Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents, Bob Morris, Twelve Books, 2015, 177pp
Not sure if it’s a sign of the ruling cultural demographic of aging Boomers and GenX-ers or my own myopic obsession, but Bobby Wonderful is the third book I have read since March in a genre dedicated to ruminations on the care and maintenance of aging parents.
The first was Bettyville by George Hodgman, which I very much loved. [Click here to read about it.] And the second, more recently read in preparation for an operation the doctors had indicated could very well be the end of my mother, was Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, which I found to be revelatory and inspiring and terrifying. [Click here to read about it.]
While Bettyville and Being Mortal were very different, they had in common an inspirational reaching; while both authors reflected on their own journey during their parent’s illness, the primary thrust and concern was focused on finding peace with the wishes of those being cared for, a way of transitioning roles that granted everyone agency, dignity, acknowledgment, and a final understanding and acceptance. There was a great deal of becoming a new “we” in both.
In Bobby Wonderful, there is much less of that. It is more an “I” story in which he admits he was not, perhaps, the ideal caretaker. I never felt as if I knew Bobby, his partner, his brother, his parents, his cousin, in the way I came to know the people in Bettyville and Being Mortal, both of which resonated for me, touched on my own experiences. Bobby Wonderful did not give me that feeling of connection. His experience had none of the echoes or colors, did not move me as did those others — there seemed a distance between the experience and the author, a chasm he wasn’t willing to explore or cross, a sense that the author prefers living life at a certain remove.
I am sure the experience was profound and life-altering for him, but in this book, it feels as if he didn’t really want to go to those places, rather, he just skimmed them, described their shape, but left out the soul.
And while I am sure he is a wonderful man, a man who loved much and was much loved in return, we didn’t really get to see that here. So, I would have to give this one a pass.