The Laughter Moved Upstairs

Robin WilliamsI was all set to hop on here last night and jot down a postscript to my baby girl when I learned that Robin Williams was gone. I ended up spending the next couple hours glued to the TV, listening to the details and refusing to believe a word of it.

You hear the news and your first reaction is “No fucking way”. Your next thought is the same thing. And the next one too. It takes a few rounds of being pummeled by the news before your brain catches up with your body and you finally let it sink in that this really happened.

Robin Williams was a beautiful man with talent to the stars and back. Those same stars his own baby girl Zelda spoke of yesterday in the middle of her unimaginable grief when she gifted the world a lovely ode to her father by quoting the French poet Antoine De Saint-Exupery. Zelda ended with “I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up, Z.”

You read that and you understand that the best of Robin Williams’ work wasn’t even known to most of us. And that, is saying something.

We had another good twenty years of this guy. Easy. It would have made things just a little bit easier if Father Time had been the one to catch his fall, and it would have given us a million more reasons to stop trying to make sense of the world and to just laugh our asses off instead. And really, can you imagine Robin Williams working the Laugh Factory at 80? Oh, I can.

His demons finally caught him after all the crazy years. And while the coke and the pills and the alcohol were the symptoms we knew about, it was depression that never let him go. The former were symptomatic of the latter’s relentless undertow. You don’t just wake up one morning wanting to end it all. There’s practice in that.

Maybe now, some of the people who insist that depression is “all in your head” can at the very least take a moment to rethink that ridiculous notion. Maybe they can stop telling all of us who deal with depression that we just need to buck up, deal with it and move on. Maybe they can take this tragic occasion to do a little homework on the topic of depression. Maybe it finally occurs to them that if a timeless icon with a beautiful family to live for cannot find his way out of the dark . . . maybe there’s more to it than greeting card proselytizing can fix.

I imagine this sweet prince of a man is letting God try his hand at this comedy thing right about now. And I imagine God is starting his routine with “Two Jews walk into a bar . . .” And I imagine Robin Williams is loving every minute of it, since he called that shot.

I imagine heaven is where Robin Williams can finally smile. And mean it.

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16 thoughts on “The Laughter Moved Upstairs

  1. What a wonderful and poignant tribute, Cayman. I loved that man from the first time I saw him on Mork and Mindy. His passing shook me in a way in a surprising way and it even made me panicky. First thoughts jumped to three (ugh. 3) friends who succumbed to their depression the same way. Second thoughts jumped to friends who are still battling.
    I love what you’ve written here. So good that I’m offering it up as a prayer who still struggle.

    • Robin was one of a kind. I heard someone say that he could make you laugh or cry, and sometimes he could do both within the same work. It’s so true. Robin battled depression his whole life. His death should serve as a wake up call to all the doubters, that rare are the happy endings when it comes to this disease.
      Thank you for the love and thoughts, Mama.

  2. Awesome tribute to a comedy genius. I completely agree with you I couldn’t believe it, I was like there has to be a mistake. He was on my mind all last night and this morning. I went on YouTube to look at old stand up performances and interviews with Craig Ferguson and other hosts and I was just amazed by him. It was definitely a sad day and I agree with you about depression. My Dad suffered from serious case of it and struggled with it for over 10 years, and I tried my best to always be there for him because it got pretty bad and there were some people that were like it’s all in your head mentality, they just didn’t understand. Then I suffered from it after my Dad passed away for about two years and slowly came back. But it’s always there, that’s what my Dad used to say and sometimes you have your bad days. I know my dad what have rooted for Robin. He was a fan too. And the message his daughter posted was so beautiful and heartfelt. My heart goes out to her and the rest of his family.

    • I loved your tribute to Robin. Talking about how you and your father shared his works, that brought tears to my eyes. Your Dad was right, it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows. You look for the things that matter most and you keep moving, best you can.

  3. Depression fucking sucks. To think that a man of his greatness, likeability, generosity, and all-around goodness could not handle his life speaks volumes about this terrible disease.

    Unfortunately, depression has become an over-used term, when in reality, it is a chronic disease, with real honest-to-God symptoms that can kill. We like to say ‘Oh, she’s depressed’ any time someone looks down or is having a tough go of it. But depression is so much more than just feeling sad upon occasion.

    We’ve all felt down, felt sad, absolutely. And, usually, we can get up and continue onward, despite the dark days, mainly because we have kids to take care of or bills to pay. Some of us manage through all of that, because we believe there is no other option.

    But, there are tons of us who can’t even muster that strength. We can’t get out of bed for days on end, no matter what we have to look forward to. Even though there are kids to take care of and bills to pay. There are some people who are seriously drowning in sadness. And they see the option others don’t — suicide.

    That kind of darkness is evil.

    Why society snubs its nose at or trivializes depression is beyond me, but I guess some people just can’t deal with it. Easier to pretend it’s all in our heads.

    I imagine that Robin Williams’ death is a lesson we should all learn from.

    Wonderful post, Cayman. Thank you.

    • Depression doesn’t play. It is patient, relentless and vicious. Too many people still refuse to understand this chronic disease. It’s maddening to get into a conversation with someone who feels as if it’s ‘just a thing’. I was watching one of the morning shows and there was a clueless viewer who had written in, saying something to the effect that Robin Williams was rich and famous and he couldn’t understand WHY he would commit suicide. Jesus.
      Thank you for your thoughts, Kate.

  4. Pilgrim. Such a simple and moving tribute. “Twenty years easy” put a lump in my throat and brought the magnitude of our loss into focus. I wish our great ones were made of steel, then maybe we could keep them forever. Unfortunately, they are human like you and me. Well done.

  5. I read this shortly after you posted. I didn’t comment right away because I was trying to sort my feelings on this subject. You nailed it all the way through this beautiful piece – starting with the disbelief upon hearing the news. No fucking way. Exactly. I kept looking at the headline thinking, it’s a hoax, gotta be . . . before I clicked on the link and read how he died. There’s a huge crack in my heart right now.

    Depression is such a lying bastard. And there is still so much shame involved in talking about it. I know this for a fact.

    I’m not sure why I feel this particular loss so acutely. Thanks for your post.

    • Mary- I can’t really think about these events very hard or for very long because they tend to spiral inside my head. I read your post this morning and it made me cry. It’s true, depression is a lying, thieving bastard. You left me speechless with that one, but better for having read it.
      Blessings and peace to you.

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