One Bench, Two Memories, in Central Park

Dear Diary:

I was in Manhattan just for the day — I live in Massachusetts — with a brief respite from appointments in the midafternoon.

It was chilly and raining, but I headed for Central Park anyway.

The park was beautiful, even in the rain. I kept thinking how much my sister had loved it.

I found her memorial bench just over the bridge in the Ramble, overlooking the Lake, and took some pictures with my phone. As usual I felt ambivalent, ineffably sad but also pained by what she had done to us all, as well as to herself.

A jogger bounced by, a man about 40. He saw me photographing the plaque and asked, “Is that a good one?”

“It’s my sister,” I said.

He stopped, stricken. “I’m so sorry . . . . ”

“It’s O.K.,” I said, “you couldn’t know. And it is a good one.”

He read the inscription to Norma Wikler we had lovingly crafted 10 years ago. I thought he would laugh at “Outraged and Outrageous.” Instead he exclaimed, “Costa Rica!”

“Yes,” I said.

“Costa Rica! ” he said again. “My son was killed in Costa Rica!”

Now I was stricken. “What happened?”

“He was dragged by a horse. Five years old. The brightest light there ever was.”

I started to cry. He was already crying. We stood there, two strangers crying in the rain.

I said I hadn’t cried for years. He said he cried all the time, it helps him feel better. His son was killed on Jan. 3, 2008.

I told him that Norma had committed suicide, that she couldn’t face being 60. But at least we had her that long. Five!! That’s so much worse.

“Pain is pain,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“Marjorie.”

“Jeff.”

He shook my hand and jogged on.


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