John's Story

 Naveed first approached me with the idea of making a film about the  rituals of cycling. I had been writing a series of stories about my time  as a professional cyclist.  He had been reading them.  We didn’t  originally intend to tackle the subject of Romeo. If anything, I was  trying to avoid it being part of this project.

In January 2005,  our son Romeo was born. He was born premature. He was tiny and fragile,  despite being a fighter. When he got sick, there was little we could do  to save him. But we tried. Everything. After 17 days, he was gone,  leaving us with precious few memories, loads of unanswered questions and  the void of possibilities, should-haves and would-haves, that would  never materialize.  

 For years I had been struggling on my own to write a story about Romeo. I  wanted to celebrate him in some small way. So I wouldn’t lose grasp of  the tenuous details. So I could make others understand how much he was  loved in his short life. So they could understand the basic, utter  challenge of moving forward, day for day.  Losing a child has a way of  defeating you. Isolating you. Friends and family can help. Therapy can  help. But in the end, you’re on your own.

 And that was something very familiar to me.

From the years I had  spent as I bike racer, I had learned to suffer and endure. The bicycle  was a brutally efficient tool to surface the deep-set sense of loss,  unfairness, despair, and futility I was feeling. So I would ride. Deep  into physical pain. Until I collapsed in tears on the handlebars under  the flood of emotions that would be unleashed by the physical effort.  And once those feelings were there, they could be dealt with.

Tiny  Robot is my story of dealing with the loss of Romeo, and how cycling –  its innate rituals and my own history – provided a path forward.

The spoken narrative is from a story about bike racing in 1996, many years before I had a family and children.  The visuals are from present day.

It  is far from the complete story – my wife, Lisa, and our surviving son,  Eros, each have their unique stories, and we as family have had yet  another experience. 

I want to thank Naveed for helping me to  tell this story, Craig for editing it to its coherent form, Bruce for  the audio and the use of WBUR recording studio.  And the musicians and  all the friends and family who provided feedback and put up with this  project along the way.

To anybody who has watched Tiny Robot or  is about to, who has lost a child: you are far from alone. And you have  the strength to find your path forward.