She still relies on quotes she has memorized to converse with people, especially when she feels awkward or shy, though she talks with fewer and fewer people as time passes. P 29
A few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an article written by Katie Crouch. I started skimming it and quickly realized I wanted to give it more attention, so I printed it out. When I got home that night I read it all the way through, then I went back to page 1 and read it through again. I found it to be masterful and heartbreaking in equal measure. The way she framed her communication with Sylvia Plath while eventually discussing the suicide of a friend made me wish I could both emulate her writing and comfort her. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and talked about it to anyone who would listen.
A few days later I was at work talking with a patron who told me that a woman she knew who was often heard on Vermont radio had died. The worst part, she said, was that she left two children behind. I did not know this woman, but it was clear from the patrons coming into the Library who spoke about her that she was someone who sparkled and would now be utterly missed. Soon after the announcement of her death, it came to light that she had taken her own life and the family hoped that this tragic event might allow more open conversation about depression and mental health.
No sooner had I started to process all of this sadness while listening to people talk about the effects of this particular suicide, then I got the news that Robin Williams had died. Scenes from Dead Poets Society began playing in my head. I was dumbstruck with the realization that there would be no more movies, no more funny voices, no more laughs. Over the next couple of days I started remembering more and more of his films that had entertained and enlightened me over the years. Aladdin, Jumanji, The Fisher King, Goodnight Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum. To each role he brought his own special brand of manic spontaneity. The films in which he played a more serious role were always my favorites. It was as if he were letting you in on a secret, that as much as he liked making people laugh, he had this hidden talent for a deeper connection by not going for the obvious. Letting the urge to act out another insane antic pass him by.
Perhaps it’s the way I deal with grief, but I’ve been reading some of the tributes to him online and on Twitter. One of the authors I follow mentioned her fondness for rainbow suspenders and her love of Mork and Mindy. It was the popularity of that show that led the children in my neighborhood to christen two stray manx kittens with those same monikers. All of that sparked a remembrance of his live at the Met performance. I went and dug it out of my tiny tape collection and played it this morning in an ancient clock radio with a semi-working cassette player. I was surprised that I could almost recite every word of those monologues, but what I remembered most was where I happened to be when I heard it first. It was the late 80’s and I hadn’t been at school very long when my college roommate invited me to her home for the weekend. It was a whole new world: Chinese food, cats who lived in the house and a big brother. It must have been at that point that this tiny hairline crack in my perspective started. While I had been in my own little bubble of childhood, people everywhere had been living their lives so differently than my own. It blew my mind a little. All in all it was a great weekend. One evening we sat with her dad listening to Robin spew forth his genius. All three of us laughed and laughed. I couldn’t ever remember a time when I had just sat somewhere laughing uncontrollably while someone riffed about drugs, alcohol and swearing as the mood struck or it suited the character he was portraying. Robin didn’t censor himself, he just seemed to say whatever came into his mind. He went on and on and I laughed out loud. It was funny to me then, and still funny now. Yet this time it tinged with a sadness. At the end of the show he’s describing holding his 3 year old son’s hand and wondering what the future will be like. Robin tries to reassure little Zak that it will be okay. I wish I could say the same.
But to be in such despair, to feel as if there is a neverending darkness that won’t let you go, how does one begin to help someone see that it will be okay? Maybe that’s the difference– I’ve had the blues, but I’ve never had the blacks. No matter how bleak it seems, there is always a light shining down from somewhere that saves me from myself. Maybe it takes a tragedy –either close to home or close to your heart– to get people to stop and think. I know it’s made me wonder, “What can I do?” Maybe in some small way we’re all trying to help. There has been conversation and chatter online. and articles like the Crouch and this great list from Matt Haig have given me a deeper insight. I know that for me words are a true currency. I read them, write them and pass them on– hoping their will reach their rightful destination.
Read the list by Matt Haig
and the piece by Katie Crouch