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Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents


Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents

BOBBY WONDERFUL is the story of two deaths, the first of which occurs in August 2002. Bob Morris is in the highlands of Scotland when he receives a call that his mother, who has been suffering from a blood disease, has fell from her bed and hit her head, leaving her in an unreachable state. When Morris attempts to speak to her on the phone, her replies are inaudible noises. In this moment, we may have experienced the first death --- the loss of the mind through severe dementia. When he visits her in person later, her responses are non-existent; hooked up to tubes and her body buried under sheets, Ethel is in a lost state. The woman with the soft singing voice, the quiet suburban librarian who was also a loving wife and mother, is fading.

Together, Morris, his older brother Jeff, and their father decide on palliative treatment, whereby in the late stages all life support is removed and a painkiller to ease the end of one’s life is administered. Bringing the idea to the table is difficult. To take the next step and determine what to do is a daunting decision that will stay with him for the rest of his life. It is these impossible choices that bind BOBBY WONDERFUL into a relatable and haunting memoir.

"What BOBBY WONDERFUL offers is an empathetic look at aging and taking care of older relatives. It is a short, whimsical read, with moments of humor and sheer honesty."

When we meet Morris’ father, during the start of his mother’s hospital stay, he is on the phone telling Morris to enjoy his trip and not to worry. He never wants his two sons to be burdened by their aging parents. Morris’ self-examination is honest and harsh. Here, he unabashedly tells us that he was reluctant to visit his mother on her deathbed. He is a younger and (in his words) more selfish version of Jeff, who takes on the responsibility of caring for both of their parents. Morris is the dreamer and the thinker, while Jeff is more mature and responsible. It’s a family dynamic that I don’t think is uncommon. In BOBBY WONDERFUL, it is a reality and a fixture that helps build hope through the family tension.

To say that this is a dark memoir would be true. However, losing one’s parents or any loved one through a prolonged illness is an experience that is isolating yet relatable. The book’s opening prelude gives us some beautiful stories: a friend recounting his father’s dementia and subsequent move to a nursing home, friends on Facebook telling of the deaths of their fathers, what it’s like to attend funerals and wondering what your own will be like some day. Reading about the experiences of others is therapeutic and helpful in understanding one’s own circumstances.

In a final section, “Exit Strategy,” Morris’ father --- the laid-back man, the loopy optimist, the independent 82-year-old whose life seems made of a makeshift but soulful and childish logic --- has attempted suicide. Why? He doesn’t want to become a burden to his children in his old age. His heart is failing him, and, according to his cardiologist, he will continue to feel weaker and weaker. As a result, Morris begins researching methods of suicide for his father, who seems content on ending his life.

What BOBBY WONDERFUL offers is an empathetic look at aging and taking care of older relatives. It is a short, whimsical read, with moments of humor and sheer honesty. Death, it is said, is for the living. We carry it with us and think about it. When we witness it, it haunts us, and at times its wait can burden us. Death is the great equalizer, and in that we should find humility. We’re reminded early on why a book like this exists when a young girl is forced to witness her grandmother on her deathbed. The reasoning? “[G]etting old isn’t pretty, but it’s important to see.”

Reviewed by Stephen Febick on July 2, 2015

Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents
by Bob Morris

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2015
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve
  • ISBN-10: 1455556505
  • ISBN-13: 9781455556502