Marilyn Berman, author of Travelling the Two Lane: A memoir and travelogue died in June 2015.
In part one of this interview, Berman’s nephew Marty Weil described his aunt’s gradual coming out, and her close ties to her family.
Did she ever talk to you about her trip?
Oh yes, all the time. At one point on the trip she came to Charlotte, where I was living, so I’m mentioned in one little piece of the adventure. She took copious notes, and when she was on the trip she was in nearly constant communication by email. I’m a writer by trade and I had said to her on many occasions that it would make a great book, and I don’t think I was the only one.
Yes, it’s like a review of her life same time as she’s going through all the new landscapes. I’m sorry you lost her.
She had a brain tumor. She’d had several surgeries when it was removed, but it came back. In the most recent recurrence it was inoperable, so it was something that was a long time coming. I think she lived with it for four or five years or so.
Can you speak about her attitude towards end of her life?
Yes. Frankly, I was amazed — and I think a lot of people were — at how in stride she took it. She really was very matter-of-fact about passing and had made a lot of preparations. When she first had the brain tumor she got very serious about how she wanted things to be after she passed, and she made me the executor of the will. I was probably one of the few people that had the most conversations with her over the years, and she was very calm, except for worrying about what it would be like in the final moments. Other than that she took it as part of life.
What a great example for you.
Yes, it was a really great example.
Did she have a partner in her last years?
No, not a partner as such. She was unpartnered in her 60s and 70s, but she remained very close to her former partner, [called ‘Anna’ in the book], and she was with her at the end. They were together a long, long time. They did separate but they were very close friends and they remained very close.
Marilyn was 76 when she passed. I got the impression from the book that she was glad she took the trip when she did and she wouldn’t have felt right if she’d died without doing it. Toward the end, did she talk about things she wished she’d done that were left undone?
More important than the trip itself was getting the book out before she died. It’d been out only a few months before she was given the final [prognosis] that she had only a few months to live. I think she would’ve been extremely frustrated and disappointed if she had not seen the publication of the book. And of course the book is about the trip, so certainly in her retirement years the trip/book was of paramount importance. I think she really would have wanted to go on to do this kind of thing, to do this kind of interview, to meet with people, to get the word out of her experience.
But she didn’t mention to me anything about any regrets in terms of things she wanted to do. She basically did everything she really wanted to do. Everything she set out to do, she did. I think she felt she lived a very complete, satisfactory life.