Vantage points

Ever since I started coming to northern California I have wanted to capture a decent photo of the Robin Williams tunnel.

Since both my brother and Mr. Williams committed suicide, I feel that I have some weird connection to Robin Williams and thus to the tunnel named for him.  I get that my brother’s suicide has nothing to do with me except in the sense of collateral damage.  Nonetheless, I miss him; and I look for ways to make sense of his life and death.  I look for ways to keep him alive; or perhaps to resurrect him but whole, clean, and happy.

Steve tried to kill himself at least once before he succeeded, and called 911 when his botched attempted left him in difficult straits.  I asked him once how that figured — try to kill yourself then call for the rescue squad.  He stared at me, sideways, as though trying to understand my stupidity.  I wanted to end my pain not worsen it, he finally said.  He turned back to his drink and cigarette.

The Robin Williams tunnel reminds me of my brother because it’s cheerful on the outside but dark when you get into the heart of it.  Maybe that’s what the authorities who dedicated the tunnel meant us to feel.  I think Mr. Williams, like many successful comedians, had a grimmer side from which he drew the humor which we loved.  He painted that inner turmoil side with a goofy exterior to make it more palatable.

From inside the Robin Williams tunnel, I see yellow walls and lights overhead which flash past.  The pathway through the mountain flows smoothly beneath my rental car.  In a minute or two, I leave the dimness and re-enter the light.  I take with me the insights which I gained while driving through the tunnel.

Sometimes when I’m in my office, I sit in the chairs meant for clients.  I stare across the oak library table which I use as a desk.  I see the leather manager’s chair in which I sit, and the diplomas on the wall above my computer monitor.  Under those diplomas, on the left, I’ve hung the plaque which holds my Jackson County Prosecutor’s badge.  To the right in a little square all its own, visitors see a plein air piece by Nicole Thibodeau.

I’m not sure this change of perspective helps me serve my clients more effectively but the process reminds me that everything can be seen from more than one vantage point.

As I went through the Robin Williams tunnel on my way to San Rafael today, I thought about my brother again.  I’ll never really understand why he killed himself.  Or maybe that’s not correct; maybe I know — to stop his pain.  Nothing else had worked.  He did the only thing he could do.  And maybe I’m still alive, despite everything, because I have not yet run out of options to manage my pain.  My journey to joy seems hopeful.

It’s the twenty-second day of the thirty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”

— Robin Williams

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