Caryn and I decided to bury Rob in the same cemetery as his grandparents, which caused a few problems. Transferring the body from L.A. to New York was a logistical pain in the ass and forced us to schedule the funeral a full week after he died. The usual deal for Jews is to get the body in the ground ASAP, but we were never a particularly observant family and that wasn’t our issue. Our issue was that we just wanted to get it the fuck over with.
The plan was for Zach and me to fly into New York on Friday so the three of us could be together. For such a little word, “us” sure can pack a wallop. The magnitude of how the meaning of it changed for Caryn, Zach and myself still shakes me to the core.
Once we were in the air, I couldn’t read, watch a movie or even listen to music. What was I doing on a plane this morning? It made no sense. It must be some kind of a mistake. I just saw Rob a few days ago.
And that’s when I got the bright idea to write his eulogy. It wasn’t the first time I had thought about it. I’ve been writing it in my head for many years. So for the next five-plus hours, I became the crazy old man on the aisle crying his eyes out. Here’s what I wrote:
“I have a space in my heart that never closes.”
Rob first said those words when he was a little boy.
He was the most beautiful little boy—a total pain in the ass, wouldn’t stop crying, drove us crazy, but we loved the shit out of him.
I think he knew that. I think he knew how much we all loved him.
I got to see him a lot these past two years, since he moved out to California. He was a good hang. I don’t know why but it always surprised me how smart and funny he was. We mainly talked about bullshit—our favorite TV shows, movies, songs that we both liked because Zach turned us on to them. The deepest we ever got was when he talked about his cat, Biscuit. We went out for dumplings a lot and always ordered too many and always knocked them off. My favorite part of our visits was when I dropped him off in front of his place. He’d say, “I love you, Dad.” And I’d say, “I love you, Rob.” We both needed to say it and we both needed to hear it.
Rob did a lot of fucked-up shit. I don’t think he’d mind me saying that, but I can hear him singing a line from that Warren Zevon song we both loved: “Let me break it to you son, your shit’s fucked up.” He loved music. Some of my favorite memories are of driving the kids around—Zach in the back, Rob always got the front seat—and singing along to “Mrs. Potters Lullaby,” “Runaround,” “Wonderwall,” “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” and other tracks on a CD that I had made and named “Kids Mix.”
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I’ve been walking around saying that to myself over and over for the past few days. It’s really the perfect word. Incredibly versatile. Not surprisingly, it was Rob’s favorite word, but each time I say it now, it has a different meaning. Fuck, Rob, what did you do? Fuck, how can we go on without you? Fuck, it hurts so bad. Fuck, we’ll never see you again.
Zach, Rob loved you so much. I know you know. Every time I talked with him, we talked about you, and every time I talk with you, we talk about Rob. We’ll always talk about Rob. You were the best brother he could’ve ever had. And Rob knew it.
Babe, we lost our baby boy. We lost him. He got lost. No matter what we did, no matter how hard we tried, no matter how much we loved him and will always love him, he was lost.
We went through a lot of shit with that kid and we never gave up. You never gave up. We were always there for him. No matter what. Right up to the bitter end. God, how we loved him. We did the best that we could. And he was lucky to have us as his parents. And we were lucky to have him as our son. Although there were plenty of days when we didn’t feel all that lucky.
Rob and I had lunch two days before he died. That was a hard sentence to write, even harder to say. It makes it all so real and these last few days have been anything but. He looked tired. He was trying to hold on to a bunch of shitty jobs, trying to hold on to his apartment—he loved that apartment right on the beach—trying to hold on to his sobriety, his sanity, his life. I knew that he was struggling but I didn’t know how lost he really was, and I don’t know if I could’ve done anything to save him. That thought has been haunting me these past few nights. And I know Rob would hate that because he hated how much I worried about him. I’ll stop soon, Rob. I promise.
His last words to me when I dropped him off that day were my favorite words in the world—I love you, Dad.
Fuck, Rob. I miss you. I love you.
And now we mourn. We cry. We remember. And we cry some more. We love him. We love him to death. We love him in death. We love him. We love him. We love him. That’s all we ever did and all we’ll ever do.
We have a space in our hearts that will never close.
By the time the funeral came around, I deleted all but one paragraph.