Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents by Bob Morris (Twelve 2015) $25; 192 pp.
As Bob Morris watched his husband, Ira, struggle with his mother’s ageing issues, Morris understood the emotions Ira was going through. Caring for an elderly parent “has become the new normal,” Morris writes, and he should know: He helped tend to his own parents at the ends of their lives.
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 after, 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 80something, 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,” writes 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.”
According to Morris, some 65 million of us are caregivers; most are caregivers for someone over age 50. 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.
Morris is a master of the memoir, as fans of Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with My Dad. 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.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 3, 2015.