My Father, Robin Williams, and Me
I feel compelled to write this, as I sit alone in my apartment tearfully reading through the outpouring of grief at the news of Robin Williams‘ passing. It is no dispute that he was beloved by many, and this sudden and unexpected loss of a such an icon demands to be felt. So many childhoods were molded and enriched by Mr. Williams, and mine was no exception. Jumanji, Toys, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Aladdin, Flubber; all of these films and more are near and dear to my heart, bringing me that pure and uninhibited joy of laughter that is uniquely felt through the eyes of a child. But Robin Williams has always felt like so much more to me than just an actor on a screen. Growing up, my father was on disability due to increasing health complications from type 1 diabetes, so he was a stay-at-home dad. We would spend hours together watching classic ’60s sitcoms; The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, and Green Acres were amongst his favorites, and the theme songs to these shows (now forever engrained in my memory) always bring a smile to my face. When not indulging in our favorite throwback shows, we could be found watching any number of classic films. This bonding time with my dad instilled in me a passion for TV and film—with its ability to tell stories, to connect people, and to transport a person to another place and time. It is a passion that has stuck with me throughout my life, to the point of pursuing a degree in Film and Media Production.My point here is that my father had impeccable taste, a palette he passed on to me through a childhood of careful curation. True to his taste and keen eye, Robin Williams was amongst his favorite actors, and I have countless happy memories snuggling with my dad on the couch watching his films, from all those mentioned above to his countless other treasures like Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Patch Adams, and Jack (a particular favorite of mine as it shared my dad’s namesake). I came to cherish Williams, for he seemed to share so many qualities with another stand up guy I cherished above all others, my father.
When my father passed away after years of battling with his illness, my world shattered. I had just turned 21, and even though I was technically an adult, I never felt younger or more lost. He was, and still is, the most important person in my life. I had experienced plenty of close losses through uncles and grandparents, and always knew from a very young age that I would lose my dad too soon. Knowing this made me cling to and cherish him all the more, a knowledge that made losing him the biggest fear in my young adult life. It has been three years since he passed away, and in that time I have become a student of grief. I have learned that while the five stages are real, they are not linear, and one can travel back and forth among them freely. Grief ebbs and flows, and while I miss my father fiercely each and every day, some days it is easier to manage that grief, and others are harder. Today has been one of those hard days. This truly speaks to the tremendous talent and unique spirit that is Robin Williams, and I say is, not was, for we will forever have the ability to share in his memory through the body of work he left behind, and the lives he touched along the way. After losing my dad, I would watch Mrs. Doubtfire to feel closer to him, not only because Daniel Hillard is one of the greatest on-screen fathers in cinematic history, but because it starred Williams, a go-to father figure for me when I so severely missed my own. To me they have always been kindred spirits, right down to their eyes, which seemed to share this same spark for life, a combination of child-like wonder and mischief mixed with the wisdom of a soul far beyond his years.My heart especially goes out to his children, for I know what it is to lose an amazing father. It is a pain in your heart you carry with you always, but one that can be softened with time. My heart breaks seeing his last Instagram post, a photo of himself and his daughter Zelda when she was a little girl, and resonates with me more than I could ever express in words.
In the sea of condolences we received after my father’s funeral, one has always stuck out amongst the rest and has brought me comfort ever since. “Though you may not see the humming-bird sing, if you listen closely, you can always hear his song.” I have looked at it as a beautiful way of expressing how a relationship with a loved one does not end with their death, but evolves.
Ashli Krieps is a 24-year-old Iowa transplant chasing her dreams studying Film & Media Production on the sunny West Coast. When not assisting everyone with their Apple products, you may find her submerged in any of numerous fandoms (Harry Potter above all), reading a book, or dancing by herself in her living room. You may check out her work on Vimeo, or follow her on Twitter & Tumblr if you feel so inclined.