Sunday Morning Meditation – Childhood’s end
A part of my childhood died this week.
Robin Williams died. He committed suicide. That’s the most shocking part of it, really. The man who brought so much joy into our lives took his own.
We always associate suicides with loneliness or lack of self-esteem. We loved you Robin. We could’ve hung out whenever. But no, it’s not all totally like that. Robin Williams died because he couldn’t endure the pain of living.
Williams was a performer who never held back. He gave and he gave and he gave. Watching him was like watching fire. He was at once fascinating, funny and yet also surprisingly deep as an entertainer. He was everywhere.
I remember watching him on “Mork and Mindy.” I was of the “Nick at Nite” generation. I’d always look for any excuse to stay up late, even if it meant watching old TV shows. Robin Williams was the one consistently bright spot of the evening. Whatever he was doing was funny. He could’ve just sat there, breathing air. They could’ve done a whole episode of that actually. It would’ve still been hilarious. That’s just who – what – he was.
Robin Williams’ career is like a parallel current to my life. We grew up together. He played the Genie in “Aladdin.” As a young viewer, I didn’t get 75 percent of his references, but it didn’t matter. I laughed. He also played Mrs. Doubtfire, a surprisingly adult kid’s movie about the pain of divorce. We can understand Williams’ performance more completely now, knowing that one of the most painful parts of living for him was watching his marriages fall apart.
The movie will have a haunted quality now. Williams’ suicide is like a bomb that’s exploded backwards in time. I will always look at his old movies with new eyes, searching for hidden meaning.
His mania was infectious. His body of work was vast. A few of his movies that I loved.
– “Awakenings” – If you didn’t see this movie, you really did miss something extraordinary. Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, the doctor and the patient. It’s a movie where you really get to see Williams playing the serious leading man instead of just playing for laughs.
– “The Fisher King” – Robin Williams teams up with Jeff Bridges in this movie. He plays a homeless man who lost everything after his wife died in a mass shooting. The shooter was inspired to act after a talk show host, played by Bridges, made a provocative statement on his radio show. Williams is playing for laughs, but is also concealing a deeper, profound pain.
– “Hook” – This has got to be one of the most disrespected movies Robin Williams ever made. Even the one-two punch of Williams and Dustin Hoffman, who plays Capt. Hook, couldn’t save the movie from its critics. But this is just a brilliant performance by Williams, who made a career out of being a grown man-child. It’s fun to watch his devolution from serious workaholic into the puckish creature that endeared him to us.
I’ll always feel cheated by his death. I realize it was his pain and not mine, that he was a private person entitled to his feelings. But I felt like he was a part of my life and that in some selfish way, I deserved an explanation, or at least an opportunity to say goodbye. I think so many of us wish we could’ve told him how much he meant to us, how he eased the pain in our own lives, how he was a consistently bright spot you could look to when you needed to smile.
We’ll never know the full extent of what troubled him. Knowing wouldn’t make it any easier to understand. With any luck, I’ll be able to ignore what happened and remember the only thing that truly matters: there was a gifted actor named Robin Williams. Though he’s no longer with us, he left us plenty of tape. For that, we should feel blessed.