A week of FaceBook tributes, people of all walks of life paying homage, an entire world saddened by the death of one of our generation’s premier entertainers… yet it could be another lifetime before we truly recognize the magnitude of this loss .
I’ve always been slow, or even outright resistant to, becoming a “fan” of actors. Very few people achieve the ability to make me laugh, cry, seriously contemplate issues, and laugh again for so long my sides ache. Robin Williams could do this all in the span of a minute.
As he exploded into pop culture with his incredible portrayal of an alien visiting our planet in 1978, I was simply amazed. He reminded me of Jonathan Winters, of course. But I immediately recognized he might even become better than Winters. And he did. He was “up there” with the likes of Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, Red Skelton, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Redd Foxx, and Winters of course. Yet I think he outshined them in the diversity of roles category. He couldn’t be typecast, or labelled. His talent was, quite simply, beyond adjectives.
Whenever I heard Robin was to appear in a movie or on television, I had to see him perform. Not once was I disappointed. His vast reserve of talent could magically transform the silliest of ideas into a masterpiece. I think of Mrs. Doubtfire, which is a favorite of all three of my kids. That movie touched a nerve in me, because one of my own was almost ripped away from me. I understood his character’s agony at the very thought of being a spectator, rather than an active participant, in the parenting of his children. This father went to extraordinary means to retain an active role in his kids’ lives.
Good Morning Vietnam. Patch Adams. Good Will Hunting. August Rush. Jack. The list of his superb performances in movies could fill a paragraph. They weren’t just stories; they were social commentary. Each seemed to portray a moral message. Also, there were his stand-up acts, night show appearances, and holidays spent with our armed forces around the world. The most jaded among us couldn’t help but laugh when he performed. He made us feel good, he made us think about those around us, he reached in and gently caressed our souls.
When I heard the news of his suicide, I was numb with a sadness that grew for several days. How could a man who produced such value be driven to rip himself from our world? Didn’t he know how many millions truly adored him? Not only for his performances, but for his good deeds as well? Some people pointed out the mistakes he made in his life, how he cheated on his wife, his addictions. Many judged him, perhaps in retaliation for his final deed. Still others condemned him as “selfish”, although I cannot fathom how someone who gave us so much could be so denigrated.
His death reminded me of those I’ve loved who have ended their lives. I wish they would have asked me for help, for I would have waded through miles of hell to do what I could for them. Perhaps it’s egotistical to think I could have helped them. Each made a choice to move on; all I can do now is honor their memory.
Robin was a chronically depressed soul who fought demons his entire life. Perhaps making us laugh helped keep his personal agony at bay for a short time. I, too, enjoy helping people laugh or cry or simply think. It helps me feel good to see someone smile who’s having a rough day. Perhaps that’s why he was so good at his craft… it kept him going.
Thank you Robin, oh so very much, for the wonderful memories you left us. Nanu nanu, indeed.