Gary Coleman's parents have brought a little bit of humanity back to the circus that has surrounded their son since his death last month.
In a lengthy and emotional interview on the Today show this morning, Willie and Sue Coleman attempted to end the rumors while pleading for closure that will allow their son to finally be laid to rest.
The choked-up Colemans' wide-ranging comments covered their rocky relationship with their son and his ex-wife, Shannon Price, whether they will challenge his will(s), how they found out about his death, what they think of Todd Bridges' vague yet ominous comments about them and how they want their son to be remembered.
Sue started off by saying that they were "holding up" thanks to friends and family who have done their best to help them "keep it together," particularly in the wake of the frenzied media attention their son's death has sparked.
And while supposed character traits and versions of their son are flying around fast and furious, they have their own wishes as to how Gary should be remembered.
"As a loving, kind, gentle human being," Willie said.
The Colemans, who adopted Gary when he was just four days old, said they heard about his son's initial fall and hospitalization while visiting family in Arkansas. They were never contacted by Shannon or anyone connected with their son and after some serious researching—Sue phoned up the Provo Sheriff's Department to ask them to get Price to phone them with news—they finally received a message. Albeit not for several days.
"She called and left a message—the strangest message I have heard in my life," Willie said. "When someone is hurting like we were at that time, to leave a message like, 'Listen, OK, hi, this is Shannon Price. Thanks for your interest. If you need more information, my brother is handling the arrangements.'"
And while fingers were almost instantly pointed at Price for any number of issues connected to his death—his initial fall, the deathbed photos, the battle for his remains—the Colemans have not and will not lob any such accusations. But that doesn't mean they aren't looking for answers.
"The first information we got was that there was an accident, 911 was called and he was taken to the hospital," Sue said. "We want to know what kind of an accident.
"I can't say we actually know everything [now], but I do feel a bit better because we got a report from the coroner that said there was no foul play, so that did make us feel a lot better."
As for those deathbed photos, like the rest of humanity, the Colemans thought them absolutely abhorrent.
"That was disturbing. I don't know if that was her intentions in the beginning when she was taking those pictures," Sue said, going on to say that she hoped profit wasn't at the forefront of Price's mind when she first posed for the camera.
However, the Colemans also note that they don't blame Price for his death because, whether he was with or not (and incidentally, they were thrilled when the duo tied the knot since it meant Gary would have a "companion" and "not be alone"), his death was in some ways, inevitable.
"His body had come to the point when it had reached the epitome of his sickness," Willie said. "He was on dialysis. Eventually that was gonna lead to a shutdown…We're not pointing fingers."
As for why their relationship deteriorated—while there have been brief interludes of contact, most recently at the start of the decade, they have been estranged for several decades—that's one area where the Colemans are pointing fingers.
"Outside interference," Willie said. "Influence."
Both parents dismissed the notion that his adoption was kept secret or a source of tension, at least on their side, saying that they told Gary when he was five years old that he was adopted.
"He was told, he did not want to deal with it and he asked us to please not discuss it," Sue said. "And we didn't."
She said Gary regularly saw a psychiatrist, and they brought it up during a session, though were once again shot down. "He never ever came to us and said 'Why, how, who,' anything. If he had, we would definitely have tried."
Incidentally, it's when Gary's so-called confidantes took over the responsibility of taking Gary to therapy (or not, as the case may be) that "this whole thing blew out of proportion."
"All of this is nonsense, all of this is untrue. Everything that's been said about us is untrue."
Of the lawsuit Gary filed against his parents, accusing them of stealing millions from him, the Colemans have always denied the accusations yet never held his actions against him.
"I don't know, he wanted to be his own man," Sue said. "As far as the money goes, we would never have taken money from him. We weren't raised that way."
The Colemans, who kept a room in their house for Gary throughout their estrangement in the hopes that he would one day return or have a change of heart, also addressed Bridges' recent comments that "there was a reason" for the decades-long estrangement.
"I don't know what Todd's perception of us is and at this point it really doesn't matter," Sue said. "As far as the document goes, I have no idea what that is. As far as I know, the two of them didn't have any close communication for years there. It seems that just since—
"The book...," Willie interjected, referring to Bridges' new memoir, and the publicity he's since gained from inserting himself into the story.
"Since [Gary] has passed on, that this relationship has seemed to be closer," Sue finished.
And while everyone else seems to be fighting to insert themselves into Coleman's inheritance, don't expect his parents to enter the fray. Asked directly if they had any plans to fight the will, Sue responded:
"Not at all, not at all. Why would we? There's enough going on. There's enough disrespect toward him with all this going on, we would not be a part of that."
"That is one of my wishes. If they're gonna go ahead and take care of burying him or cremating him, please by all means do that. His soul is with Jesus. But his spirit is not gonna rest until he's laid to rest."
"He's at rest, I know he is. The rest of us just need to bring some closure, too," Sue said.
As for why the duo decided to speak out now, there's one simple, if unfortunately unlikely, reason for their actions.
"I basically want to say that I want all the talk to stop," Sue said. "Gary's gone. I want his body put away, respectfully, so that we all can bring some closure to this part of him. I think with all the talk that's been going around, people going on talk shows saying this, saying that, some true, some not true…enough. Let's just put him away so his spirit can go on to where he's going."