Are We There Yet?


Any time Robbie and Zachy were sitting in the back seat of my car and we were going somewhere that took more than 10 minutes, Robbie would start in with the classic annoying kid question: Are we there yet?

All these years later, I’ve been asking myself the same damn thing.

I’ve been trying to stay upbeat and view Rob in a positive light for the past few weeks, but the stupid sadness keeps getting in the way.

Sometimes it feels like I’m forcing myself to “snap out of it” and “get on with my life,” as if I’m racing against an imaginary grief clock. I somehow got it stuck in my head that after the longest and shittiest year of my life, things would lighten up and get back to semi-normal, as if that ever existed. There’s only four more months to go, and all I keep saying to myself is “Are we there yet?”

I know that’s not how grief works, and by this point, you do too. But the act of telling myself that I have some choice in how to deal with Rob’s loss—instead of passively allowing my feelings to come and go as they please—is really just that: an act. I’ve always been a master of self-deception, particularly when Rob was alive, so why should it be any different now that he’s no longer with us?

Lately I’ve been itching to get to the other side of the grief road (because I’m a chicken), where it’s all beautiful memory rainbows and sweet “missing you” lollipops. For Rob, just substitute four-leaf clovers, sunflowers, and a kiddie pail and shovel and you’ll get the picture.

But as much as I was thinking that I now have some say in how I feel, the truth is that, for the most part, I don’t.

I was looking at a bunch of adorable baby pictures of Robbie (is there any other kind?) that Caryn had sent me a few weeks ago, and they instantly filled me with joy. I couldn’t stop smiling at them. It was the same feeling I had when I watched home movies of the kids a few months ago. When I went through them again the other day while looking for a photo for this story, I just burst into tears.

A similar thing happened recently when Caryn sent me a mock-up of Rob’s headstone. Back when we brainstormed ideas for the inscription, it wasn’t fun exactly, but we were riffing back and forth and having a fairly pleasant conversation. This time I felt sick to my stomach.

Getting to the other side is different for every chicken—the grief road is pretty much all twists and curves—but I can’t stop the fowl voice in my head from asking “Are we there yet?”

As I tried to figure out where this angst was coming from, it hit me that it’s the whole tick-tock, time is precious, mortality of it all. I’m not getting any younger, who knows how much time is left, and what the hell am I going to do with it? I can’t possibly remain heartbroken forever, can I? (Don’t answer that.)

The other side of grief is just across the road, around the corner, across the river, through the woods, I can almost see it through the clouds. This would be about the time when Robbie would cry and yell, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? DADDY! ARE WE THERE YET?”

“We’ll be there soon, Robbie,” I’d say, “we’ll be there soon.”

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