One of my favorite movies of all time is the classic film starring Robin Williams, “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
I won’t bore you with the entire plot of the movie, but through a series of events, most of which were not in his control, Williams creates an alter ego of a British nanny that will allow him to take care of his kids, who he is about to lose in a divorce.
The movie is about family. William’s character in the movie is Daniel Hillard, a guy who never really reached his potential in life until he created his alter ego. As Daniel Hillard, he is denied access to his children because of divorce, so Mrs. Doubtfire steps in, which allows him to not only see his kids every day but also to take care of and love them.
Released in 1993, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” while quirky at times, was a look into the ever-changing nature and definition of family. Family dynamics change, get bigger, spread a wider net and start to include what we now call an extended family.
We all have extended families that are not related by blood to us. In my case, I have come to realize the extended family can provide a connective support system that’s just as vital as my blood-related family.
I am fortunate to have several work families in my life. In my main vocation, I have been with my current employer a little more than 24 years, and the people I work with there have merged into a seamless group of family members who I love more than words can ever express. I have seen associates get married and start to raise their own families. We share stories about our children, both good and bad, talk about our pets, mainly dogs. Over the weekend, one of my work family members had to put their dog of 10 years to sleep and I mourned with them, just as though it were my dog, too.
I’m lucky enough to have a second work family at Mueller Funeral Home. While I have only been there about 2½ years, the people I serve with have become family. Some are young enough to be my children, others are like little brothers and others are like those cousins you don’t see often enough but know they would be there for you in a heartbeat if they knew you needed them.
In “Mrs. Doubtfire,” Daniel Hillard gets the last laugh, as the character he created becomes a children’s TV star, thereby broadening his reach as a nanny to countless children around the country. In one of the more poignant scenes, Mrs. Doubtfire is answering letters from children who are going through family changes of their own. A young viewer named Katie writes in to ask Mrs. Doubtfire how to cope with her parents’ divorce and the fact that she may have to move far away from her home. Mrs. Doubtfire’s response is golden:
“There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country – and they may not see each other for days or weeks or months … even years at a time. But love is what binds us all. If there is love present, then they are family.”
To all the families in my life, I love you all.
• Jonathan Freeburg is an Ottawa transplant for the past 26 years and a regular contributor to 1430 WCMY Radio. His real job is in insurance as a cover-holder for Lloyd’s of London. He can be reached at email@example.com.