In May 2011, I entered the hospital with constipation, found out I was on the verge of dying, went into surgery and had my guts opened up. I woke up in extreme pain and deep humiliation from the colostomy bag I was suddenly, unexpectedly (though temporarily) forced to wear. The combination of events sent me into a fairly deep — and, I think, understandable — depression.
I remember the first time I laughed. It was that Thursday in the hospital; I was to leave the next day. I was resting with a TV that didn't actually offer audio for all the channels it showed — NBC was among the silent offerings. Still, I tuned into Community that night, which was ending its second season.
And that night, I laughed for the first time since the surgery. It had everything to do with this moment:
That's the character Troy, popping up out of a garbage can and seeing his friend Abed for the first time this episode, set during an Old West-themed paintball game. There was something about the look on Donald Glover's face, the pure joy of recognition, that elicited deep and involuntary laughs from me.
Then the pain took over. And I wept.
The first two years of Community's run — long thought by many observers to be the show's finest — coincided with two of the toughest years of my adult life. My illness occurred during the second year; I lost my job the first. I felt haunted by failure. Community was one of rare pleasures I knew during that time. Among the best? My then-toddler son slipping into bed with me on Friday mornings when I was still in too much pain to do anything but recover, so that we could watch the latest episode together on the iPad. He can still sing the theme song.
It's just a show. And what Community meant to me is probably not what Community meant to you, if you watched it at all. We all encounter art —even silly, disposable, pop art —with the baggage we bring to it. I brought a little extra to this show; and I'm sad to see it go.