The Heart Is a Very, Very Resilient Little Muscle


Rob…pain, sorrow…blahdy blah blah…heartbreak, grief…yada yada yada…healing, hope…yabba dabba do…check-in, myself…coo coo ca choo.

Lar: I can’t believe that it’s already October. Time flies when you’re having funk. Rob left us eight months ago today, but who’s counting?

Me: We are. We’re in this together.

Lar: I know, dude. I’m counting on you to keep me sane. I’m counting on you so I don’t have to be alone in the dark with my scary monsters. I’m counting the days that have gone by without Rob because I don’t know what else to do.

Me: I think you’re doing as well as anybody can possibly be doing, all things considered.

Lar: All things considered. You sound like NPR. All things considered, I’m still all over the place with my feelings. I tried to suck it up and live my life, live my life, live my life, but that’s just it. I was trying too hard. I was trying not to feel what I was feeling. I was trying to outmaneuver grief.

Me: I don’t remember that one from the Kubler-Ross stages, but I’d put it somewhere between bargaining and acceptance.

Lar: I didn’t bargain for any of this and I never really understood acceptance. What does that mean exactly? It implies that there’s a choice. Can I not accept that Rob’s dead? Can I take it back to the store for an exchange or refund?

Me: Acceptance is just about learning to live without Rob and, maybe in the future, having more good days than bad ones. It’s basically what Maurice Sendak said to Terry Gross.

Lar: Let the wild rumpus start!

Me: I’ll eat you up—I love you so!

Lar: Those are really the only two lines that I remember.

Me: And boy, did that movie suck! How did they screw up one of the most beloved children’s books of all time?

Lar: I don’t know, but I never really pictured Tony Soprano as one of the Wild Things.

Me: So I have to ask, because that’s my job as whatever the hell I am here: How are you? What’s been going on?

Lar: The usual. Up and down and all around. But basically, I’m the old man in the “Bring Out Your Dead” bit in Holy Grail: “I’m not dead! I’m getting better! I feel fine!” One of the fun PTSD things that Caryn, Zach and I have been experiencing is checking in with each other. For instance, if one of us texts or calls another and doesn’t get an immediate response, we get all antsy and text the third person something like—Have u spoken to mom recently? So we made a pact: If we don’t hear back, let’s just assume that we’re still alive.

Me: There’s a pinch of PTSD there, but it really shows how deeply you all care about one another.

Lar: Absolutely. I told Caryn that Zach was trying to FaceTime with her the other day, and she said that she felt very loved by how concerned he was!

Me: He’s the greatest! He’s the very best of you and Caryn. You know, I was thinking about how we’ve come a long way in the eight months since Rob passed.

Lar: That’s a sign right there. I’m not sure when I started to say “Rob passed.” For the longest time, it was always just “Rob died.” I was very emphatic about it. I wanted it to feel like a gut punch when I said it because that’s the way it made me feel. The “Rob passed” thing is fairly recent.

Me: Maybe you’ve softened up a bit.

Lar: I don’t know if I’d put it that way. It wasn’t that I was ever a hard case about it. On the contrary, I’ve been the tallest puddle of tears for most of these months, but something has changed and that’s where the softness came in.

Me: Maybe you’re finally able to be a little gentler with yourself.

Lar: You’re filled with maybes today, aren’t you? But you’re right. When Rob killed himself, I was in so much pain, so gutted and raw, so incredibly broken that the only words that could describe how I was feeling were “Rob died.” Those two words explained everything you needed to know about me at the time, the same way “mental illness” described everything you needed to know about why Rob did what he did.

Me: It’s funny, well, not really funny, it’s interesting that you say “Rob did what he did” instead of “Rob committed suicide.”

Lar: It’s the same deal. “Committed suicide” sounds so violent and unforgiving. “Did what he did” comes from a more compassionate place in my heart because I’ve come to understand why he didn’t want to be here anymore. Do you know what I mean?

Me: I do, Mister Softee, I do.

Lar: So Rob passed and he did what he did. Now what do we do?

Me: Well, I think we have a few choices. We can continue to mourn. We can continue to miss him. You know that we’ll always love him. And then…I’m not sure.

Lar: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I was going to say that we can just get on with our life, and live each day to the fullest and all that other crap that people have been saying far less eloquently than Maurice.

Lar: You know some people call him the Space Cowboy. Sorry, couldn’t resist that cheap joke.

Me: But seriously, I’m not sure what comes next. I know that we’re forever changed. I know that life without Rob is a different life than we could’ve ever imagined. I’m hoping that we’ll find some joy in it again. I’m hoping that for however many years we have left we’ll find some real purpose. And that’s all I got. I wish I could see into the future, but I’m not your friendly neighborhood psychic/medium.

Lar: I’m okay being Mister Softee, but I thought you were supposed to be Mr. Insight with all of those fake-smart Joan Didion quotes and books about grief you’ve read.

Me: Well, now you’re making us sound like characters in Reservoir Dogs. So okay, Mr. Softee, dazzle me with some of the brilliant insights and perceptions you’ve picked up over the past eight months.

Lar: Well, the biggest one has been something that Woody Allen said in Hannah and Her Sisters before he was a well-known child molester and all-around pervert. Right at the end of the movie when he’s kissing Dianne Wiest on the neck (in a more romantic, less pervy way) and telling her how much he loves her, he delivers the immortal line: “The heart is a very, very resilient little muscle.”

Those words have a much different connotation for me today. I still feel the same way I did when I first heard them. I cried then and I cry now because now it’s about Rob, and how I never thought I’d feel whole again and how I can’t believe that I’ve made it through in one piece for as long as I have. And even though a day hasn’t gone by where I don’t miss the hell out of the idiot, even though he was an all-around pain in the ass who was deeply loved by many, and even though his death has caused incomprehensible anguish, depression and exhaustion, that’s my brilliant insight. That, after all is said and done, my heart is a very, very resilient little muscle.

Me: Fuckin’ A.

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