August 19, 2014

The Death of a Clown

It is early on a Tuesday morning, and I am sipping my third cup of coffee. Toucan Sam is staring up at me from my Froot Loops t-shirt. A very bad week has come and gone, and I am determined to make the new week a productive one. To be sure, there are any number of pursuits that are more productive than blogging, but it's something.

Last week, on the first terrible day, I woke up from a nap. My wife was on the phone with her West Coast friend, Victoria. I drifted into the kitchen, noticing a newly-arrived cantaloupe, half of it in slices. It smelled nice, like summer. All was calm and very peaceful. I pulled up Facebook and there was the end of calm and peace.

Robin Williams.



I don't exaggerate when I say a chill ran through my body. I was flash frozen, to be exact. If you are familiar with the Kübler-Ross model detailing the five stages of grief, then I can spare you most of the gory details of the days that followed. By good fortune, I was not scheduled to play my regular dueling piano gig until Friday. Unfortunately, my depression begat insomnia, and my insomnia became sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation, combined with a surprise allergy flare up, gave me the wickedest migraine I have felt in years. I had to call out sick Friday and Saturday.

It seemed ridiculous to be so personally affected by this news. And yet, that was my situation. I can't deny it. I was beaten. Crushed. System failure. Mission aborted.

When I first saw Robin, he was Mork. He acted like he was five years old. I was five years old. Perfect timing. Mork and I were simpatico. Through this character, I was introduced to the concept of stream of consciousness thought. To me, at such a tender age, living in a dysfunctional home, Robin's creative gifts were high octane fuel for my own imagination rocket. But there was more. Even playing an alien, he was filled with all the most noble traits of humanity. Empathy. Loyalty. Curiosity. Kindness. This alien came in peace.

Of course, Mork was just the beginning for Robin Williams. At each stage of my life, he was there on the screen, showing me something new and valuable. When I was seven, he was Popeye, a cartoon hero come to life. When I was fourteen, he made me better understand Vietnam and the horror of war. When I was sixteen, he was the unorthodox teacher who helped me appreciate things I might have otherwise taken for granted. 

Now, Robin is gone. My grief is passing and I feel stronger. It's a new day, surely one to seize. I am filled anew with the earnest desire to be prolific and make every second count. Even on a much smaller scale, I want to leave a legacy, one of creativity, one of  love. It is the only way I can repay Robin Williams, and so many others, for the gifts they have shared with me.

Carpe diem!

1 comment:

Heather Taylor said...

A beautifully crafted tribute to an amazing man.