Robin Williams was my middle school homework buddy. Yes, I used to do my homework in front of the television, which is a very bad habit. (Shhhhh, don’t tell my patients or my daughter.) As I recall, Mork and Mindy was a smash hit almost as soon as it debuted. Even as a kid, I could tell that the writing on that show was not that great. And some of the characters were not funny. But Robin Williams improvised a lot of his dialogue. He was fast, charming, impish, hilarious, and able to switch from utterly naive to lascivious in a split second.

As a young teen girl it was not lost on me that he was damned cute. So cute that despite my preference for clean cut boys (remember, I was a very young girl) who were on the pubescent side, I looked past Robin’s manly mane of chest hair that could clearly be seen peaking out of the top of his rainbow colored t-shirts. Mork was a stand up guy even when he’d sneak a dirty joke into each off his lightning fast riffs on the English language, pop culture, history, and astronomy.

Robin Williams went on to be a star and a good actor. I loved him as the lead in The World According to Garp. Very funny, very sweet. This was also the first time I noticed the sadness in his eyes. There is a common image of a comedian or a comedic actor as a “sad clown”. I don’t think that all funny people have to be sad but I do know that a good deal of famous funny people are sad. Frankly, I think most celebrities are sad. There is the drive to get attention with so much rejection interspersed. The attention and recognition are so inconsistent. When they come, I imagine it is like the high of a drug and you can never get enough.

I went on to enjoy most of his films over the intervening years and then he became involved in my school work once again in March of 1997. I was living in Florida at the time for my psychology internship. I had flown back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a couple of days because I was defending my doctoral dissertation. The doctoral defense is a centuries old tradition going back to the Middle Ages and deserving of its own post. Let’s just say that it is the day I wore a business suit, presented my dissertation research to five professors, they peppered me with questions for an hour and a half, then made me wait in the hallway for a half an hour while they determined whether I would get my Ph.D. or not. The whole thing lasted three hours and was the culmination of 6 1/2 years of graduate school.

There was another notable occasion occurring on campus that day. Robin Williams was just a little ways away filming Patch Adams. And I missed him! My friend and fellow graduate student, Jawana did not miss him. I excitedly asked her, “What was he like?” She replied, “He’s a small hairy man.” Ha! Not very nice, Jawana! Robin probably noticed this himself. Perhaps he would have compared himself to a muppet. Hairy, funny, and adorable.

Robin Williams, the world is never going to forget you and I’m not just saying that because I’m sad that you’re gone. You were a singular sensation. I could see the sadness behind your eyes. I could see the addiction to attention as well as other substances. The mania that delighted us when it was at the right speed. Nonetheless, you shocked me. You had lived through so much and escaped alive. You were 63 and somehow even though I’d heard you’d gone back to rehab, I thought you’d keep yourself around.

I am a professional who knows better. I was naive and hopeful. I thought you had enough Mork in you to keep you alive.

To feel alone with such love around you must have been devastating. I didn’t know you but you knew how to make me smile. Rest in peace.