I’ll Always Have His Back


My friend Tony emailed me yesterday to say that he thought my letter to Zach was lovely, and then he reminded me of something I left out:

But you didn’t mention that he has a tattoo of he and his brother on his back—which is extraordinary and says so much about who he is.

As always, Tony was right, so I thought I’d share the following story, written about seven years ago when Zach first got that tat.


“Don’t be mad,” Zach said over Instant Messenger, “but I’m getting this tattooed on me.”

He then sent a photo I took of him and Rob, when they were maybe 13 and 14. Zach’s wearing an Arizona hoodie and Rob’s in an AND1 long-sleeved T-shirt, and they’re both smiling so hard, but it’s not the usual cheesiness for the camera. I don’t remember what anyone said that day or why they look the way they look, but the picture captures a moment of pure joy and brotherly love. It’s one of those things that parents live for.

“Why would I be mad?” I texted back. “I love it!!”

A few months ago during spring break, Zach and I were hanging out at my Brooklyn apartment one night and I was telling him all about my recent adventures with feng shui. Laura, a feng shui consultant, had opened my eyes to the methods of the ancient art, and made countless suggestions—called “cures”—for every room in my place. One of the things that blew my mind was when she pointed out that none of the photos of my children, which are pretty much wherever you look, showed them smiling. I had always thought they were beautiful shots and a little arty.

“These photos are for your own peace of mind and for when your sons come to visit,” Laura said. “If you change them, they’ll see themselves not looking sad, and this will help you all reconnect with happy moments.”

Well, Zach loved all of the new smiley-faced pics of he and Rob, and was obviously enamored with the one he had just texted me.

And that just about kills me! Not just because Zach chose that particular photo, but that he chose to have it with him forever. It’s such a deep expression of the way he feels about his brother, and I know Rob feels the same way about Zach. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can make me feel any prouder of the two of them.

Which is not to say that it was always fun and games in our house. We endured some pretty tough times, and maybe that’s why this gesture of love is even sweeter. I remember talking with Zach in his room a few years ago, when Rob was going through an especially rocky patch. “No matter what,” Zach said, “I’ll always have his back.”

Not to sound too touchy-feely about it, but Zach’s new tattoo has given my heart a permanent smile, and I needed to tell him that.

“I’m glad you like it,” he texted back. “That makes me very happy!”

2 thoughts on “I’ll Always Have His Back

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