So I’m writing this to you smack between the day you were born and the day you died since I couldn’t decide which one was more appropriate. Maybe neither of them are, but I always think about you around this time every year and wanted you to know it.
I remember the first time I saw you; my sis and I loved watching Happy Days together and while she was crazy about bad-boy Fonzie, I was a Potsie girl (I think I’m more of a Fonz gal now and sissy is definitely married to a Potsie 😳 ). One night someone new was on the screen, Mork from Ork, and I was suddenly besotted with an alien who had an adorbs face and a twinkle in his eye. Sayonara, Potsie…I’m going another way.
Anyhoot, I became a fan immediately and loved loved loved following your career throughout my life. When Mork and Mindy came on, I wanted to be Mindy so bad! She had this great apartment, LONG shiny hair, and you. That was the best part. You made her laugh and love and cry and I thought that’s the kind of man I want. Someone who can make me feel good no matter what else is going on (plus, I really loved your hairy arms 😉).
When you started showing up on the big screen, I didn’t miss any of your movies. Seeing you portray Adrian Cronauer who made Vietnam soldiers laugh was amazing and there were so many times I held my breath while you worked to make catatonic patients feel alive again by playing Dr. Sayer. As a fancy-schmancy professor, I really found myself drawn to Dead Poets Society and I watch it periodically to remind myself of the influence I can have in my sweetie student’s lives.
Even though so many people loved your performance in Mrs. Doubtfire and think it’s your best, I don’t and here’s why: I hated the entire premise of that movie. I watched it once and cried after others had told me how funny it was. So, I watched it again and cried again, and won’t even consider clicking on it when I’m perusing movies on amazon. I thought it was tragic how a dad of your caliber who clearly loved his kids and made a fun, comfortable life for them had to resort to being someone else to see them. It royally pissed me off and I thought it was a horrible premise for a comedy. I know, I know…I’m a party pooper 💩. No surprise there.
And even though I didn’t want to watch One Hour Photo since you were playing a sociopath, I finally did and came away with a much different view. I didn’t see you as villainous at all. I saw you as a mentally ill, lonely man who desired a family so badly you resorted to anything you could to feel that connection and believe you belonged.
Finally, here’s a confession about your movies: I still can’t watch Patch Adams. Still. Seeing you so vulnerable after your love was murdered is something I can’t bring myself to watch because after what happened to you, it hits too close to home. See, I think you were murdered too. It wasn’t a psychopath or a serial killer (I guess that’s pretty much the same, huh 🙄), but a monster named depression and that son-of-a-bitch is relentless.
It’s common knowledge that you suffered from bouts of depression but many professionals believe you actually had bipolar disorder which many creative people have. Those bouts of high energy and racing thoughts and fast thinking are evident in your stand-up comedy and whenever I have watched your performances, I feel an almost a frenetic vibe. So much of your ‘acting’ was improvised and I can actually see in your eyes that you aren’t just trying to make people laugh…you are channeling this avalanche of energy into something you have an obsessive need to accomplish: laughter, acceptance, applause.
You never came out and said you were bipolar and I understand that because it’s so fucking stigmatized in our society…right up there with schizophreia (sorry, ma. My ma hates that word and my guilt using it makes me apologize every time 🙄). See, I have bipolar myself and it took me almost losing my life before I wanted to admit it. Please don’t think I’m being cocky here, but I see a lot of me in you. There were so many times growing up that I didn’t know how the hell (ma doesn’t mind that one…it’s in the Bible) to channel all that was in my head. I’ve tried time and time again to explain to others what it feels like but I can’t. How do you explain this tornado? This storm? This incredibly huge amount of ‘something’ that you have to direct or you feel like you’ll blow up? It’s such a frantic feeling and when I have it (which is actually now…I’m in a manic state right now and work on my house 12 hours non-stop a day but can’t sleep), I’m almost delirious with the energy. In so many of your performances, I see this delirium in you as well. To be honest, it breaks my heart.
But underneath this, the fucking (I’m a rebel 😎) darkness remains. How did you act so happy and make so many people laugh and feel good about themselves when depression was still dragging you down? Most people believe that when someone is in a manic phase, their depression is buried. Bullshit. The depression is always seething under that intensity…it’s just biding it’s time until it shows itself fully again. I think that’s why those of us with bipolar are always being asked if we’re OK. See, our eyes give us away and as much as we think we hide it well, our eyes tell the full story. As my mentor would have said: the little bastards.
That depressive fucker showed itself to you one last time, didn’t it? And when I read that it had won, I was devastated. After you committed suicide (I don’t believe in sugar-coating stuff by using euphemisms) you wife said you were killed by the ‘terrorist’ inside your brain. What a perfect way to put it. You didn’t commit suicide. Your depression killed you.
I remember how quickly sentiment about your death turned from grief and sympathy to being judgmental with people saying things like ‘he was so selfish to do this.’ OK…that might be one way to look at it and if I ever experience a suicide in my family, I can only imagine how incredibly angry and lost and confused I’d be. But I also know this: when you are in the state where you want your pain to end because it’s finally too overwhelming to bear, you don’t see anything but the dark hole you’ve been bull-dozed into. Nothing. Robin, I know you weren’t being selfish because I understand how you were no longer able to fight the depression beast any longer. I’m so sorry for that.
I love what you say to Matt Damon near the end of Good Will Hunting when he’s trying to come to terms with the abuse in his life: “It’s not your fault.” What a powerful statement that is. Four little words but an impact that can’t be measured. How often I’ve wanted to hear those words myself and when you say them in the movie, I think there are a lot of people who respond to them like Matt does. And Robin? Just for the record, it was not your fault.
So thanks for the memories, Robin. Nope, I didn’t know you personally but you impacted my life a great deal and I’m so grateful for the time we spent together. You once said that if heaven exists, it would be nice to know there was laughter…to hear God say, “Two Jews walked into a bar…”. You know what I think? I think heaven is real and I also believe that because of you, there’s laughter there.