I still want to talk about Under the Dome, about the feasibility of summer series, especially sci-fi ones, about syndication and self-fulfilling prophecies and ABC’s decision not to turn this into a trend. But today, I want to talk about someone who is not Roger Ebert.
I should start by saying that after years of temping, and years before that of PA’ing, I am now gainfully employed in an office, where I can read pilot scripts and see a few more facets of the industry, in an office full of truly lovely people. But we are one less this week, because last Thursday we found out we lost Robert Linden. It was a really rough couple of days. My Facebook and RSS feeds were full of cries of anguish, memories of a great life lived, pledges that we will never have someone like that in our lives again. RIP, RIP, RIP. Except they were all mourning Roger Ebert. Millions of people, shedding a tear for someone they never met, someone they saw who could not see them, someone who has been very visibly fighting cancer for a long time.
Robert had been fighting cancer for a month. One short month, full of “he’s doing really well.” Before then, I saw him every day. He would have some emergency that needed my boss’ attention and no amount of telling him she was dealing with other things would dissuade him. He got me in trouble more than once. He was a pain in the ass. But he was an endearing pain in the ass, and I think he knew that. I think he counted on it. It was very easy to forgive him. When he left the office, even though he was still working from the hospital, his absence was felt.
In an effort to do something, the office collectively made Robert a blanket. We knit and crocheted squares and put them all together. It came out beautifully, but unfortunately full of cat dander. Two days later, when we were still trying to figure out how to solve that particular problem, and one day after Robert developed a complication of his own, it was too late. We had taken pictures with the finished blanket. We’re all smiling. The pictures suddenly seemed cruel. Robert hadn’t seen them.
Grief is the price you pay for joy. If there is no love, then nothing is lost. Our grief was deep. When I first started seeing the messages on Facebook, my instinct was to get angry. None of these people had ever met Roger Ebert. Someone I actually knew had died. But we weren’t playing a game of “who lost more?” We were sharing our pain. And yet, we were intensely alone.
I started this post in April, but am finishing it in June. James Gandolfini suddenly passed away, and my Facebook is again flooded with messages missing Tony Soprano. That Tony Soprano never actually existed is irrelevant. Some people have just lost Jimmy or Daddy. But it’s not a contest. Everyone lost something. And we’re all feeling a little more alone.