Dave Stone remembers Rich
My brother and I shared an interest in humor. I don't think we're particularly spiritual people, but I believe Rich thought that people are at their best when laughing. We had our culture heroes together: Ernie Kovacs, Bob and Ray, Stan Freberg, Nichols and May, the Smothers Brothers, Jean Shepard. On tape, we discovered lots of stuff that preceded our generation. He turned me on to long forgotten radio shows like "Vic and Sade." Together, we loved the British review "Beyond the Fringe," and then discovered their forebears on "The Goon Show" and watched their artistic descendents in "Monty Python." When home video first became available, Rich was the first guy I knew to collect all the episodes of Leslie Neilson's "Police Squad" and John Cleese's "Fawlty Towers."
I think Rich really enjoyed gags with the most warped or absurdist bent.
A week ago was Sunday April 1st. I had to take on the chore of picking up the urn containing Rich's ashes at one mortuary and bringing it to another, where we buried it on Friday. Other supportive people had offered to come along for company, but I wanted to experience this privately. I pretended this was a last day alone with my brother, and I carried the urn as lovingly and carefully as I had first held my newborn son. I gingerly put the thing in my car and hit the freeway, weeping a little and feeling heavy grief. When I saw the steps at the mortuary, suddenly I was visited by Rich's wicked sense of humor, and I thought of my clumsiness and the urn scene in "Meet the Parents," and felt he and I were sharing a laugh.
I talked to the urn and I said "Rich, April Fool's! You're not really dead." I have felt like his spirit has been with me since then. I'm going to miss him, but every time there's a laugh, whether it's elegant or tasteless, I feel I can share it with him forever.
Once, in his last weeks, I was visiting him at the hospital, there was so much damage that he could never digest food again. The only magazine he had on his bed table was a gourmet cooking magazine. I was a little shy about asking "What's up with this?" But twenty minutes later, we were talking about desserts and he was lively. He loved cooking and was, I think, still hoping to have the strength to cook for other people. He spent every minute of his last few weeks with the Food Network running on TV, sometimes with the sound off. I guess food is so symbolic of life itself, and Rich hung on very tightly to it. He tried very hard not to leave us, but he had to. I'm going to try to keep laughing, because that keeps him alive for me.
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