Thinking About Robin Williams

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-10647180-2057-2100.jpgI’ve thought a lot about Robin Williams over the past few weeks. It is especially heartbreaking to me that someone who made so many millions of people laugh, who had family and friends who adored him, could feel so alone and broken and unable to ask for help. He bore this pain largely by himself, when anyone who cared about him–as well as millions of admirers who did not know him–would have gladly done whatever they could to ease his suffering.

Make no mistake: someone contemplating suicide is suffering in the deepest way possible. To those in that position, suicide looks like a way out of what seems like the insurmountable, a respite from getting through the torture and effort of living. Every. Single. Day. It is not done as an act of selfishness, it is a relentless pursuit of relief.

I’ve known several people who have taken their own lives. The brutality of death in this way is catastrophic: one person’s pain ends while the pain of survivors begins, so raw and unrelenting. Psychiatric assessments and psychopharmacological interventions aside, too often there is no answer to the unanswerable question of ‘Why?’

I also believe this affects all of us, if not personally, then as countrymen. In the United States, 22 veterans a day kill themselves, according to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs study.

One of the recent “letters to the editor” I read (about the aftermath of suicide) included a link to a survivors’ network. I was naive about how many impressive websites and resources exist on this topic; there hasn’t been nearly enough media coverage about coping with and surviving suicidal ideation and depression.

If Robin Williams’ death contributed anything positive in its wake, I would like to think it is taking this terrible and important topic out of the shadows and shame of ‘polite company’ and into the glare of awareness and truth. We can’t begin to fix this problem as a society if we are afraid to talk about it.

I encourage you to read, explore and share these websites. There are certainly others, but these three I found to be especially compelling.

Quake Collectibles, For the Kid Inside Each of Us


I explored Main Street today and serendipitously wandered into Quake Collectibles, a newly opened (August 1 was their first day!) store with an unusually fun inventory. The store is lined from floor to ceiling with toys, comics, cereal boxes — all in great condition, many of them never opened. The production dates of the inventory range from the 1970’s to more contemporary; prices of items range from $1.00 for comic books to several hundreds for the rarest finds.

The co-owner, Matt Leuck, feels like he is living his dream. He’s always been involved in collecting, selling, trading and learning about toys. For many years he sold on Ebay but became disenchanted with the process. He wanted a ‘bricks and mortar’ store where he could interact with his customers. His marketing instincts are spot on as the store was brimming with adults and children. Interestingly, it was mostly dads with the small ones, and both groups were equally excited with the toys on display.

Matt mingled with customers, answering questions and accepting congratulations. He knows his products well–almost every item in the store recalls a nostalgic memory. His personal sweet spot is product from the 80’s, but is knowledgeable about the toys from other decades, too.

Whether you need to shop for a kid or a kid at heart, are a serious collector or want to start a collection, you will have a great time at Quake Collectibles. Open Monday, Wednesday to Friday, 1 PM to 6 PM, Saturday 12 PM to 6 PM, Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM. Closed Tuesdays.


Cinderella Gets Rescued

Cinderella.jpgEvery so often something happens to make me fall in love with Evanston all over again. Here is this week’s inspiration.

The woman was lost. Wearing a heavy green bathrobe over a t-shirt and pants, she clutched her small dog tightly. Her hair was blond and tousled, her face lined with wrinkles and creases. She spoke softly and slowly with an accent, and when she opened her mouth there was darkness where there should have been teeth. She asked the young woman walking by if she, the young one, would help her find her way home.

The younger of the two was very kind and spoke gently to the older one. The lost one doesn’t live here; she was visiting her sister, but she forgot where she was staying. She had been trying to find her way home. Her sister was in the apartment. Her sister was not in the apartment. She knew her sister’s last name but not her own.

Only a few feet away, I overheard the conversation and asked if I could help. The woman looked familiar; I had seen her last year outside in the mornings with her dog. We may have nodded toward one another or said good morning, but we had never had an actual conversation until now.

She was becoming more anxious. She did not remember how long she had been outside. Come inside to sit down, I offered.  Do you want a drink of water? Are you okay? Do you need to use the restroom?  She didn’t want water. She didn’t need to use the restroom. She was fine, but she was locked out and very lost.

I suggested the young one call 311 and explain the situation. The operator listened, asked questions and transferred the call to the Fire Department.  A few minutes later, a very large fire truck came down the street. The three of us walked toward the building next door and were standing there, waving, as if hailing a cab.

For a fire, she asked?  No, I said, firemen also do rescues. You are like Cinderella; you need to be rescued. The old woman smiled, but still didn’t remember her name.

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The immense red truck dwarfed the street, so shiny it was almost reflective. The firemen approached. The young woman explained the situation. The leader among the three firemen asked the older woman some questions. They found the elder’s sister’s name on the outer door of one of the doorways. No one in any of the apartments above responded to buzzer sounds to open the door. The rescue professionals were evaluating what to do next when a neighbor upstairs opened his window. Can I help?

At this point in the story, I left. The older woman was going home. She would be fine. Her neighbors rallied around her. The young woman who helped is a nursing student; already she has the demeanor of a caring, gentle protector. The firemen were kind, professional and prompt.

It is so difficult to grow old.

Whatever sadness I feel about the way a mind can be ravaged by time was balanced by the relief I felt watching those who helped. Kind people exist in many places, but this happened here.