A personal blog mostly about dumb things my kids tend to say is probably not the most appropriate place to do this, but I went to bed thinking about the loss of Robin Williams last night and I woke up with that profound sadness still in my head. 

This has actually been a blog post forming in my brain for some months that will now never be written in the same way, but earlier this year, my husband decided our children's comedic education must be Handled and he bought them the entire Mork & Mindy series on DVD.  We've watched scores of hours of Robin Williams in our house during the better part of the year and I've marveled over and over about lucky I was to watch this talent emerge from a one-off, guest spot on Happy Days that I watched on network TV sitting on the floor of my living room in 1978, into the Academy Award-caliber actor he turned out to be.  I imagine my grandmother felt something like this about the likes of Sid Caeser, whom we also just lost... just lucky to have seen it unfold.

I know it was a silly series and it got sillier as the seasons wore on, but I defend my love of Mork & Mindy and here's why: Robin Williams has helped me talk to my kids about the Klu Klux Klan, about homelessness, about valuing the elderly, about substance abuse and self-medication.... and about kindness, something I'm finding to be a rarer and rarer commodity these days.  The thing everyone who knew him personally seems to be saying today is how kind a person he was. I'm not sure I knew that before today, but it doesn't surprise me.

This morning, I sat my kids down and told them. 

We cried.  

Because as they've grown to love Mork, they've seen Williams' other movies and his series The Crazy Ones (The Caterpillar loved that one in particular for some reason - so disappointed when it was cancelled) on television this year, and they have also grown to love Robin -- something I wasn't even aware of until today that I had also done.

We talked about all the fun moments he gave us and I told them about how his best movies were movies I really cared about, but that I was waiting until they were bigger to understand: Dead Poets' Society, Awakenings, Seize the Day, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, What Dreams May Come, Good Morning Vietnam, August Rush, this amazingly quiet appearance on Louie...  

I talked to them about depression and how it lies. About how getting medical attention for depression is no different than getting medical attention for a broken arm.  I reminded them how important it is to talk to someone if you're feeling bad and I pleaded with them that if they ever feel like life isn't good and it might not be worth living, to talk to me, talk to dad, talk to a counselor or a teacher or a doctor, talk to anyone, I don't care, just get help because if you are sad and you don't feel like it is worth going on, that's because depression is lying to you.

Maybe that's the last thing he had to teach us.

I saw him once.  In a bookstore in Baltimore.  He was looking through some photography-type coffee table books and I was just wandering around; had ducked in from the Inner Harbor from whatever I was doing that day.  I wanted to talk to him, to tell him how much his work meant to me in the times in my life when I was deciding who I was going to be.  But in the end, I couldn't find the words and I didn't want to disturb his day.  It felt kinder to let him enjoy his privacy in that moment than to bother him for my own personal needs of having a story to tell later ("Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I met Robin Williams?!?").  It's the only celebrity sighting I've had where I wondered if that was the right thing.

I've loved everything Robin Williams has ever done, (with the possible exception of Popeye, which I still find to be just... well, weird), and every time I happen to catch a special about him on the biography channel or whatever, I can't help but watch to the end.  He was a hugely talented comedian, of that, there is no doubt. But his real impact for me were the (many) movies he made that made me think differently about life and helped me form my philosophy of it.  Most of the biographies I've seen recently have spent a significant percentage of time devoted to talking about "a certain kind" of movie he began making and criticizing him for choosing those feel-good movies -- as if Patch Adams wasn't something worthy of his comedic talents.  Yes, he was funny as all hell, but these "other" movies? These are the movies that I love and that matter to me.  These are the movies that he was nominated for Academy Awards for over and over (even though he didn't win one until years later, he deserved Awakenings and Fisher King; I still think he was robbed). These are the movies that reminded me during some pretty formative years that there is joy in life. He had his demons.  Even though he couldn't win the fight against his own demons this day, he did manage to win the fight for a whole lot of days. And he helped me in some way to keep fighting mine. I'll always be grateful to him for that.