Last week was a bad week.
Each day was a battle to get through. I felt a new round of intense sadness about Mom Clutter, I didn't sleep that well, and I had a variety of odd aches and pains everywhere. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to not take a number of naps, and I missed a gym visit because I couldn't get it together to go, which never happens to me, and that left me irritated with myself on top of everything else.
I had an okay time at the Northern Estate this weekend. Saw Dad Clutter, which is always good, worked in the garden until my hands bled (apparently you're supposed to wear gloves, lesson learned) and had an ongoing, albeit one-sided conversation with Mom Clutter for a few days. I wasn't sure if she was fully listening to me at the house, so I continued the discussion at the cemetery. It was hard, but I came back to Clutter Headquarters yesterday determined that this would be a more productive week.
Then I saw the news that Robin Williams was found dead of a suspected suicide.
It felt like I took a baseball bat to the gut. The tears started to flow, and they just wouldn't stop.
Robin Williams was one of the first stand-up comedians I ever saw on TV (I think it was this 1982 special), and I was just in awe. His energy was amazing. His mind raced from joke to joke. You had to work to keep up with him, but man, it was fun.
I wish I could remember the year, but there was a moment during a Comic Relief special that always stuck with me. Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal came out to make a fund-raising pitch and introduce the next comedian. They just started walking off the stage, and then Williams turned around to make a joke, and Goldberg and Crystal hurriedly rushed over to catch up with him, and the three of them did a five minute improv routine that was brilliant. I can't even remember what the jokes were now, but I do remember being amazed at how fast they were throwing material at each other.
However, I also remember learning at an early age that Williams had substance abuse and mental health issues, which I think I first saw in Wired, Bob Woodward's controversial biography of the late actor John Belushi. It was also clear in interviews with Williams that he was two very different men. The guy in the interviews seemed so much quieter than the performer, that I used to wonder how he got from one extreme to the other. Boston Globe TV critic Ty Burr wrote a moving piece about Williams that talks about this further. He tapped into a sadness that both drove his humor and made some of his dramatic roles, like "Sean Maguire" in Good Will Hunting, so easy to connect to.
We had something in Clutter earlier this summer about Williams going back to rehab. His representative's quote at the time was, "After working back-to-back projects, Robin is simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud." It's a vague quote that protects a career without giving any real sense of the pain behind it.
This makes my heart hurt. No one should have to go through that hell. Depression is a vicious fucker. It doesn't care if you're black or white, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor. It will take over your head, and it will kill you if given the chance. It will tell you that there is no hope, and that there is only one way to stop the pain. Please talk to someone you know if you are fighting this fight, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You matter.
There's simply no way to go through all of his career highlights, but here's a sampling. Thank you for all of the laughter that you brought to the world, Mr. Williams. May your pain be gone, and may you enjoy the same happiness you brought to the rest of us. You will be incredibly missed.
Now I need to get to the gym.
Rest in Peace (pic via abcnews.go.com)
An Evening with Robin Williams
Good Morning, Vietnam
Dead Poets Society
The Fisher King
Good Will Hunting