How do you even start to tell the story which defines the peak of happiness and the depth of despair for any parent? His smile, probably the most definable characteristic of Robby. Everyone always talked about his smile, and they should have because it was his trademark. Didn’t matter if it was a smile of celebration, or the wry grin he would get when he was either engaging in or finishing mischief. It was a smile that put everyone at ease, made you feel good no matter what the situation was.
Robby was, well, Robby. An X-generation daredevil, there was nothing too fast, nothing to challenging for him to try. All the things that would cause your stomach to twist around itself were the things he thrived upon. On his bike, skateboard or roller blades, there was never a ramp or jump too big to challenge. No rollercoaster to high or fast, and unfortunately, no speed limit he didn’t like to test. I don’t know if he enjoyed conquering the obstacle, or the reaction of those of us who witnessed these feats of daring, maybe a bit of both. Robby loved to get a rise out of people, and there was no end to his creativity. The hairspray driven potato launcher was among his greatest achievements, but it was Halloween where he shined every year as he dressed as Michael Myers and ran the neighborhood with his chain saw, scaring any child or adult that he could sneak up upon.
He was a natural at whatever he tried; athletics, music, motorcycles, horseback riding, didn’t matter, he was as god as he wanted to be in a matter of minutes. Point is, Robby loved life and lived every moment to experience all it had to offer. Sometimes that meant important things were pushed to the side (school), but to him, there was more that life had to offer than just books. His presence was infectious and his ability to talk, well, relentless… But it was Robby’s heart that made him special. Robby cared about people; he was the go too guy when things were tough. He was the guy that spent time with the “old folks” at the nursing home where they worked (I guess they were happy to have someone to talk to, and he talked as long as they listened). Even after he joined the Ohio National Guard, not extra push-up or drill sergeants could contain his zest for life which was captured by the tattoo stenciled down his entire side – “Carpe Diem,” seize the day.
Robby was the son any parent would be proud of, and we were. But, Robby was also an addict, and his zest for living was rivaled by his struggle to beat the grips of addiction. Like many kids, Robby experimented with pot while in high school. Unfortunately, his personality always drove him to push a little further, and drugs were no different. After having his wisdom teeth removed, Robby became addicted to prescription pain killers. That addiction slowly changed him, as the effects of the high’s, lows and withdrawals were manifested in his actions and attitudes. He was able to kick the habit prior to leaving for boot camp in October of 2010, but when he returned home for Christmas break, he was introduced to the devil – heroin.
Robby returned to the army, finished his training, and returned home only to seek out the drug that was now imprinted on his brain. His behavior rapidly changed, and all the signs were there, and we were finally able to put enough pieces together to uncover his addiction. We asked, and he happily provided every detail, almost relieved that he would finally have the support of his family to get the help he needed. Robby completed inpatient rehab with flying colors and a resolve to stay clean, but the drug and those who surrounded him were too strong a pull, and he relapsed a couple of months after. Inpatient rehab seemed to help, but it was clear; this was going to be a long battle. Over the coming months, Robby fought hard, but could never really give up the draw of a good chemically driven buzz. Chewing tobacco, snuff, energy drinks, poppy tea and any number of “legal” alternatives served as substitutes for the drug his body really craved.
Even at that, it appeared Robby was on the right track. He was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, a dream of his, was working, and had even started to talk about moving out. Things seemed promising, although we were always aware that another relapse was a probability, we hoped against hope that that day would not come. On October 20th, Robby disappeared from work and was not responding to calls or texts. We searched, in vain, to find him, to be there to help him, to be there to save him, but the efforts were not successful. On the morning of October 21st, the scene you watch a hundred times, a thousand times, on tv played out for real. We were informed by Police that our son had been found; his battle was over. Robby did not want to be an addict. He worked hard to break away from the death-grip of addiction. He had dreams, vivid dreams of his future which he wrote about in letters. He planned on talking to schools, educating others on the toll addiction takes on the addict and the family. He was starting a foundation, “Live Clean,” to deliver that message. Robby may not be here to deliver the message, to tell his story, but his spirit and his dream are very much alive. Now, through this foundation, his voice will be heard, the silence will be broken, and his mission of service to others will be fulfilled.
WE ARE AND WILL ALWAYS BE ROBBY’S VOICE
Robby’s life spawned 19 tattoos in tribute to who he was and the difference he made in the lives of others.