I was waiting for a date to get ready the last time I saw Robin Williams. I turned the TV on, and Hook was playing. My favorite scene was about to come on.
Robin, as Peter Banning, who had forgotten he was ever Peter Pan, was desperate for help from Lost Boys firmly under the cocksure Rufio’s command. Captain Hook had Banning’s children, and he wanted them back. No one believed he could rescue them. No one believed he was The Boy Who Never Grew Up. He was old; his cheeks were sagging from years gone by, and he wore the most fatherly glasses the studio’s costume department could muster. The Lost Boys stood on Rufio’s side of the divide. They would never follow this aged pretender.
Except for Pockets.
Tiny, even for a boy his age, Pockets walked up to Banning and gently brought him down to one knee. He stared intently at his face, studying the nooks and crannies formed from decades of living. He took the old man’s glasses off, and, with his hands, smoothened out the furrows on Banning’s brow. He stretched out the laugh lines on his face until they faded away. He pushed Banning’s sagging cheeks back, lifting his face up into a smile, and recognition finally brought its welcome twinkle into the boy’s eyes.
I found myself mouthing Pocket’s words when he saw his former hero again. “Oh there you are, Peter!”
My date was sitting next to me by this time. She loved this movie, too. We sat together and watched it up until Pan led the attack on Hook’s ship, and the pirate’s right-hand man was in the main room, gathering whatever treasures he could find while stammering, “What about Smee? What about Smee? …Smee’s me! What about me?!?”
We turned the TV off. We had to go. We had a full day ahead of us. We struggled to leave the movie behind. I’m pretty sure others would have faced the same difficulty, too.
Nearly everyone in my generation had a Robin Williams movie they could call their own. Dead Poets Society. Patch Adams. Mrs. Doubtfire. Fathers Day. Aladdin. Jack. Jumanji. What Dreams May Come. Flubber. Ferngully. Awakenings. Mine was Hook, and I will never see it the same way again now that he’s gone.
There was something about Robin that was so genuinely human, that I can’t even bring myself to call his roles “performances” anymore. They were just facets of who he was, and he was simply letting different parts of his humanity take center stage when needed. Maybe it was his shaking, sometimes-manic-sometimes-soothing voice; or his tired, yet youthful eyes; or the fact that he could capture the gamut of the human experience in the span of a five-minute whirlwind; but he was everything to everyone, and that’s why we all mourn this tremendous loss. We mourn him for being who he was, and for being who we are, and for what he told us in countless ways.
His characters, his comedy, all had their own sadnesses, but they all had something to smile for, to laugh at. And we smiled and laughed with him, despite our own pains.
He taught us that we may get old, and fat, and useless, and obsolete; we may be lost, or indentured, or broken, or alone; we may be missing a piece of our hearts, and we may be going away far too soon; but we must never, never let that stop us from finding the joy in our lives. There is always something or someone to be joyful for.
That his passing comes from depression is heart-wrenching, but we need only look at the work he’d put out throughout a magical, magical career to see his joy shine through, to watch that tired face form one more smile, and to say to him, with the familiarity of an old friend, “Oh there you are, Robin!”
Thank you, Robin Williams. Thank you so, so much for the adventure.