:: Norma Wikler Memorial ::

...:: moira roth: memory 2 ::...
:: close this window to return to www.wikler.net ::
It was the last time I saw Norma.

I visited her in New York for the weekend of April 19-21, 2002
To celebrate, belatedly, her 60th birthday.

Small acts of extravagance on my part:

Taking her to a lavish dinner,
And Viennese cabaret evening
At the Neue Galerie

And an afternoon of Monteverdi opera
(The Coronation of Poppea)
At the Brooklyn Academy of Music

(We saw her sister Jeannie there, whom Norma dearly loved, as she did her other two siblings–she would often say how much she felt loved and supported by them.)

Norma had bought for the occasion
A bright orange outfit.

As we walked through Central Park,
A place she adored,
She told me
That the abundant clusters of daffodils there
Were the result of bulbs,
Given by the Dutch to the city of New York,
In memory of September 11th.

In her bright orange outfit,
With the daffodils and the sun,
Norma seemed quite radiant that day.

I took photos of the park,
And of her apartment,
And the last photo
Is of her laughing,
Snuggled under an orange appliqued quilt.

We talked of many things during my visit.

But she refused to talk about planning for the future, although I felt an intense energy invested in the present.

I admired her decoration of her tiny apartment in the hotel,
The care with which she had bought and arranged small items.

Lamps, a mask, artificial flowers . . .

She had asserted a sense of ceremony, color and idiosyncratic elegance in this small and originally nondescript space.

I was struck, too, how close she felt to the Olcott hotel staff,
And, they, obviously, to her. 

She knew about them, and knew all their names but one, and tried, laughingly,
To persuade me to introduce myself to him to find out his name
(She felt she knew him too well to ask, that he might be hurt if she did.)

She was taking a class in jewelry making and she gave me a choice of beads,
And only a week or so ago, sent me, with a note, the necklace she had made for me.

She was fiercely doing volunteer work for a union, including planning demonstrations at the City Hall (she fantasized, wittily, at length about buying an ostrich costume as her contribution to the protest), yet there seemed no permanent place for her in the organization.

But clearly she was deeply restless, deeply unnerved.

Recently she had applied for a job that had not worked out.

She talked of age limits.

She felt her role in the history of the Gender Bias Task Force was being eroded.

(I offered to come back later in the summer for a week,  and help her put her papers on the Task Force in order, so that she could give them to the Schlessinger Library.  Shortly after I returned to California, she wrote an email thanking me profusely, but saying she didnŐt want to do this.)

I now, of course, ask myself what was in her mind that weekend?

Had she already decided when to die?

I keep going over my memories of our exchanges.

I know I sensed in Norma a deep unrest and anxiety,

But not despair,

Not such a total despair that would lead to suicide.

[June 3, 2002]