I grew up watching Roger Ebert on TV as part of a squabbling duo.
He was spirited, he was funny, and he liked to wave his hands around when he got real excited.
Between Siskel & Ebert and Statler & Waldorf, I may have gotten the wrong idea about how to behave in a balcony.
It was only years later that I realized Roger Ebert wasn't just an amusing television personality. By the time I was in high school, I was collecting writers like other kids might collect baseball cards or movie star posters. I didn't have pretty faces on my wall—I had books on my shelf. Ray Bradbury. E.B. White. George Orwell. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Joan Didion. Gore Vidal. Dorothy Parker. Roger Ebert. These folks have been with me for so many years, they're practically family.
It didn't matter that I'd never meet most of these people.
The personal essay form convinces us that we understand the author's innermost thoughts. Right or wrong, it's an indelible connection. Ray Bradbury's an exception on this list, but he shared his dreams with us, so of course we feel we know him inside and out.
Roger Ebert came into my living room when I was a child, but when I read his words is when he came into my heart.
I'm sure he had no idea, but Roger was even a part of my Christmas. lt became an annual tradition for my mum to gift me that year's giant book of Ebert reviews—which, let's be fair, they're actually personal essays, aren't they. They were sensitive. They were empathetic, and human. What a joy it was to receive Roger at Christmas every year, the most welcome guest.
Then came the year my mum was no longer with us.
A hundred ways a day you have to discover what it means to no longer have your parent. What a heavy purchase that book became.
Five years later, Roger smiled and left.
Ten years today.