A conversation about grief
There's a divergence point in your memory when you have to deal with a death at a young age, a "before" and "after". Everything "after" is vivid and, like what Colbert said, "continuous and contiguous", while everything "before" slowly transforms into out-of-focus photographs. You try to reach out to them but they consistently slip out of your hands, like the air bubbles underwater that you can see but cannot grasp. It's hard to imagine the kind of person you would have otherwise become if something like this hadn't happened to you.
Colbert: There's another Steph, there's a Stephen Colbert, there's that kid before my father and my brothers died, and it's actually kind of difficult, I have fairly vivid memories from right after they died to, to the present. It's, it's continuous and contiguous, you know, like it's all connected. There's this big break, in the cable of my memory at their death. Everything before that, has got an odd ghostly tone—
Cooper: To me it's like shards of glass, like I feel like—
Colbert: Flashes, little bits of it. And then, the things that really, like music, 'cause they died in September, they died on September 11, they died on September 11 1974, and the music from that summer leading up to it, like, it will undo me, in an instant. You know, the song on the summer was "Band on the Run". Do not play "Band on the Run", you know. Yes — long pause — you become a different person, like I, I was personally shattered, personally shattered, and then you kind of reform yourself, in this quiet grieving whirl that was created in the house. My mother had me to take care of, which I think was a sort of a gift for her, a sense of purpose at that point, 'cause I was the last child. But I also had her to take care of, and it became a very quiet house, and very dark, and ordinary concerns of childhood suddenly kind of disappeared. I became, I won't say mature because that actually was kind of delayed by the death of my father, by kind of restarting at 10, but I have certainly a different point of view than the children around me.
Cooper: There's a writer Mary Gordon, who wrote about fatherless girls, but I think it applies, and my mum used to quote it to me all the time but I think it applies to boys as well, and it's - I'll paraphrase her - it's a fatherless child thinks all things are possible and nothing is safe, and I never really understood her, when my mum would say, 'cause I was young, but I've come to understand it and —
Colbert: All things are possible in both the positive and the negative.
Cooper: Correct. Great things can happen, you know, the phone can ring, and your whole life can change, for better or worse, but I became what I jokingly refer to as a catastrophist, 'cause I wanted, I did not want to be surprised and hurt again, so I started sort of plunging head-first into the things that scared me most. Like I would take survival courses in the wilderness, to know that I could survive in you know — [the wilderness].