The Nicest Person in the World


Dear Zach,

This letter is long overdue.

It’s not about how much I love you because I know you know how much I do. I could go on and tell you a bunch of things that this isn’t about, and I’d like to say that one of those things is Rob, but you know me too well for me to bullshit you like that.  In fact, I was trying to write this whole thing without even mentioning his name, and I couldn’t even make it past the first paragraph. So let’s skip to the next one.

This letter is to tell you how truly great you are. I know I’ve told you some of this before, but there’s something about seeing it in writing that’s different. For the both of us. So I’m going to start with the most obvious thing, the thing that we tell you all the time, the thing that everyone who has ever met you since the day you were born knows, you know the thing I’m talking about, yes, that thing—about you being the nicest person in the world.

I say it about you all the time and have been saying it about you all your life, so much so that I feel like it’s been taken for granted, like it’s a given, like it’s no big deal. And that’s the part that needs to change because it really is a big deal! Let’s look at it for a moment. Of all the people I’ve ever met, of all the people I’ve ever heard about, of all the people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, you are the nicest of all. That’s a lot of fuckin’ nice, dude.

And what does that really mean, to be “nice”? We all think that we know, and we’d probably all start with a bunch of synonyms: good, kind, friendly, admirable, charming, courteous, genial, gentle, gracious, commendable, helpful, well-mannered, agreeable, amusing and great. You are all those things. And so much more.

“Being nice” is such an underrated characteristic. It sounds all soft and fuzzy and sometimes it is, but to me it’s the finest quality you can find in a human being.

You said it yourself when you were a little boy, and no one has ever been able to top it. I know you know what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it here for the benefit of everyone reading this who isn’t you.

When you were maybe five years old, I asked you the famous question—why does everybody like you so much?

And you answered, even more famously: Because I’m me!

“Because I’m me” is what makes you you, and why I love and adore you—now more than ever. And even though I know that last part sounds a bit fucked-up because it suggests I feel guilty for maybe not loving you enough when Rob was alive, I know you know that’s not true.

But I need to put it in writing because that’s what I do with all of the most important words I’ve thought or spoken. And I can’t think of anything more important than this: I love you with all my heart. It’s always been a pretty big place and some people (he who shall not be named) took up a lot of room in there for a long time, but now there’s an opening, a nice lived-in space, so I’d like you to get even more comfortable, stretch out your long legs, kick back and just take it all in. Rob’s still in there, he’ll always be in there, but since he’s no longer around to accept my love, that world is yours (which is still my favorite of your tattoos).

Getting back to the most important words being in writing, remember that Official Six-Year-Old Certificate I made for you a million years ago? There were some pretty good jokes in there:

Hair: Yes

Eyes: 2

Mouth: Big

Height: Almost as tall as Robbie

Weight: 40 pounds (60 pounds when on Dad’s back)

This hereby certifies that Zachary Daniel Carlat has passed all of the necessary tests and requirements to become six years old. These include, but are not limited to:

*the ability to sit at the table without falling off a chair

*the ability to consistently beat his Daddy in one-on-one basketball games

*the ability to eat at least two foods other than bagels and Captain Crunch

*the ability to talk softly

*the ability to sometimes stop talking

*the ability to sometimes listen instead of always talking

Congratulations! You are six. Please sign below.


I feel like that certificate needs a little updating:

This hereby certifies that Zachary Daniel Carlat has passed all of the necessary tests and requirements to become a 27-year-old man. These include, but are not limited to:

*the ability to show and express empathy 

*an unparalleled resilience under the worst possible circumstances 

*an unparalleled joyfulness that’s so contagious that the company you work for should bottle and sell it

*a rare sensitivity about people’s feelings inherited from your father

*the ability to feel comfortable talking to anyone in almost any situation inherited from your mother

*an unparalleled and seemingly endless sense of loyalty, caring and understanding for your brother

*because you’re you

Congratulations to me! For having a son like you. Please sign below.


Ever since Rob died, I’ve made sure to say “I love you” every time we talk, and because those are the most important words of all, I need to put it in writing:

I love you, Zach.


P.S. Don’t think I’m not still pissed that you beat me in H.O.R.S.E. when we played in Tampa. I’ll get you next time we play on my home court.

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