I’m not sure why but I was walking around our house this morning looking at all the photos of Rob we have hanging on the walls and sitting on the bookcase. Most of them show Rob with Zach, and only one has been newly displayed since Rob died.
Starting with my all-time favorite, at the top of the stairs as you walk up to our bedroom, is a framed poster-sized photo of me and the kids in our backyard when we lived in Woodbury. It was taken for a story about having testicular cancer that I wrote for GQ more than 20 years ago. Zach’s wearing an Allan Houston Knicks jersey and Rob’s wearing a rare Michael Jordan Bulls jersey (45 was his number when he returned to Chicago after playing baseball). We’re all barefoot, which I always thought was such a nice touch. It’s the most beautiful photo of the three of us ever taken and looking at it right now makes me sadder than any other photo in the house.
Another picture, hanging on a wall in our bedroom, is the one we called “The Menendez Brothers.” It was also taken in our Woodbury backyard, right around the time the real Menendez brothers were convicted.
Downstairs on the first floor is the photo that accompanied the story I wrote about Rob for Esquire all those years ago. That’s the one I look at—and talk to—the most as it sits right across from our dining room table, where I’m temporarily parked these days. As I’ve said before, it’s the one portrait that captures who Rob was on the inside, and that’s why I took it out of storage after he died.
I used to have it hanging on a wall in my old apartment in Park Slope. But then a feng shui expert came over to my place and noted that none of the photos of my kids showed them smiling, something that had never struck me. I just thought they were beautiful and kind of “arty.”
Taking her advice to heart, I replaced them with happier shots, and those are the photos that now sit on our bookcase. From the top shelf down, the first one is of Rob and Zach, taken on Zach’s 18th birthday. His presents included jumping out of a plane and skydiving and his first tattoo, and I remember all of us having such a great time that day.
Just below that photo is another all-time favorite of the two of them as teenagers. I must’ve somehow made them laugh, because their smiles are so big and genuine that you can feel how much they love each other. Zach prized this shot so much that he got a tattoo of it on his back several years before Rob died. We all used to joke about how the tattoo artist didn’t do such a hot job in the likeness department, making both kids look mentally challenged. But Zach finally had another artist touch it up and now it looks exactly like the original photo.
On the next shelf is a shot of the kids taken by Caryn (I was, for the most part, the family photographer and responsible for all the others) for my birthday. Rob is holding a sign that says “Happy Birthday” and Zach’s sign says “Daddy We Love You.” They must’ve been four or five. Both are wearing party hats and I can still feel how much they loved me.
On the bottom shelf is another all-time fave, and I know I keep repeating that phrase but isn’t that what we do? It’s not like I’m going to hang up photos of Rob crying at Disney World! This beauty is of my father-in-law, Marty, holding Rob’s little hands while he’s standing in Marty’s lap (that amazing cap he’s wearing was a present from my friends John and Lola, who is a pretty famous milliner). Rob is smiling at the camera while Marty is smiling hard at his grandson. It captures a moment of pure joy that all these years later has turned to deep sadness because these two people I loved so dearly are no longer with us.
According to Rod Stewart, every picture tells a story, but I guess I never realized how much those stories can change.