Robin Williams death hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. The trigger, of all things, was the local radio station playing Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady.’ I went from remembering Mrs. Doubtfire to weeping in my car.
It is an argument against sheltering your child.
Robin Williams was always quite open about his sheltered childhood. His parents were rich and doting, and kept him hidden from the world. When you get out of such a situation, everything you discover is “What else were they hiding from me?” It also can become scary and unknown.
The common thread can be seen in nearly every character he has ever played. He began as extraordinary but out of sync. He is mistaken for other than what he is, and he’s able to use this to ease people into realizing what he was, though the whole situation is doomed to spin out of control. You are given the reassurance, though, that there will be daily accountability.
In ‘Mork & Mindy,’ Mindy first mistakes Mork for a priest. Hijinks ensue, people laugh, until it ends up with them raising Johnathan Winters as a child. You are always promised an interesting ride before it inevitably goes off of the rails. He took this insanity on the road and it made him a star.
Now people are watching and you have to be ‘on’ all the time. Robin found that intoxicants could help him be ‘on’ longer. Quicker than you think, it becomes the ‘on’ before, inevitably, not being enough. Then, you’re in the dark again, alone and afraid.
Alone and in the dark, Mork is held accountable to Orson.
From pure insanity, Robin’s career began to try to explain him. The child who never grew up, forced into adulthood. He was crazy, but he meant well. There was always something different about him, slightly off. It was as if he were always hinting at the idea that he was some kind of fraud.
All that seemed to be lacking was the accountability.
Mrs. Doubtfire seemed to be the start of his apology phase. He had been a lousy father but he really does love his kids and would do anything for them. He went on to mad genius, winning awards until ‘What Dreams May Come.’ Sober and contrite, his popularity waned as he delved into more serious roles. His theme became revealing the darkness beneath.
Eventually, his dark introspective phase ended and he wanted us to invest in him one more time. He promised us he could be funny again, if we gave him one more chance.
Instead, his show, “The Crazy Ones,’ was cancelled after one season.
Being able to make people laugh is a powerful feeling. Your own heart bursts with joy and it feels like young love. It is a hard superpower to lose.
When my father left when I was four, I lead a sheltered life as my mother always feared that he would return to steal me away. I imprinted on this strange man as there is a slight family resemblance. I have been stopped on the street, all over the country, just to be told that I looked like him. As a child, I learned his routines to make the other kids laugh, so that there was some reason to like me when I never ran around the neighborhood with them or came over their houses.
Solitude can be a great peace to some, but to live in constant apology is another. The all-seeing eye of Orson is always there, waiting to see where you went wrong, reminding you of faults. There is not time in that empty place, and no hurt has healed with time. Time goes backwards there, and you feel the greatest regret for the safety of childhood, when all mistakes seemed so minor and the cares fewer.
We heard back from the mercy flight service, and my wife is cleared to fly across the country for her second brain surgery. She’ll be making this trip without me, it appears. For the past week, my pain has lessened, getting my hopes up, though it spreads to other parts of my body now. At least it is out of my head. Then another storm rolls in and I am dumped into twisted pain again. I can hear a -ping- when I turn my neck, like running your thumbnail down the teeth of a comb, when I turn my head the wrong way.
I needed cheering up, so I went online. Something told me to check the news, something I haven’t done in a week or two. Despite checking, I heard about it 15 minutes afterwards, from a friend. Robin Williams: Dead by Apparent Suicide.
I immediately had the thought, “If I had a time machine…” I have never done that before. Suddenly all the emotions on the screen from various films flew through my head as I reconstructed the final scene. It didn’t seem real. I double checked to see if it was a hoax, as it was in 2012.
If I could have talked to him, what would I say? Should I have written him a letter? Should I have watched his show? Didn’t he know how important he was to me?
You taught me that redemption was always possible. Why didn’t you believe it yourself?
Farewell, Robin Williams. The world is a darker place without you.
Further reading: Childhood – http://www.freep.com/article/20140811/ENT07/308110195/1996-interview-Robin-Williams-movie-Jack