Many people are trying to process the untimely death – the suicide – of Robin Williams. He is a legendary comedian and actor who I first knew as “Mork from Ork.” California law required a detailed release of how he died. Depression. Hanging. An as of then publicly undisclosed diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Husband. Father. Friend. Loved. I’m not sure it gets any easier with time or that questions are ever answered. I find I’m still in some stage of grieving the suicide of a childhood friend who took his own life just over three years ago.
Steve, Steven, or Stevie. Few were allowed to call him Stevie. I did. Our moms were best friends before we were born. I’m a few months older. His father was absent and therefore was raised only by his mom. Today I would say he was co-parented by my mom and dad. There were always behavioral issues. As children, mom kept a watch over me for his flying toys – hurled without warning. I recall hurling my own plastic bowling pins at him for something. We laughed about it years later. He was diagnosed as ADHD and was on Ritalin for most of his school years. He could be off the wall and very funny. Hyper-creative at times. His own Mork from Ork impersonations guaranteed a “nanu nanu” and a “shazbot” now and again.
On and off, he and his mom attended the same church with my family. He participated in Youth Group at church. Sometimes there were emotional outbursts with other kids and adult leaders. In the church parking lot, my parents thought once he tried to run me down with his car. On occasion he would drive circles around the block around my house. In later years, he always offered his opinion on anyone me or my sister dated – or married. He worked for some time in the Renaissance Festival circuit. But, he was mostly unemployed and on disability. Issues with authority figures. You never new what to expect. Confrontational at home throughout his life. Occasional threats to end his life.
He threw himself into working for the local historical society. One of my last memories is of helping him with an exhibit. The historical society came into possession of a few Gone With the Wind items of historical significance. Stevie called to ask if I would mind loaning some of my collection to fill out the exhibit for a weekend. Realizing I’d become detached from owning this collection, I quickly agreed to help him. I packed up some items and left them with him for a couple weeks. I attended the exhibit. It was very nice.
Mom called me at work one afternoon – “We have a problem. Stevie’s gone. He’s dead.” – she whispered the last two words. He had gone to the historical society alone with a researched plan. Plastic wrap and nitrous oxide. He didn’t come home when expected and another historical society member found him – seated on a sofa – gone. He had recently turned 45 years old. I remember scouring Facebook for his last posts and trying to remember our last interactions. I was thankful for the GWTW exhibit collaboration. His mother wanted my sister and I to speak at the grave side service. I remember looking out at people – relatives – many of whom had their own troublesome history with him. I wasn’t always kind to him. I was even hateful at times. I said I would miss him and I cried. I looked at his mom and I meant it – the words and the tears.
The last Christmas present I remember getting from him is “The Dedo” – a small replica of a sweet faced gargoyle from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Legend has it that it was carved by the nun “Marie Therese” from Provence. She didn’t like the evil faced gargoyles and carved this one instead. She slipped into the Cathedral and placed on the highest point “closest to God.” The Little Way of love. Shortly after Stevie’s death, my parents, sister and I went to visit with his mom. It was my job to look around the house and the computer to see if there was anything left behind – perhaps a note. I slowly walked through the house. All the places he spent most of his time. The attic where he retreated to smoke. The computer desk. His room in disarray. Relics of the troubled spirit. As I looked around the house and the shelves, there among his collections was another Dedo – exactly like the one he’d given me. I picked it up and held it for a few moments. I left it there.
Sometimes I go through my shelves looking for chotskies I can give away. I pick up my little Dedo gargoyle and think of Stevie. I wonder why he didn’t call me or reach out in any way. I just wonder “why?”
Thanks for reading!
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2010. That’s about 10 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 18 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 81 posts. There were 11 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 10mb. That’s about a picture per month.
The busiest day of the year was August 2nd with 79 views. The most popular post that day was Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, franciscanfocus.com, backpew.blogspot.com, mail.live.com, and rhinoweb.org.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for angela merici, giotto, order of penitents, protect us from all anxiety, and st. angela merici.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula August 2008
Mount La Verna Leaf & The Stigmata of St. Francis September 2008
Extraction of Franciscan Saints & St. Angela Merici January 2009
Funerals, Black Vestments, & Cemetery Musings November 2008
Order of Penitents – Short History March 2009
The better part of the last week has been spent with my dad in the hospital. I’ve also spent time with mom — checking on things — walking the dog.
Walking the dog in the yard, I can remember what the yard used to look like. On this day, only the crisp smell of Fall air and the crackle of fallen leaves are unchanged. I instinctively remember the soft carpet of zoysia grass — carefully spread by my dad through meticulous plugs over several Springs.
I remember the two Christmas pine trees which had spread together creating a little arbor cave — a place with an iron garden set — a place where I, then a High School Senior, contemplated my future. The pine trees succumbed to beetle disease several years ago and are gone.
The concrete walkway and circle where I rode my tricycle — crumbled in many spots — the yard now eroding away from the edge and exposing the depth of concrete.
There is the giant oak tree that my mother warned against planting — it will get too big. It has indeed gotten too big. It is so large that its roots have taken all the life out of the carpet of grass — all the life out of the yard. There is no more grass at all on most of this side of our yard. The grass and soil erode and expose gnarly roots — like the aged wrinkles of aged skin. The roots exposed like the years of family hurts — disappointments — despair — sadness.
I close my eyes and breath in the familiar smell of Fall — I hear the crackle of leaves under my feet — I remember my laughter in the piles of raked leaves
and then I open my eyes again
Oak Tree in my childhood yard -- eroding roots
Sometimes it can be the smallest changes we make that makes all the difference. This may not seem like much but I have one such thing — I’ve allowed my subscription to TV Guide to expire. This is my declaration that the TV viewing schedule will not rule my life.
Does this mean I will no longer watch TV, or my favorite programs? No. As a single person, I find the television often fills the silence of my home.
What it does mean is that my life will not revolve around whether or not I will miss a favorite program. Technology now permits that I will watch a program on my schedule and, if I never get around to it, oh well. It wasn’t that important anyway. It is a letting go.
It does mean, hopefully, if I miss a favorite program, I am out building real relationships — involving myself — exercising my introversion.
For awhile now I have chosen to listen to my local NPR station rather than popular music. I get a vast array of subjects, both informational and sometimes musical. Today as I drove from Mass to run a couple of errands, they were broadcasting an interview with Esperanza Spalding, a young bassist and composer — fusion sounds of Jazz, R&B, and classical sounds.
I did not hear the entire program but the interviewer asked her what it was like ‘growing up under hard circumstances.’ She was raised by a single mother and the phrase ‘sometimes homeless’ was used in the interview. Her reply was inspiring. To paraphrase her response, Esperanza said that she never thought of her life that way — being hard. It was not the dialogue of her home to say — ‘this is terrible’, ‘this is awful.’ The dialogue of her home and her mother was to give thanks for all they had — she enjoyed the park and the library.
That is the phrase I took away as I turned off the car in my garage — ‘a dialogue of thanksgiving no matter the circumstance.’
So much in our lives is not about what happens to us, but rather in our attitude about it…
Esperanza on NPR
Below — an interview where she shares some of her upbringing — more inspiring takes on life and her mother — and her musical journey.