Thinking About Robin Williams

I’m writing this on the sixth anniversary of when we lost Robin Williams.

Robin with his daughter Zelda, playing Legend of Zelda. (Source: https://winkgo.com/zelda-williams-streaming-legend-zelda-charity/)

I don’t feel like I ever really mourned Robin. When he died, Ferguson, MO was at the peak of its protests. (And for what it’s worth, I count the rioting that was then and is now happening as a form of protest. I no longer believe in separating the two.) I live a bike-ride away from Ferguson. I worked at a church with the word “Ferguson” in its name in a different life. I have deep ties there. (Side note: That church is no longer in operation. It also took no real public stand in the immediate aftermath of the murder–I’ll say it again MURDER–of Michael Brown. Do what you want with that.) At any rate, I was distracted at the time. It didn’t feel important to mourn someone who I admittedly admired, but who ultimately was a fun distraction in my life rather than a friend.

So…I failed to mourn Robin Williams.

But today, I feel a heaviness in my heart that has been on and off when I’ve thought about him over the past several years. I wrote after his death that Robin Williams was a man who could’ve picked up any phone in America, dialed any seven numbers, and found someone who said, “Yeah, I LOVE Robin Williams!” Yet that wasn’t enough to save him. “Because that’s how depression works.”

A lot has come out about Robin’s health since he died. He had an incurable illness. He was losing himself, daily. As deeply as I find suicide to be unpardonable, I also believe that the fact that Robin went out knowing who he was is a small blessing. That he was able to KNOW what he was leaving–and more importantly what he was avoiding–is a small consolation. I understand it. I do not support it. But I understand it.

And tonight I mourn. I loved Robin Williams. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He made me *think.* And that last one is the most important.

In this post I used a picture of Robin playing Legend of Zelda with his daughter, who is also named Zelda (for obvious reasons). If you’re on the e-mail list, I don’t know if they send the pictures with it, so I want to mention it. In the picture, Robin doesn’t look like Robin. He has a big, thick beard that’s mostly grey. And I love that version of him. That’s my favorite Robin Williams. As my beard gets thicker and greyer, I see myself in that Robin Williams. I don’t know if you can see it too…but I see it.

See it?

I miss Robin Williams. I wonder what he would have done with Donald Tr*mp being in the White House. I wonder what he would have said about COVID-19. I wonder what kind of streaming media he would’ve given us now that it’s a regular thing in all of our lives. Jesus…can you IMAGINE Robin Williams unfiltered on a live-stream or an Instagram story? We’re missing out on a lot.

And I’m sad about that tonight.

Off the top of my head, here’s a brief list of Robin Williams movies I’ve enjoyed–that actually MEANT something to me (in no order):

  • Awakenings
  • Dead Again
  • Hook
  • Good Morning Vietnam
  • Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen
  • Toys
  • Death to Smoochy
  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Dead Poets Society
  • The Birdcage
  • Good Will Hunting
  • One Hour Photo
  • Patch Adams
  • The Fisher King

…etc…etc…

I’m embarrassed by how few of those I own on BluRay. (I plan on fixing that soon.) Think about just that list for a moment. There are movies you want to add to it. There are some that you think, “well of course.” There are some that are cliches. There are some you haven’t seen. There is at least one you haven’t HEARD of… As I’m writing this, I’m realizing suddenly that I didn’t even have Aladdin on that list…or his role in Hamlet…or Jack…and I didn’t even TOUCH his TV roles…shit…

He was versatile. He spoke to EVERYONE. Robin Williams was everything to everyone and I have not heard any negative story about him from anyone in the industry. The worst I’ve ever heard was a weak accusation of “he stole my joke!” from hack comics who just happened to write the same joke Robin ad-libbed about a current event, or the odd story that is tempered with “well…he was on cocaine at the time and…” but ends with a smile and acceptance.

Robin Williams…

Robin Williams was special.

It has taken me six years to realize just how much I miss him. Six years, and I’m just now realizing that I’m never going to see a new Robin Williams movie again. More than half a decade to realize I’ll never see an unexpected cameo on a sitcom again, like when he and Billy Crystal walked onto the set of Friends. (And good lord that was in 1997–where has the time gone?) It has taken me six years (and the deaths of countless other unarmed Black people at the hands of police in America) to realize how deeply it hurt to lose Robin. Because he was the kind of guy you just thought would live forever. And even now, I feel like he will still pop up again. And I know he will. I know he’ll live forever…

I don’t know where I’m going with this. You’ve probably realized that by now.

In all honesty this is somewhat prompted by the fact that I’ve been listening to old episodes of the podcast Harmontown, on which Robin once appeared. I’m up to the year in which he died and they’ve mentioned him a bit. His loss was felt by anyone he touched, and he was on their stage, joking around with them, making their night a lot more fun. I can’t even imagine that…yet Dan Harmon and company were right there for it and shared it with their listening audience. And I’ve listened to that episode a lot. It’s serendipity that I happen to be listening to this era of the show on the anniversary of Robin’s death–just a few weeks after what should have been his birthday.

I guess one of the things I want to say is that I forgive him. I forgive Robin Williams for killing himself. That’s hard to do. Suicide is one of the few things I find unforgiveable in life. There are friends and family members I haven’t forgiven yet. Most of them had temporary problems. Robin’s medical problem was permanent and was only going to get worse for both himself and everyone he cared about. Maybe that makes it easier.

I didn’t know him personally and can’t comment on what his family or friends should feel…but I’m finding it easier to accept his decision than it has been to accept “my marriage was falling apart” or “I lost my job” or the excuses I’ve heard from those to whom I’m closer. At the same time, I wouldn’t fault Zelda or Bobcat Goldthwait (Robin’s best friend) if they’re having more trouble forgiving it than I do. The proximity of your love is always a factor in your loss. I was Robin’s fan–I can shed a tear and move along.

Nevertheless… Robin, I understand and I forgive you. Even though I would never make that choice myself…and for what it’s worth, if you’d been yourself, I don’t think you would’ve either.

And I guess that’s all I really want to say.

I miss Robin Williams. I get why he did what he did…but it’ll never stop being sad that he did it.

If you’re reading this, please don’t make any decisions that it takes the randos who don’t even know you six years to forgive. Go back on your meds. Go back to your shrink. Talk to your priest. Fuck, start drinking again… Whatever it takes for you to stick around and keep pouring love into this world.

But whatever you do, KEEP pouring love into this world. We need it.

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