Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Family's Grief Observed

Want to read a book that will lift your spirits? Try Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt. His thirty-eight year old daughter, Amy collapsed and died suddenly from a heart condition no one knew she had. Her death occurred December 8, 2007. Amy was a talented pediatrician, a wife and a mother. She left three young children ages: seven, five and an almost two-year-old. Amy’s husband is a hand surgeon and had no idea how he could carry on without his wife. So the first question was: Who is going to help Harris, the grieving husband and his three children?

Grandparents Roger and wife Ginny volunteer for the job. They close up their house in Long Island and move to Bethesda, Maryland with their son-in-law and grandchildren. Their first morning there, the six year old asks the Grandfather how long they were staying. He replies: “Forever.”

So this middle-aged couple that had raised their own children found themselves turning back the clock and beginning parenting all over again. Suddenly, without preparation they are thrown into the world of little children. They must relearn bedtime stories, talking toys, non-stop questions. They also must deal with the harder work of wading through their own grief while helping their grandchildren and son-in-law, Harris deal with their enormous loss.

The book begins like this: “The trick when foraging for a tooth lost is coffee grounds is not to be misled by the clumps. The only way to be sure is to rub each clump between your thumb and index finger, which makes a mess of your hands. For some twenty minutes this morning, Ginny and I have been hunting in the kitchen trashcan for the top front left tooth of our seven-year-old granddaughter, Jessica. Loose for days but not yet dislodged, the tooth finally dropped into a bowl of Apple Jacks. I wrapped it for safekeeping in a paper napkin and put it on the kitchen counter, but it was mistaken for trash by Ligaya, Bubbie’s nanny. Bubbies (James) is twenty months and the youngest of our daughter Amy’s three children. Sammy, who is five, is uninterested in the tooth search, and Jessie unaware of it. We hope to find the tooth so that Jessie won’t worry about the Tooth Fairy not showing up.”

This story is hard to describe. It deals with grief, with two grandparents becoming almost-parents again for three young children. The book is funny in places and will warm your heart without being sentimental. In reaching out to one another this grieving husband, three children and two grandparents find their way through this dark thicket and help make the possible of the impossible.

In an age when so many family ties seem frayed and loose—Making Toast reaffirms the importance of family love and care. The author, Roger Rosenblatt has written novels and plays and is a Professor of English and Writing. He has given us the gift of a very fine book.

1 comment:

  1. I have enjoyed Roger Rosenblatt's journalistic writing. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for telling us about it.