I have said that I lately accepted Alan Rickman as my higher power and I’m curious about many features of this fact. And there are many features to be curious about. But the best thing to start with is usually the beginning.

I’m fortunate in having a distinct memory of my first exposure to what was to become my higher power.

I say “what was to become” because of course I had no idea at the time. I thought he was just some actor.

In fact, I didn’t know his name, but identified him, as is so easy to do with good actors, with the part I first saw him play. The Sheriff of Nottingham.

When I look back, I realize now how horribly wrong things might have gone for me.

What would have become of me now, who would be watching over me, if, in some madness only youth could understand, I had been a Kevin Costner fan? I prefer not to think about it.

Actually, I prefer to think that somehow, even though I didn’t yet know his name, and I was very far from accepting him yet as my higher power, Alan Rickman was already looking over me.

What is it about a particular movie at a particular time? Not the best movie. In parts, a pretty terrible movie. But it doesn’t matter. It somehow becomes The Movie in some way for you. Not the movie you like best or consider most important to see. Far from it. It’s the movie that ends up affecting your life course the most, even though you wouldn’t have chosen it.

Now that I’ve said that, I see that there was something there, right at the start, that hints a higher power was at work. Higher powers often seem to affect lesser beings without their full consent.

My mother was the one who made the introduction. She did it by pulling a joke on me and my sister on my first return visit to my parents after leaving for school. We were close, my sister with me, and me with my mother, and all of us together. So of course we knew how to have jokes with each other.

My mother’s joke involved a set-up. She told us we had to come see a not-very-good movie with her that she’d seen once before without us. She explained that although it wasn’t very good, she thought it was still good enough to see.

It’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for a movie when someone’s given it such a tepid review, but we indulged her because she was our mother and she seemed to want us so much to see this mediocre movie.

The joke was that the movie may have not been that good, but the Sheriff of Nottingham was. She knew it and so did the rest of the theater.

It was a very odd experience. My mother sitting there in the dark, delighting at her joke. My sister and myself laughing with enjoyment for the first time at what everyone else seemed to be watching for at least their second or third time, because they already knew where to respond and how. They knew to root against Robin.

There’s something so completely enjoyable about rooting against the fellow you’re supposed to root for, for all the right reasons.

Kevin Costner’s accent was so over-the-top wrong and he was so completely inadequate as Robin, and Alan Rickman’s accent was so over-the-top right and he was so completely brilliant as the Sheriff, that the whole audience had a great time rooting for the bad guy without any guilt whatsoever. Except a bit perhaps for poor Morgan Freeman.

My sister and I jumped all over my mother after we left the theater, with accusations about purposefully misleading us, and she loved that, because it was always so difficult for her to put one over on us.

And because she loved it, we wanted her to be able to enjoy her joke as much as possible. It was easy for us to agree to see the mediocre movie a second time.

It was even easier to agree the third time because my father did not understand. It did not make sense to him that we wanted to see a mediocre movie twice, so we saw it three times. Then the joke was on him and we all had a sense of being in on our own something special together, just us three.

It was that sense of “just us three” that haunts me now. There really was such a thing once. And that was the last summer it ever was.

After that summer, my sister’s mental illness began her on the journey to the death of her love for us. It was a slow, long march. It ended only recently.

Alan Rickman was the last good thing we ever shared together, just us three.

Is this the place from which all higher powers come? This place of impossible loss?

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Dear AR,

I know you are watching over me. Please look in on my sister. She won’t let me look in on her anymore.

Amen

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