When I was ten and eleven years old, I wanted – or so I thought at the time – to be a stand-up comedian. In the privacy of my bedroom, I would arrange every stuffed animal I’d ever snuggled or otherwise kept close in rows on my bed to face me as I stood, with hair-brush-microphone in my hand, reciting, word for word, the routines from my two favorite albums at that time: Bill Cosby: Himself and Robin Williams: A Night At The Met.
I knew every single syllable of these recordings and I never tired of repeating them, word for word, before my beady-eyed, non-responsive audience.
Bill’s rhythms were slow, steady. They would build, and then they would relax, and then they would build again. Himself felt safe, warm, friendly.
A Night At The Met, however, exploded like a bolt of lightning, even after thousands of repeated listenings. The rapid-fire frenzy of Robin’s routines were, to me, absolutely heart-stopping genius.
I’d loved Robin since I was a young child, when I, too, had a pair of rainbow-striped suspenders and would chant “nanu nanu” and “Earth to Orson!” We even had two cats named Mork and Mindy.
I amused friends – and, I’m sure, often drove them crazy – with my incessant quotes of Robin’s material, both from his stand-up and from his movies. I really wanted to BE him – to be able to create so effortlessly (or so it seemed) – and to somehow bring electrifying, manic, child-like joy into the world.
Eventually, my obsession with Robin faded, but I never lost my reverence for his genius. Oh, and how deeply I imbibed Dead Poets Society from my seat in that dark, crowded movie theater where I first saw it.
And to think that a man who brought that much happiness and laughter and light into the dark world couldn’t hold onto enough of it for himself to see him through.
When I first heard the news about Robin’s suicide, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Is there really a world in which he no longer exists? Unthinkable.
And then… I started to get very angry. How could he do this to his family, to all of us?
It’s always the ones you wouldn’t suspect.
Though he rarely spoke of it, my father was completely devastated by his brother Roger’s suicide on New Year’s Eve of 1981. Dad was so angry that he refused to attend the funeral services. He simply bottled up those feelings and never brought them out again.
Roger was a brilliant musician, a father, full of that same manic joy — and yet he fell prey, quite surprisingly, to the same demons of drug addiction and despair.
And those same poisons taint my blood, too.
Life really sucks sometimes, you know? It’s hard friggin’ work. I know exactly what it feels like to despair, to lose hope – to feel like, “You know, I just can’t do this business of waking up every morning anymore.” I really do.
The sun sets and then it’s dark – too dark for some.
Poor Robin. His poor family.
I’m not angry anymore – just devastated by the loss. Aren’t we all – all of us who felt like Robin was in our close circle of friends, who were immeasurably and irrevocably shaped by his influence? He was one of us – one of so many beautiful, mournful, lovely people trying to get along in a big, crazy world.
Yes, there is more darkness than light when you look up at the night sky – but it’s the stars, the givers of light, that persist.
So, for as long as we can stand to do it, let’s choose to remember the light and the joy.
So long, Robin.