What A Concept


I don’t know why I watched this Robin Williams documentary the other night. I knew it was available and knew I’d eventually watch it. It just seems questionable, in a week when I’m still coming to terms with the recent loss of a good friend. Different stories, of course. Still.

The film was fascinating in many ways. It used audio of Williams from various interviews over the years as a sort of narrative device, and it worked. It also had access to a lot of film footage and other media that I’d never seen, some of it personal (that is, home movies). Some of it involved Christopher Reeve, and the images of the two of them, in their 20s, studying at Juilliard in New York in the mid-70s, just broke my heart.

What insights there are to be gleaned depend upon what you already know. There weren’t many surprises for me, given that Robin Williams caught my eye over 40 years ago, when he was still performing on street corners.


There are holes in this film that are confusing, leading me to wonder if there was some conflict wandering around the edges of this production. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became movie stars on the back of Robin Williams, and in turn gave him his only Academy Award; I wondered why they were missing.

But if you’re interested, and you can see it, I think you’ll enjoy.

It also inspired me—possibly to get the taste of loss and pain out of my mouth—to watch World’s Greatest Dad, which I’d never seen, having taken a hard pass on a lot of his movies over the years. I sat through 90% of this quirky film, enjoying it more than I anticipated, only stopping because it was late and because I knew how it would end (the documentary gave it away, and it was obvious anyway).

I’m still wandering across this weird terrain of loss. The passing of my friend and teacher wasn’t unexpected, or really surprising. He was 83; if you live long enough, things are out there, waiting to pounce.

It’s not like we were chatty, or frequent correspondents. Once in a blue moon, he’d comment on Facebook (he almost never posted, just lurked). If the moon got a little bluer, there’d be an exchange of emails. Months would go by without any contact, and then I’d head for Arizona and the subject would come up. It wasn’t an unusual relationship in this regard, surely.

Grief has always been private and personal; I can write about anything, obviously, but I don’t talk so much. I never know what to say, really. A bunch of my friends are gathering on Wednesday night (I just got a blast email announcing it) to celebrate my birthday—let’s be clear: as they should—and I’m pretty sure most of them have no idea. They knew my friend was sick because I brought it up during our Prayers and Concerns time, a period when I’m usually mute and just listening, the whole concept of intercessory prayer being a mystery to me.

But having people keeping us in their thoughts was comforting, is comforting, and these are the closest people. The most intimate, the ones I see the most, the ones who look after me and say their prayers faithfully. So yeah. They knew that. They just don’t know this, because I haven’t found the words. Still haven’t, really.

One of the most fascinating experiences in my life actually happened twice, and both of them for the same reason. In 2003, I enrolled in intensive outpatient treatment for chemical dependency at a local hospital, three nights a week, mandatory 12-step meetings on the other nights. It was fun and freeing; I just had to do it again, three years later. That happens.

But both times, I was aware of the ultimate nature of this weird thing. When I entered each of these groups (both times, I was in group therapy with another 8-9 people), I immediately became aware of how the calendar would inevitably change the dynamic. I could see the future, in other words.

These were staggered groups; new people would come in, and others would leave when they were finished. I could look around on the first day and realize that at the end, I would be the only one left. There’d be 8-9 new faces looking at me, and I’d know these people, at least a little. I just hadn’t met them yet. This was an experience designed for me and my brain. As I said, fascinating.

So this is on my mind. The holes in my existence, popping up with more frequency. There are more missing people now. I’ll never sit on Dick’s patio in Sun City and chew the fat. I won’t see Robin Williams at 75, in another Oscar-winning role.

I believe this is called aging, actually. It feels silly to mention it.

But it’s there, and it’s on my mind. Mortality never leaves the field, not anymore. I chase after stray symptoms these days like a puppy, sniffing for even a hint of bad news. Stomach issues, fatigue issues, sleep issues. Vision issues, hearing issues. Joint issues. Any of this sound familiar? Like a freaking puppy.

I’m fine, as far as I can tell. I’ve been losing half a pound a week since January, which sounds like a good idea to most of us but which is now really bugging me, but I know what’s going on. I can’t seem to fix it, although physics takes some of the problem off my plate (i.e., eventually I’ll reach a weight that equals the amount of food I’m eating, simply put, unless I start eating less). That is, if I eat a healthy, perfectly acceptable diet in terms of calories (say, 2300 calories a day, which is about what I eat), and, as my Fitbit says, I burn roughly 2500 calories a day…that’s 1-1/2 to 2 pounds a month, right there by the math. A tiny difference makes a bigger (or, you know) one. Those 1-1/2 pounds per month will add up after 7 months.

I’m not dying of a wasting disease, in other words. For a sedentary guy, I guess I’m pretty active, and for an American in the 21st century I apparently eat less than most.

Or I could be dying of a wasting disease. Whatever. It’s my birthday soon, and I refuse to be gloomy. The sun is shining and the temps are rising into the maybe-uncomfortable range, but I live in the Northwest. The Pacific is our air conditioner, and it gets turned on most nights. No complaints from me.

And there shouldn’t be, not on BIRTHDAY WEEK. Sure, it may be the big Six-Oh, boohoo. I think it’s possible my birth certificate and my mom are wrong. It happens. I feel great, family is driving up tomorrow, party is planned, and it’s currently 70 degrees F. and fair. I identify these days as a Millennial, anyway. Just have to get me one of those side gigs. Maybe more than one.

At the end of World’s Greatest Dad, which I didn’t see but really did, Robin’s character runs toward the high school gym, sheds his clothes, and dives into the pool from the high board. The screenplay called for him to be fully clothed, so it was Robin’s idea to get all nekkid. The symbolism is a little too on the nose but I approve. I’m not gonna doff and dive, not in this lifetime, but I approve. It’s not a bad image to take into my 60s. Maybe I’ll just wear Speedos.

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Chuck Sigars1 Comment