When I first heard the news—or more accurately, read about it from a barrage of tweets in the few moments after dinner when I had intended to merely glance at twitter before seeing to bath time—it kind of swept over me like a hot, summer gust. Something to be recognized and noted in a kind of detached way, but then forgotten as it blew past and was gone, replaced with the usual concerns over evening responsibilities.
But now that I’ve stopped and given my brain and my heart a few moments to consider it, that detachment has grown into sadness, and I realize I can’t not write something about the passing of Robin Williams.
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Williams since the years when I could count my age on two hands. Back then, an alien called Mork taught me through strange handshakes and even stranger words that even if you were maybe a bit not like everyone else, people would like you anyway if you could make them laugh.
His portrayal of a middle-aged Peter Pan in Hook helped me see that even though most of us have to become adults at some point, that doesn’t mean we always have to grow up. Even more than that, it led me to see that sometimes old stories can be told in new ways and capture new imaginations.
All my life, his work made me laugh. But then, that’s not unusual; he made millions of people of laugh. For me, though, personally, he did a great deal more than that. Without ever knowing it, or possibly intending it, Robin Williams’ work shaped the not-quite-grown-up, middle-aged man I have become, as well as the writer I strive to show on the page.
If not for his influence, I wouldn’t try to make people smile. I wouldn’t write silly blog posts. I wouldn’t spend hours pouring myself into middle grade stories in the fervent hope of making some other not-quite-fitting-in kid out there somewhere, someday smile or chuckle. To try to share the feeling, if even for a few fleeting moments, that everything is going to be okay.
I never met him. Hell, I doubt we were ever in the same zip code. He’ll never know how he touched my life.
But I’ll never forget.
From the bottom of my heart, then, thank you, Mr. Williams. I pray that wherever you are now, you’ve finally escaped the demons that seemed to plague you. May you rest in eternal peace.