Book Review: Bobby Wonderful
By Terri Schlichenmeyer, March 2016 Web Exclusive.
“It’s perfect!” Once upon a time, those words were music to your ears – but then you grew up. You learned then that a made bed didn’t make the man, good enough generally was and, as in the new book Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents by Bob Morris, sometimes it’s better to ignore perfection and focus on a life – or lives – well-lived.
As Bob Morris watches his husband, Ira, struggle with his mother’s ageing issues, Morris understands the emotions Ira’s going through. Caring for an elderly parent “has become the new normal” Morris says, and he should know: he helped tend to his own parents at the ends of their lives.
Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents by Bob Morris. Twelve , 2015 | $25. Photo by Lena Skoda.
As his mother lay dying first, Morris remembered how, when he was a child, she encouraged him to see beauty in the world around him. She loved music and was “a good mother” whose messy, painful death brought out the worst in Morris and his brother. Oh, how they fought, though her passing also showed Morris how much he truly loved and admired his older sibling.
At the funeral, Morris only wanted to talk about his mother but “nobody seems to know how.”
Not long afterward, on a “sunny summer Monday,” Morris’ father tried to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Though he’d seemed to heal well from his wife’s illness and death – at age eighty-something, he’d plunged back into the dating scene – his “quiet despair about his failing heart,” previously unnoticed, shook the Morris brothers to their cores. Things became worse, and as their father began to desperately “hound” Morris for pills to end his life, Morris looked for ways to enhance his father’s days but time was running out and they both knew it.
During his last hospitalization, the elder Morris told his sons that he wanted off life support. It was a wish they let him have.
“Caring for your parents is an opportunity,” says Morris. But “We have no parents now, nobody to love us in the way they did... And we also have no worries now, no concerns for a suffering so close that it often felt like our own.”
Some 65 million of us, says author Bob Morris, are caregivers; most are caregivers for someone over age fifty. That could be why this memoir will strike a chord for many Baby Boomers but, aside from common-bond feelings that children of ageing parents will find familiar, “Bobby Wonderful” is also a love letter wrapped inside a very beautiful, moving story. Morris’s cherished memories of his parents’ good times seem to buffer the pain of loss, and that he shares those vivid personal recollections is a delight. Still, readers get real peeks of irritation here, exasperation, even anger sometimes, which totally fit in this memoir. I would have, in fact, been disappointed without them.
My best advice is to grab tissues before you start this book. You’ll have abundant reason to use them, especially if you’re caring for your own parents. If that’s the case, for you, “Bobby Wonderful” lives up to its title.