says now with glee.

"It did wonders for my ego." It was then she began her column. After doing that for several years she joined the Birmingham News. "I was more or less a feature writer but I told them 'I ain't doin' any weddings.'"

It was two weeks after she began that job that she was sent out to interview the then Lt. Gov. James Allen. He was a widower who had lost a wife and daughter in a fire, then lost a retarded child several years later.

"I didn't want to do the interview," she says. "At the time I'd been so turned off men in general that they didn't have an ounce of charm in the world for me. I went to the interview down a back alley and as I passed a church the bells began to toll. I though to myself, 'Don't ring for me' and I looked at a garbage can and thought, 'that's where your life is.' You do get a little weary of being a single parent. Anyway, it was a tacky ole day for me."

She was led up to the lieutenant governor and didn't even bother to look up from her notebook.

"Then I looked down and saw the biggest feet I'd ever seen. I looked up and saw the gentlest face. His eyes showed he'd been hurt many many times. That was it. We didn't have a chance. We just knew. It was funny. Here's this great big silent gentle man. And this woman who never stops talking. And we got together. He calmed me down and I pepped him up. We were opposites outwardly. But not inside." Always Looking for Votes

She is traveling to Alabama almost every weekend now campaigning for her husband's Senate seat for the next two years. She has opponents but none of them is expected to be serious contenders. As one Alabama pol put it, "She has the sympathy vote, the women's vote and Jim Allen's votes."

Nevertheless, she's not taking anything for granted, particularly because there is another Senate race going on, this one for retiring Sen. Sparkman's place and she doesn't want there to be any confusion.

Last weekend was a trip to Mobile where she attended the State Bar Association's annual convention and worked the crowds of influential Alabama attorneys.

Her plane left a little after 8 a.m. but she was there over an hour early, crisp and fresh and "on" as though it were midday. Her staff aide Sue Brotherton was traveling with her this trip. "I can't travel with any of my men on the staff," she says forlornly. "It just wouldn't look right. We've got to think of some name I can call Sue that sounds impressive."

She is full of chatter and gossip on the way down, talking about politics, people, decorating, journalism, jewelry, burglary and her relationship with Jim Allen which she always comes back to, never in a maudlin way.

She files her nails, then polishes them with clear polish, complaining bitterly that nothing she can do will make them grow and lets fly with a few opinions.

"To me the worst thing a person can be is a bore. That's a cardinal sin. And they don't know they're bores. How can they not know?"

"I think the Wallaces should shut up. It would be the Christian thing to do. Everybody in Alabama is getting awfully tired of seeing those old dirty sheets flapping around on Perry Street."

"I personally can't feature that Cornelia is really serious about wanting to run for governor since she waited 'til the last day to qualify. But I guess all of us girls have to stick together. I wish I could be on her list for hand-me-down clothes. I like Cornelia. She's a woman's woman. And she's gotten a dirty deal."

"My heroes in life were Winston Churchill, Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy and Jim Allen. Now that Jim Allen is dead I don't have any heroes any more."

"How could Jackie Kennedy marry that Greek after having been married to that divine Jack Kennedy? There comes a time when you have drunk of the golden chalice, where you say, 'I've had enough.' To me the idea of another man in my life is obscene. You don't look that much happiness in the mouth. Any man compared to Jim Allen would be like wet crackers," She shudders. "For me that was it."

"I don't care what Truman Capote does in his private life. I just love the way he writes. I think he's a genius."

"I've always managed to keep my own identity. It's important. Everybody needs that.It's why so many women get so frustrated in middle age . . . because they haven't. It's great to be in the shadow and all that but . . ."

"I'm hardly Phyllis Schlafly's biggest fan. She asked to see my husband about some issue. He asked me to join them for lunch. When she arrived she grabbed Jim's arm and said to me, 'You don't mind if I take your husband off do you? I have some things to talk to him about that you wouldn't understand. At lunch she insulted me several times, put me down in front of my husband.

Finally he left and I left, too, after pretty much telling her she was a bitch. She's supposed to be so feminine and all. Well, she's about as feminine as a sidewalk drill."

"We weren't real huge on the social scene in Washington. We didn't have anything to prove. You realize immediately that the invitations are for a purpose and you know perfectly well that none of them thinks you're absolutely frabjous. Anybody who wants to can go every night."

"I think the way the Carter people are handling things, especially the Peter Bourne thing is just dumb, that's what it is. Dumb without the 'b.' D-U-M."

"People in the South love their politics better than they do their food on the table. Some people don't even think as much about their religion as they do their politics."

"Talk about politickin'. Once I was in a hotel in Mobile and I was sitting on the bed in my nightgown drinking my coffee. It was 105 degrees outside and suddenly these two window washers appeared at my window, pleading for some ice water. Always looking for votes, I just said, 'y'all come on in and have some coffee.'

"We had a good ole time but if Jim Allen had ever found out I was having coffee with two window washers in my nightgown he would have killed me. But I got two solid votes for Allen. Can you just see the head of the Alabama Baptist church if he heard that story?" And she bursts into delighted giggles. A Holy Cause

When the plane arrives in Mobile, Maryon Allen is greeted by a male campaign aide and her younger brother, Jim Pittman, a Mobile businessman. They had brought that morning's newspaper with and ad for Howell Heflin who is running for Sen. Sparkman's seat. In the ad Heflin had used Jim Allen's name as though he were Allen's man though he had actually worked for Allen's opponent in the last Senate race. At first Maryon Allen laughed it off, joking that she was going to have to patent her husband's name before it was over. But as she thought about it during the day she got madder and madder. Later in the day over a bottle of "giggle juice" (white wine) she would tell Rep. Peter Flowers (who is running against Heflin) that "I don't take kindly to that sort of thing."

"Take kindly!" laughed her brother Jim. "That's an understatement. Maryon's gon' git his very ass."

The day in Mobile was filled with backroom political meetings with potential supporters, plus a luncheon and an evening banquet with the State Bar Association. Nevertheless she managed to take a quick house tour around Mobile to review some of the restoration projects she is writing about for a free-lance article in an interior design magazine.

With the lawyers, almost all male, Maryon Allen was superb. Her political footwork with them waa dazzling, shrewd, and effective in a way only a southerngirl could be. She is always, always feminine, sweet, and above all unthreatening. (She has four male opponents in the campaign for the Sept. 5 Democratic primary elections.)

To the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court: "Isn't he cute? He's not like any ole greasy judge you might meet. He's lot cuter than Warren Burger."

To any man: "How's your beautiful wife? This man married the prettiest, girl in (Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, etc.)."

To a TV interviewer: "Of course I'm not puttin' down my fine opponents. They want to win. It's just that we want to win a little bit harder."

To several constituents: "I think people expected me to accept this position. I went to Washington to take Jim's place. Of course no one could ever take his place. I should say I went to succeed him."

To a man with whom she had an appointment: "I apologize for being late." "Senators," he replied, "never have to apologize." "This one does," she answered.

At one point in the afternoon she went to a TV station to see her campaign commercials. One of them had her in the fields talking to a farmer. "My Lord it was awful," she laughed. "I was knee-deep in red mud. I ruined a pair of $50 shoes. But I never stopped smiling."

When asked to pose for photographers in front of the TV set with the commercials showing she grimaced. "Should I look in pain after I see myself with all the wrinkles and crows feet? I can always hang over the TV set and throw up. I hate to look at pictures of myself."

Early that evening, as she was dressing to go to the banquet in her hotel room, she talked about the issues and how she felt about them, occasionally calling out from the bathroom as she put her makeup on.

Asking advice about her dress, "Don't you think this is the prettiest color blue?" complaining about her hair, "I was going to wash it last night but I was too tired when I got back from the Senate so I just put on a third coat of hairspray," and exclaiming over a very bare pair of French black patent leather sandals, "Ooooooo I just love 'em. Aren't they sinful?

"Naturally," she says, "I'm going to keep Jim's ideals and commitments. That's like a holy cause. But I suppose in the future I might run out of his commitments. . . but not his ideals.

"I'm definitely a conservative," she says. And I don't think I'd ever be a liberal liberal. For one thing it goes against the mainstream of Alabama.

"I think there has been a great change in the South though. For one thing civil rights is a fait accompli." She rolls her eyes. "Let's get off of this one," she says. "It's too controversial."

She doesn't mind saying that she's against the extension of ERA though she wavers a bit about the ERA itself, explaining that the particular wording of it could be harmful to women in certain cases. Pro-ERA women in Alabama say that she has become decidedly more anti-ERA after she became a senator representing the majority of Alabama voters.

"Lord knows," she says, "I'm not against women. That would be insane. I've been a working mother with three kids. The thing that worries me is that in many cases the states rights would be forfeited an women would have to take their settlements to federal court. Do you know how much those legal fees would be for these poor women?"

She perks up and looks mischievous. "Here's something I'm not supposed to say. I do not accept women's leadership in the body of Bella Abzug. And I don't like the way some women's groups have flaunted lesbians. And I think women should stop running around the streets demonstrating and waving placards.

"They should go home and run for office and stop all this demonstrating and carrying on and running around the Hill asking men to do favors for them, literally grabbing people off the floor and elevators and making asses of themselves."

As a woman "I've been given this right to be senator but I'm going to earn it. And I'm not letting anybody call me senator until I have earned it.

"Abortion," says Maryon Allen, "is the most controversial issue there is." She is in favor of federal funds for abortion but only in the case of rape and incest. As to abortion itself, "I feel it is such a personal issue for women. I believe it is up to what you feel you must do. I wouldn't want anyone to dictate to me their religious beliefs or the right of my own body. I feel very strongly about that. I hope that's an honest answer." Stirring Up the Pot

The first thing that happened after Jim Allen's death, politically, was a negotiation which took place among the Allen people and George Wallace about whether Maryon Allen should be appointed senator. Although Maryon Allen will not discuss the matter, sources in Alabama say the Wallace refused to appoint her at first unless she agreed not to run in November for her husband's remaining two years. Wallace apparently wanted to run himself for that office. Reportedly he was told, in effect, to go to hell by the senator's widow and that if he didn't appoint her without strings that the whole ugly story would come out in the newspapers. Wallace relented and appointed her without conditions.

The first thing Maryon Allen did after she was appointed senator was to call up the retired Senate parliamentarian and ask him to tutor her in the Rules, a subject at which her husband was a master.

The first thing she learned as a senator was not to ask anyone to hold her purse.

"One day I was getting ready to go out to the floor to vote and I asked my press secretary to hold my purse. My Lord," she laughs. "You'd think I had handed him a python. He held it about three feet away from him. From then on I began to take Jim's old brief case to the floor with me."

"The strangest thing has been happening. My staff will say so-and-so is coming to talk to me and I'll have a slight moment of panic. Will they accept me? Will they think I'm a reasonably smart lady?So it's so surprising to me that I can relate unless it's hideously technical like physics which I wouldn't begin to understand in a million years. And then there's somebody on the staff who knows about it. I realized that everybody in Congress operates that way.

The first problem she had in the Senate was Robert Byrd, the Democratic Majority Whip.

"He was a little show about giving me my committee assignments," she says. "He played real dirty pool on it. I finally got two of the three assignments I wanted (Agriculture and Judiciary, but not Rules). He just thought I was a dumb broad and was going to ignore me."

She laughs heartily. "We get along just fine now," she says sweetly. "You always outwardly get along. But he's just a little power nuts and everybody knows it . . . but let's don't stir up the pot." Nobody's Patsy

Maryon Allen comes from a long line of southerngirls. Her mother, Tellie Mae, almost 79, will tell you, "I've always been independent myself. I wouldn't let anybody tell me not to do anything. And Maryon's strong too. She'll make it. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, she'll fill Jim Allen's commitments in the Senate. But she's not going to be anybody's patsy. She's going to do her own thing. You can tell that just by looking in those steamy blue Pittman eyes. Nobody better try to tell a Pittman girl what to do."

Her older sister Beulah and her younger sister Jeannie love the idea of their sister as a United States senator. Beulah, 58, is a tall elegant woman, married to the head of the department of pharmacology at the University of Alabama. At a luncheon interview with the "Pittman girls" (including Big Mama) in Birmingham at "The Club" which their father helped found, they talked about themselves, their sister and southern womanhood in general.

They all agree that Scarlett O'Hara was "a dumb broad," and that Melanie was "insipid," but that they both reflected the strength of southern women.

"Women of the South," says Beulah, "have always held things together, both during and after the war."

It was exactly a year ago to the day of the lunch at "The Club" that Beulah found out that her husband had less than a year to live, having been stricken with a rare cancer of the nervous system. The day of the lunch she was wearing a beautiful gold and diamond pendant "the symbol of eternity" he had given her that very morning . . . "We beat the bastards," she had told him, she said ruefully.

"There's one thing you must understand," she said fingering her pendant, her clear blue eyes sparkling with defiance, "It's not in the Pittman women to break. We bend, but we don't break." Time to Mourn

Jim Allen had literally been counting the days and hours before he and his wife, Maryon, could take off from the Senate and go down to their beach house on the Alabama gulf.

He had put in a rough spring, working sometimes 18 to 20 hours a day on the Panama Canal, plotting the conservative antitreaties strategy as only he, as the master of the Senate Rules, could.

Because of his diabetes and a previous heart attack he became "depleted, emptied," says Maryon. "He was in such pain I thought I'd go mad with concern. Every night I would rub his back, his legs, all those 38 days during the debate. He had to do it his way so I never resorted to being a harping bitch.I just decided all I could do was to make the pain easier.

"He was," says his wife, "an enormous man, great big and tall. The big ones are always more sensitive than the little ones about their manhood. It wasn't even manly to talk about a headache. Talk about macho!"

When the debate was finally over, and their vacation time arrived they went to the beach, a rare vacation for the workaholic Sen. Allen. But by then it was too late.

The death of Jim Allen is not the first tragedy in Maryon Allen's life. She lost a brother and a sister when she was growing up, and the loss of her father was a big blow to her. Her first marriage was a disaster, a painful emotional experience. And shortly after her second marriage she developed tuberculosis and was in a sanitarium for nearly a year. Eight years ago she had a heart attack and last January she had a hysterectomy.

Yet she doesn't dwell on those aspects for her life. She won't, as she will laugh, allow herself to fall into the "poor pitiful Pearl routine."

What she does worry about is the fact that she hasn't had time to mourn her husband yet, not in any self-pitying way but in what she feels is a very necessary way.

"I haven't even had a few days to mourn," she says. "I feel I need it. I need time to mourn. After the November election I'm just going to get in my car with my dog Coco and drive for about three weeks and find out who I am."