You Might Cry After Reading Robert Downey Jr’s Goodbye Note To His Mom

Features Editor
09.29.14 11 Comments

The side effect of seeing an actor’s face on magazine covers and up on a screen as big as the moon is that we feel a sense of familiarity and we think that we can see all of their cracks. We often fail to realize that that version of these people is what we’re shown and not all that there is to see. Robert Downey Jr. is “Iron Man”. He is a rock star and a former addict. All of these things steal the spotlight and float to the surface when we think of this man. We forget that he is a husband, a father, and a son that is as emotionally vulnerable as you or I.

Every so often, though, the shields are lowered and the we are given a real look at the shape of someone’s soul. I want to say that I don’t know why they do it. I want to think that if I were in that situation, I would hide every shred of my private joy and pain from the insatiable masses, but I also know that it feels cathartic to cry in the square once you’ve cried enough in the shadows, so perhaps that’s why Robert Downey Jr. took to Facebook to tell us a little bit about his recently departed mother and what she meant to him.

My mom passed away early this week….I wanna say something about her life, and a generic “obit” won’t suffice…

Elsie Ann Ford was born outside Pittsburgh in April of 1934, daughter of an engineer who worked on the Panama Canal, and mother who ran a jewelry shop in Huntingdon, where they settled….a bona fide “Daughter Of The American Revolution.”

In the mid ’50s, she dropped out of college and headed to NY, with dreams of becoming a comedienne. In ’62, she met my dad, (who proposed at a Yankees/Orioles game). They married, had my sister Allyson in ’63 and me in ’65…

There was another “revolution” of sorts going on at that time, of underground counter-culture film and theatre…and with her as Bob Sr’s muse, they jumped in wholeheartedly…

Beyond their shared love for acting, Downey and his mother were also connected by addiction. We all have a vague recollection of the headlines that his problems generated before he cleaned up, but we didn’t know about her demons or the role that she played in his decision to get clean.

By the mid ’70s, the downside of drug culture caught up with many artists. She was an alcoholic…

As the marriage suffered, she continued to work, but not for long. A recurring role on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” (’76-’77) was her last paying job…not that she cared, she’d have done it for free.

I remember living with her and her boyfriend Jonas, (who became a second father to me) in a 2 room 5 story walk up in Manhattan after that…Bunsen burner for a stove, cockroaches, broken dreams…

By 1990, she’d had enough, went to treatment, got sober. Just in time to enjoy several decades of heart disease, bypasses, you name it….

While I strived to have the kind of success that eluded her, my own addiction repeatedly forbade it.

In the summer of 2004, I was in bad shape. She called me out of the blue, and I admitted everything. I don’t remember what she said, but I haven’t drank or used since.

Downey goes on to explain Elsie Downey’s health woes and her tenacious fight to stick around over these last few years before he offers one final bit of tribute and a message that we should all take to heart.

She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way.

She was also reclusive, self-deprecating, a stoic Scotch-German rural Pennsylvanian, a ball buster, stubborn, and happy to hold a grudge.

My ambition, tenacity, loyalty, “moods,” grandiosity, occasional passive aggression, and my faith….

That’s all her…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If anyone out there has a mother, and she’s not perfect, please call her and say you love her anyway…

Elsie Ann Downey. 1934-2014

I need to find my phone.

Source: Facebook via Business Insider

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