Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents by Bob Morris illuminates the emotional roller coaster Baby Boomers face as our parents decline and die. Morris’ wit and honest reflections will make you laugh and make you cry.
His memoir takes us to the Long Island home where he grew up, the hospital rooms where his mother and father spent their last days (years apart), and assorted vacation spots where Morris is routinely interrupted by parental medical emergencies that cut his trips short and play havoc with his emotions.
He is an imperfect son – snarky, self-absorbed, judgmental, and impatient. Yet, he does have a softer side, and offers good insights the reader can benefit from over the course of the book’s 177 pages. Here’s one such passage, for example:
“Whenever I see people having tough times with aging parents, I tell them to try to find what they like to do and do it together. Whether it’s looking at old photos, playing Scrabble, watching classic movies, or shopping, what matters is finding some pleasure in the time.”
His mother dies while her husband and two sons watch her endure an agonizing death. Morris writes about preparing for her funeral.
“Of course, when you’ve never done what we’re doing, it’s all hard. What do we know? The three of us, Jeff, Dad, and me, decide that before the burial we want to have a more formal memorial service at our old family synagogue in Bay Shore, a long drive from the cemetery.
“And then, despite a conversation with the rabbi, who has indicated that speeches given by the immediate family aren’t standard (although he says he’s noticed that people are doing them more and more), we decide that each of us will speak. That means that although we’re exhausted and in a state of shock from Mom’s death, we have to pull ourselves together to write our speeches on the night before the funeral. How do you encapsulate the essence of a mother when you can hardly keep your eyes open?”
The reason immediate family members traditionally don’t speak at a Jewish funeral is the risk of having an emotional breakdown in front of everyone. That’s exactly what Morris does. His father rambles, and becomes overwrought. His brother Jeff manages to speak with wit and equanimity.
In this passage, Morris ponders his own mortality after having a near miss with a deer while speeding to be at his father’s side during yet another health scare.
“If that deer had come a moment later or if that car had been one foot closer, I’d have been dead before my dad. But here I am spared, pondering my own mortality along with my father’s…. Like a deer running from the darkness into the traffic, health trouble can strike anyone at any moment.”
The book touches on topics such as how his family discovered palliative/comfort care, his father’s failed attempt at suicide, who should get to speak at a funeral, and how Baby Boomers can face the decline and death of their aging parents.
This little book captures the emotions of a universal experience – the death of parents. He witnesses the declines brought by aging. While he struggles the find the silver lining, Bobby Wonderful offers dark comedy, spiritual inquiry and honest self-examination.
For the millions of Baby Boomers whose parents are still alive, Bobby Wonderful offers insights into the road not yet traveled and provide a few helpful guideposts.
Morris is also the author of Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with my Dad. He also created www.MuseumOfYourParentsThings.com, which features photos of parental objects that set off emotional reactions. FBA
Review by Gail Rubin, CT: Gail Rubin is a Certified Thanatologist (a death educator) who teaches classes on pre-need funeral planning and end-of-life issues, using humor and funny films to reduce resistance to discussing death. Her TEDx talk, A Good Goodbye, provides a compelling online video supporting pre-need funeral planning. Her latest book is Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips. Her website is www.AGoodGoodbye.com.