I think I will just spend the rest of 2015 in tears. Jonathan Crombie died. He was 48 and so full of life and humor and goodness that is seems so unfair and tragical that his brain just burst on him. No one is ever going to be a better Gilbert Blythe.
Anne of Green Gables was one of those formative experiences of early adolescence that shape relationships, builds expectations and brings a bit of structure to the scope of ones imagination. Anne Shirley was of so sympathetic a nature that those of us who share her internal dimensions could not help but feel the kindredness of her spirit swirl out in a cosmic mist to envelop us, her friends on the other side of the pages. Each of the characters caught up in her energy were more that archetypal re presentations of personality despite being just that, nosey neighbor, long suffering adopted mother and the patient doting adopted father, the bestie and the teasing boy next door each had a vibrancy of their own which is rather uncommon in supporting characters, and the true testament on Montgomery's work. Even the children who were not touched in the same way that Anne was could relate to her struggles to define herself beyond the limits of her birth and the crazy mishaps that ensued.
While Anne's story is a romanticized telling of a coming of age it does not shy away from the hard topics. It is the perfect book to become a movie; the perfect movie over which to bond with a sister and those who are kindred in spirit. My sister and I will always have Green Gables. The girls in my Christian campus group will always have that weekend when we made the WonderWorks™ presentation a marathon of cookies, milk and anticipation as Anne gets her man which mirrored a good many of each of their experiences. Those of us not destined to pursue married life each had a variety of examples to chose from. For me, in a group of women who would become mothers because they desired so, I found definition and support for being single in the examples of the school teachers who chose to adventure in academia rather than child rearing. Much like the American tale of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables fed the imagination while offering up reality.
No one is ever going to forget the days of tears they shed when Matthew died. I always found Richard Farnsworth a sympathetic creature and gravitated toward him in whatever role he played. Matthew came to life with Farnsworth in the role in such a way as to make him as real and kindred to my dad as any of the aunts and uncles that I had. His death devastated for days. In fact, he made a guest appearance in some forgettable tripe on Hallmark a decade later and I cried all through the thing because it made me miss Matthew. When He died in 2000 I cried buckets then too.
Montgomery wasn't afraid of life in her stories. They are not escapist, though there is a fantastic amount of escapism that occurs. One never really gets to feel as if the pleasant days and dramatic incidents on the page will remain cheery vignettes. Death takes Matthew and Mrs. Lynde's husband. It threatens livestock, the Barry baby and creeps insidiously at the edges of Aunt Josephine's crinolines. But you expect death to come to the older characters as you do in life. You expect youth and enthusiasm to delay the inevitable. We expect that Anne will always moon over her daydreams and scorch something in the kitchen. We expect Gilbert to fail in his resistance to smile when he is being serious or scornful. With the illusion of video, we expect Gilbert to live forever despite having once come perilously close to death from a fever.
When we think Gilbert we think
And all of those times in which he tried to repent for this one mistake. It took years and years for him to win enough forgiveness to be able to ask Anne to marry him. Rescuing her from nearly drowning in her own imagination (quite literally) was not enough. Talk about long suffering!
Jonathan Crombie's Gilbert Blythe did more to shape my idea of relationships and what it is I should be looking for as someone who "suffers" with the burden of imagination and the creative spirit... if I were to ever really truly change my mind and commit myself to the rigors of marriage. There just are not many Gilbert's out there. I thought there might have been a few. But they are Gilbert on the outside. Without a deep and innate sense of caring for all things that Gilbert possesses anything reflective of the immediate sense one has of Gilbert Blythe is only the mirror. Gilbert has a practical way of caring for the less fortunate, the small creatures, and in dealing with disappointment that not many men possess today. Some call it a weakness to care. But when you watch Gilbert, and especially when you get through the first 5 books in the series, you see it is not weakness at all. There is a great strength in sheparding people. You have to be strong so that the weakness of others doesn't tear you down. I've met many a man in recent years who would just wipe the weak from the planet and be done with it.
I find myself always looking for the Gilberts in the world. As I get older I find that task more difficult. The archetype seems to be fading.
Characters die in real life. Somehow, with Jonathan's passing Gilbert is gone too. It was so hard to read the last books knowing that this would be an inevitability. And now... the illusion of immortality which I achieve by conveniently forgetting the end of the story in favor of the first 6 books has come to pass.
Yes. I am going to spend a good deal of this year in tears.