Late in the evening right before I fall asleep is when it’s the worst. There are no more distractions, and I’m all alone with Maura’s gentle snoring and my own less-than-gentle thoughts.
As soon as my head hits the pillow, I see Rob’s life flash before my eyes, only it’s not really a flash at all. It’s more like a slow-motion unspooling of moments and memories, a medley of our hits.
Sometimes it starts with something beautiful, like the party we had in our apartment in Forest Hills when we first brought Rob home from Joplin, Missouri, 28 years ago. Sometimes it’s scary, like the time in Binghamton when he blindly leaped off the second floor of a parking structure like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff and broke his pelvis and I don’t even remember how many other bones.
Sometimes it’s just a quiet reflection where I see myself with much more hair reading “Harold and the Purple Crayon” while cuddled up with him in bed. And sometimes it’s a violent blast from the past, like the time I held him in a bear hug and just let him punch me wildly in the hallway of his high school until he ran out of breath. Like I said, a medley of hits.
There we are sitting in the middle of the top row at the movies sharing a large popcorn as we wait to see a midnight showing of Pirates of the Caribbean, and then we’re riding in the back of an ambulance making fucked-up jokes on our way to Four Winds mental hospital, and then I’m dragging him out of his apartment in Beverly Hills before his landlady calls the cops and has him arrested for selling coke. The good, the bad and the ugly appearing nightly in the movie in my mind.
Some of these visions are simply wonderful, like when he and Zach couldn’t stop laughing at our house this past Christmas. And some are excruciating, like imagining his face right before the last moment of his life.
That’s the face I see almost every night. It comes to visit me right before the Xanax kicks in. And then the face changes to what he looked like in the casket, lying peacefully asleep. I kiss his forehead and say, “Goodnight, Rob,” and he says, “Goodnight, Dad, I’ll see you tomorrow.”