:: Norma Wikler Memorial ::
...:: moira roth: memory 2 ::...
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It was the last time I saw Norma.
I visited her in New York for the weekend of April 19-21, 2002
Small acts of extravagance on my part:
Taking her to a lavish dinner,
And an afternoon of Monteverdi opera
(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
As we walked through Central Park,
In her bright orange outfit,
I took photos of the park,
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,
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,
She knew about them, and knew all their names but one, and tried,
She was taking a class in jewelry making and she gave me a choice
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]