Although I share quite a lot here and throughout my outlets, I usually don’t include bad days of my life. I have many things to write about that are happy and good news that I naturally don’t share the Real that is up there in the masthead. Something happened in my life and I really can’t move forward until I write about it, so today, after many days of living it I want you to know the Real.
The Critter’s last day of school was June 12th. On Thursday June 13th, my friend Robby (most people in LA call him ROBERT, but he’s my OG) and I went to see Cyndi Lauper at the Greek. It was a monumental evening – we were able to meet Cyndi and hang in the VIP room, and we were able to talk A LOT, which we never had enough time to do. It was the 30th anniversary of the release of “She’s So Unusual” – the album that made Cyndi famous and made unusual kids cool. We talked about lots of things, mainly that things were going well for both of us: happy in love, happy in work, happy in life, in general. We stayed as late as possible and then made our way home, promising to get together next week for lunch to talk some more, and the summer was officially kicked off.
On Saturday morning at about 5:00 AM my phone rang, and I just tapped “decline” – my name tends to be the first on many of my friends’ contact list (due to the AAB initials), and I get pocket dialed frequently. Then the phone rang again. I answered this time, seeing that it was Robby’s niece calling from the Coast – it must be important. That call shook the ground beneath me, as she told me that Robby had been in a terrible car accident, and could I please go see what has happened? I was dressed and left the house within minutes and was at LA County/USC Medical by 6:00. I waited there with two of Robby’s close friends Susan and Joe – Robby’s life partner Sean was away doing a show in Northern California and was desperately trying to get back to LA. After almost three hours of knowing nothing at all, a doctor emerged telling us that Robby was gravely injured – he had been in surgery since 2:30 and that he “might not make it”. This was not at all something one ever expects to hear about someone they care about, so we resolved to keep it positive for his family, and to pray really hard that the doctors were wrong.
This began a ten day vigil of being at the hospital, seeing my friend go through torturous surgeries attached to every life saving machine that the very kind and competent staff could use, holding hands with Sean, Robby’s parents and our friends, wondering what the future would hold. We went through enormous emotional highs and lows, one day thinking that encouraging news meant he could go home and live a somewhat impaired life, to wondering if he would require 24/7 care for the rest of his life. I sang him songs, read him a book that he gave me when I was a freshman in college, and talked to him, hoping that he didn’t really know how horrible this was. He was the type who would be mortified that we were so worried. We were given a respite of the fear on the 23rd, as it was finally determined that his spinal cord was not severed, only traumatized, and this allowed us all to sleep a little bit better that night.
As I was dressing to take the Critter on an outing ( I can’t even remember what it was) the next morning, I got a call from Robby’s mother Flo saying that things had taken a turn; Rob had developed an infection and he was not expected to live. My husband came home to be with the Critter and I went back to the hospital, in full denial that this was really happening to face that this was REAL. It was really happening. There were lots of tears and prayers and disbelief as we waited for what would come next. It was decided that the machines should be turned off after Robby’s brother got to LA and was able to say goodbye. After that happened, the family left – no parent should have to stay for something so awful. I had planned to leave when the Williamses did, but I felt compelled to stay in the event of a miracle. Sean and our friend Brandon stood next to his bedside, talking to him, telling him that we would all be okay if he was ready to go. After a few hours, while Sean was telling us how they met, Robby took his very last breath. At that moment, there was relief – that he wouldn’t be confined to a wheelchair and other indignities for the rest of his life – that so many people loved him, he lived a full life.
The next two weeks I did not sleep at all, as we set a date for a tribute to Robby and everything had to be planned. It was very hard to accomplish this, as everyone involved would have days that we just couldn’t cope with the reality – before I would have called him to help me with this sort of thing, and he would have. He was like that. We finally made it to that day, and I completely lost my voice. Normally I would have been able to talk without stopping about Rob for HOURS without having written anything down but some bullet points. Since there was no way to even to speak, I had to sit down and write what I would have said about him, and I would stand with my sweet husband as he read my tribute. There were also very touching speeches by Susan Lambert and Donna Jolly, and really amazing performances by Ayanna and her troupe, Trish Lamkin, Michael Collum , Susan Brindley, even Tony award winner Norbert Butz, who was a dear friend of Robby’s from his Master’s program at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Seeing as how this event was staged for a person who would appreciate it – there was, of course a finale. Sean read a poem that Robby had written to him, and a letter he had written to Robby, and then he picked up his guitar and jammed to Patti Smith’s “Southern Cross” along with Trish, Michael and his fellow bandmate Greg Carson. This was truly a magic moment; they all did what they do best and the music soothed us. We gave Robby a send off that embodied all his favorite things, and we felt his love from that big theatre in the sky. There will never be another like him, and we were all truly blessed to have had his friendship all these years. He really did dance through life…
* slide show courtesy of Rachael Maurer, Robby’s niece.