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On Monday, September 22, Robert Downey Jr.’s mother died and on Friday, the actor posted a beautiful tribute on Facebook.
Robert Downey Jr. posted a moving tribute to his mother on Facebook. The prolific actor‘s mother died on September 22 after months of suffering the effects of a set of seizures. An ever-loving loving son, Downey Jr. takes the time to outline the areas “a generic ‘obit’ won’t suffice.
Above all else, Elsie Ann Ford was a strong, capable woman.
Calling his mother “reclusive, self-deprecating, a stoic Scotch-German rural Pennsylvanian, a ball buster, stubborn, and happy to hold a grudge,” the deep thread of love seems palatable. “She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way.”
Recalling his early years and living “in a 2 room 5 story walk up in Manhattan” with “Bunsen burner for a stove, cockroaches, [and] broken dreams” decorating the home. Living with Jonas Kerr, who he called “a second father to me” offered a different sense of family. The drug scene was over by mid-1970s but the effects of decades-long addiction didn’t leave a lot of room for temperance.
RDJ‘s struggle with sobriety’s well-documented, but what isn’t revealed often is how Elsie impacted him decisions. Sober since 1990, she stood back and watched her son’s struggles but waited until he was ready for help in 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.”
As recovering addicts, the two joined together to help each other in the low moments. Going beyond sponsorship, the duo simply loved and nurtured the other when needed.
She also inspired him as an actor because she didn’t worry about paying gigs. Robert Downey, Sr.’s muse loved to perform, to slip into roles as easily as a smile. In the 1960s, “there was another ‘revolution’ of sorts going on at that time, of underground counter-culture film and theatre” that motivated the married couple to “jump in wholeheartedly.”
Allyson and RDJ added to the family, fueling the creativity.
Together, the couple produced numerous works including three well-remembered projects: a welfare-driven man who marries his mother in Chafed Elbows; a woman talking to an absent, silent God while a woman tries to communicate in Greaser’s Palace; and Moment To Moment (also known as Two Tons Of Turquoise To Taos Tonight), where Ford played a whopping 17 characters.
In an interview with Big Issue in 2011, Downey Jr. ascribed his love of acting to his mother.
“It seemed like she just floated naturally in and out of that performance art, cutting-edge movie-making she was doing with my dad.” While acknowledging that Robert Sr.’s “wit and take on things, his resilience and his strange optimism while complaining are also a big part of me,” the profound “passion for the craft came from my mom.”
Even though the marriage failed, she didn’t stop dreaming of being a part of the creative world. Downey Jr. says that after continuous work stopped after Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in 1976-77, his mother still worked and brought characters to life. And the bond motivated him to “strive to have the kind of success that eluded her.”
Her mark is all over his life and career. A son paying homage to a loving, strong, capable woman who didn’t break.
And personally, she was a doting grandmother “for my firstborn son Indio,” holding a deeply “special affinity,” and “really got a kick out of Exton.” Moving to Los Angeles connected the family, putting generations together and showing her wider influence. She adored tech devices like the iPad, that provided “pictures, videos, the whole 9” of many “fond memories of her in the last few years.”
A family reborn in the age of aging. Doctors called her “Medical Incredible after surviving a “cardiac arrest and was put on life support” in March when people expected the end to be near. And Ford planned ahead by requesting that she be “left to die if there wasn’t a reasonable chance of recovery.”
Shockingly, the woman who wouldn’t bow to nature’s demands still proved the medical world wrong. Returning from “filming the Avengers sequel in June,” he went straight to see her. “To my amazement, she was completely lucid, interactive, mugging [and] pulling faces.”
Letting everyone see where the irascible personality of the Iron Man originated. Even though she couldn’t speak “’cause she had a tracheal tube,” he “wondered if she might just beat the odds once more.”
After the final series of seizures, the family decided to bring the matriarch home and let hospice take care of medical needs. She died at 11 p.m. with loved ones surrounding her, including Jonas—her partner of 37 years.
Elsie Ann Ford forged her way into the world and taught her children the power of beating odds, to never give up and enjoy life even in the amidst the ever-changing chaos that comes with living. She also raised a son that respected every part of his mother.
Robert Downey Jr. was not just his father’s son. He was his mother’s son and all the pride that comes from such adaptable, creative, and clever stock.
A son’s love demonstrated in the most raw, honest way possible.
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