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Steve Eaton: Remembering Robin Williams and all those moments of humor, absurdity and joy

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 9:10 a.m. MDT

Robin Williams in Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire." (, Deseret News Archives)

We have a very happy and playful visitor in our home right now, and that has reminded me of the times Robin Williams used to come into our home.

My dog, Sundance the Talking Dog, was once a puppy with endless enthusiasm for things like carpet lint, the inside of a refrigerator and my appearance into any room after an absence of any length. He’s older and wiser now, which makes life much easier and calmer in many ways.

This week, however, we are baby-sitting my son’s puppy. Scout is a rescue dog with big brown eyes that look like she was made to star in a Disney film back in the olden days when "flubber" and shaggy dogs made the big screen.

She tends to think whatever just happened may be the most amazing, remarkable thing that ever unfolded in the history of her life. If I look at her, she assumes that must be the start of a really fun game. All she has to do is figure out the rules, which she usually concludes involve running in circles, barking and just plain falling down out of excitement.

Robin Williams in Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire." (, Deseret News Archives)

Sometimes I bring out the “Monster Claws” gesture and walk slowly toward her. She reacts with a strange mixture of joy and terror. She’s happy that I’m looking at her because that means we are playing a game, but she’s horrified that the claws are after her. I’m sure she worries that I might “get her,” a process that would involve her being scooped off the ground and restrained for 10 seconds while I hug her.

I actually caught drama unfolding one day recently when one of my claws raised up my cellphone during an attack and captured the moment on video.

While it can be exhausting living with someone who just experienced the greatest moment of their life, every minute of the day, it is also rewarding. In the olden days, we believed that Mary Tyler Moore could “turn the world on with her smile” and “take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.” I don’t know if Scout, in this example, is Mary Tyler Moore or I am. It is just clear that if I come into a room, things have changed for the better.

Bebe (Susan Sarandon, left), Father Moinighan (Robin Williams, center) and Don (Robert De Niro, right) in THE BIG WEDDING.  Photo credit: Barry Wetcher (Photo credit: Barry Wetcher, Barry Wetcher) Bebe (Susan Sarandon, left), Father Moinighan (Robin Williams, center) and Don (Robert De Niro, right) in THE BIG WEDDING. Photo credit: Barry Wetcher (Photo credit: Barry Wetcher, Barry Wetcher)

Dogs grow out of their puppy stage and children do, too. We all eventually lose the ability to suddenly sprout airplane wings and fly about the room. It’s just life happening to all of us.

Robin Williams seemed to be the exception. He found absurdity, humor and even joy in the simplest of things. He had filters that he used when playing serious roles, but most of the time, when we invited him into our homes along with Johnny Carson, Jay Leno or David Letterman, we had no idea what was going to come next. We just knew it would be crazy and he would lift our spirits.

I think the “Oh Captain, my Captain” scene at the end of “Dead Poets Society” is one of the greatest endings in movie history. I’ve heard that people are posting pictures of themselves standing atop desks to pay tribute to Robin Williams. I have often wondered how that scene would have played out if I was a character in that movie. I am sure that I would have stepped proudly atop a desk saying “Oh Captain, my Cap …” for only a brief moment before I slipped and came crashing down, knocking over several others along the way and stopping the noble soundtrack.

A photo of the late actor Robin Williams as Mork from Ork hangs with flowers left by people paying their respects, in Boulder, Colo., Monday Aug. 11, 2014, at the home where his hit  80's TV series A photo of the late actor Robin Williams as Mork from Ork hangs with flowers left by people paying their respects, in Boulder, Colo., Monday Aug. 11, 2014, at the home where his hit 80's TV series "Mork & Mindy", was set. Williams, the Academy Award winner and comic supernova whose explosions of pop culture riffs and impressions dazzled audiences for decades and made him a gleamy-eyed laureate for the Information Age, died Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 63. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) (Brennan Linsley, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

For most people, that fall would ruin such a scene. But I’m guessing Robin Williams would love it.

So, Robin, I won’t stand on the desk for you, but I will dedicate my next fall to you. It will probably involve Scout tripping me up and mean the sudden demise of the “Monster Claws,” but that will be my gift to you.

We are so sorry you had to go. We will miss you more than we miss lots of people who go to heaven. John Keating challenged us to “make our lives extraordinary” in “Dead Poets Society.” Many of us will try to do just that, in part, because you showed us how it’s done.

Oh Captain, my Captain.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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