Me: What the hell are we doing here today? It’s not February 6th yet!
Lar: I know, dude. I just have a lot to say before I end this thing, so I thought I’d start a few days earlier.
Me: The suspense is killing me.
Lar: Spoiler alert: They didn’t live happily ever after.
Me: Damn! What about bloopers? Do you have some funny cutting room floor stuff?
Lar: Wish I did. I think I’ve said everything there is to say about Rob. Or at least, everything I want to share.
Me: What do you mean?
Lar: I mean there are some things that I’ve purposely left out, that—for lots of reasons—I just don’t feel comfortable sharing.
Me: Fair enough. But let me ask you a question. Do you think you’ve been honest with what you did choose to share?
Lar: Yes and no.
Me: Explain please.
Lar: Well, I think I’ve portrayed my raw feelings and what I’ve been going through as honestly as I could. I’m aware that a lot if not all of it has been painted with a magic brush that I’ve often used whenever I’ve written about Rob.
Me: Like our good pal Emily D. wrote: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” You’ve always depicted Rob in the most positive light.
Lar: It’s the way I’ve always chosen to see him. I chose to view him through a prism of hopefulness…that he’d someday, someway be able to get his shit together. And sometimes I chose to view him as if he were me.
Me: Because the truth was too painful to look at.
Lar: Not entirely. I was always aware of the truth—I’m not that delusional—but it was complicated. My heart allowed me to be optimistic in the moment while my head knew what was coming down the pike for a very long time. Like I said almost a year ago, Rob’s death was a shock, but it wasn’t a surprise.
Me: What about the things you’ve left out?
Lar: I’m saving them for the sequel—The Sand and the Water 2: The Son Also Rises.
Me: As Rob would say, that sounds dope. So let’s get back to this magnum opus. How does it feel to come to the end of the Rob road?
Lar: Weird. Scary. Sad. Depleted. Relieved. Is there a word for hating to say goodbye? That! I guess the main thing is that there’s a part of me that feels I won’t stay connected to him once I stop.
Me: You’ll always be connected to Rob, you know that! The thing is—once you stop documenting your feelings, you may no longer be connected to the pain. You’ve been in the shit 24/7/355. And I know you can continue to do this for the rest of your life, but what kind of life is that?
Lar: I assume that was rhetorical. You know, whenever I think about not writing about Rob, I think about letting go. I think about how I could never let go of him in life and how it’s taken me a full year to let go of him in death. And at the same time, there’s a part of me that will never let him go.
Me: A year is a long time. It’s also a short time. You’re the only one who knows when it’s time to stop and when it’s time to let go.
Lar: I know the grief will never end, and I also know that I don’t need to be immersed in this unrelenting sadness. Writing about him every day has been almost like an act of self-flagellation. It’s penance for allowing Rob to slip through my fingers into the long, dark night.
Me: And considering that we’re not religious and don’t even believe in God…
Him: You rang?
Me: Not today, Lurch. We’re in the middle of something else.
Him: No problem-o. Peace out, boys.
Me: God, he’s so annoying! Where were we? Oh, right. Writing and not writing. What will you miss the most when you’re no longer writing about Rob?
Lar: I’m not really sure. I’ll miss these monthly check-ins a tiny bit…
Me: Nice. And fuck you, too!
Lar: …and writing letters to Rob and some of the sweet reminiscing about Rob and Zach when they were little boys. But what I’ll miss the most is the ritual of sitting down and opening up a new vein every day, and also the whole bearing witness of it all. I needed to get all of my shit out and I needed to know that someone was reading it. I needed to be heard. I needed to tell this fucked-up story and I needed my pain to be understood. It made me feel less alone. It made me feel that I could get through this nightmare in one piece.
Me: I know what you mean. It’s the way you feel when you see your sister’s heart emoji-thingy in the comments section on every post.
Lar: It’s the first thing Patti does every morning. Seeing that little heart every day means the world to me. It means that I’m loved and supported and that she’s thinking about me—always.
Me: You have plenty of people who feel that way about you, dude.
Lar: I know I do and I love and appreciate every one of them.
Me: So I couldn’t help but notice that for the past few nights, you’ve been rereading The Sand and the Water.
Lar: It was the first time I’ve gone back to these stories since I wrote them. I generally don’t like looking back at things I’ve written because I’m my own worst critic.
Me: So what was your takeaway?
Lar: Well, most of it made me really sad and some of it made me cry. I smiled at a lot of the jokes and I’m really glad I made them. It helped break up the sadness and the crying.
Me: I’m going to take a little credit here, just the way you like to take credit for Rob’s sense of humor.
Lar: Sure, fine, whatever. But more than anything and unsurprisingly, it was the photos that I liked best. That whole “a picture is worth a thousand words” thing is more accurate than I ever thought. I’ve written a little more than 100,000 words and there are a little more than 100 pictures. I suck at math, but that’s pretty much on the money. Sometimes I’ll just stare at a photo that accompanies a particular post. Like the one about detaching with love at the worst possible time. The photo is of baby Robbie smiling hard, and I kept enlarging it on my iPad, pinching my thumb and forefinger wider so all I could see were his beautiful blue eyes on the screen. I kept making his face smaller and larger, smaller and larger until I realized that nothing I do can change anything.
Me: That’s true, man, and speaking of, I wanted to talk about how you’ve changed during this past year, but we’ll get more into that next time. Tell me about Rob’s birthday. How did you feel? And how did you spend the day?
Lar: It was just another shitty day in a long series of shitty days. I played tennis in the morning and then checked in with Caryn and Zach. Caryn was in Florida visiting Jill and Jody, and Zach was golfing with his buddies, and it made me happy to know that they each had such excellent distractions.
Me: How did you distract yourself?
Lar: At first, I didn’t. At first, I leaned into it, almost out of habit. For instance, I listened to the new Mac Miller album, Circles, and immediately became obsessed with it. He died a few months before Rob did and Rob really liked him, so I always associate the two of them. The album is hauntingly sad and beautiful, and there’s this one simple song called “Everybody” that I particularly love. Here’s the chorus:
Everybody’s gotta live
And everybody’s gonna die
Everybody’s gonna try to have a good, good time
I think you know the reason why
Me: And it sounded like Rob was singing it!
Lar: Exactly! So after a few hours hanging with Mac and Rob, I decided that I was just gonna relax for the rest of the day and catch up on a bunch of podcasts. I was listening to one that was discussing upcoming movies for this year and the host mentioned a book called “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which is being adapted for the screen by Charlie Kaufman. He was raving about how he couldn’t put the book down, and since I generally agree with his taste in movies, I was sold.
Me: So you one-clicked it on Amazon.
Lar: Yes, but before I did, I Wikipedia-ed it just to find out what I was in for. Here’s what it said: “The book has been described as a psychological thriller and horror fiction and is about an unnamed young woman who lets her boyfriend take her to see his parents on a remote farm, and the disturbing aftermath that follows.” So I was like, this is right up my alley! Just the distraction I needed!
Me: The podcast host was right about you not being able to put it down.
Lar: I spent the entire afternoon reading it and at about the halfway mark, I was fairly certain how it was going to end. I’m going to spoil it in a moment, so if you ever want to read this book or see the movie, stop reading this now and come back in a few days.
Me: Thanks for the heads-up.
Lar: Before we get to the ending, here’s how it begins:
“I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me. It doesn’t go away. It’s there whether I like it or not. It’s there when I eat. When I go to bed. It’s there when I sleep. It’s there when I wake up. It’s always there. Always.”
Pretty good, right? Hooked me immediately! And then the author lets you know that the unnamed female narrator is thinking about breaking up with her boyfriend.
Me: Wait! I’m closing my eyes and covering my ears. I may want to read this in the future.
Lar: I’ll miss your funny jokes. Okay, so here’s the twist ending: It turns out that the whole thing is really a dark fantasy taken from the notebooks of a sad and lonely, possibly schizophrenic custodian who, it’s revealed, has killed himself. And that’s the way I distracted myself on Rob’s birthday.
Me: Larry, Larry, Larry, LARRY! I think it’s time to cut yourself a break, dude. I think it’s time for a little self-compassion. I think you’ve earned it. I think you owe it to yourself.
Lar: I think you may be right.