Archive for the ‘Roger Rosenblatt’ Category

There seem to be a fair number of memoirs about these days devoted to grieving.  Authors willing to share their experiences after the loss of a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a child, perhaps as a way of coming to terms with their loss, perhaps as a way of remembering.  It seems to be a lucrative if morbid sub-genre and not one that I have all that much experience with.  But I did make an exception to my usual disinterest in such books to read Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt and I am very pleased indeed to have done so.  It is a beautiful memoir of Rosenblatt’s life in the wake of the unexpected death of his thirty-eight year old daughter Amy in 2007, after which Rosenblatt and his wife moved into their son-in-law’s house to help raise their three young grandchildren.

Rosenblatt writes about his pain and his unexpected new life raising his grandchildren simply and movingly.  He employs no theatrics and is all the more powerful and sympathetic for his restraint.  I cried several times while reading this and yet it is not a particularly sad memoir, certainly not one that obviously attempts to elicit an exaggeratedly sentimental response, and my tears appeared at the most unexpected times.  As a reader, I never felt that my emotions were being manipulated, a sin committed by many memoirists, and I admired Rosenblatt’s respect for his story.  It is an honest record of an awful period in his life, one that no parent could ever be adequately prepared for, particularly Rosenblatt, whose family life had been so happy, so devoted and so normal before Amy’s death:

I doubt that my life has prepared me for any situation, because until Amy died, I had always believed that good things would simply befall me.  Except for a few disappointments, probably less than my share, I’ve led a charmed life.  I am learning what most people know at a much younger age – that life is to be endured, and its rewards earned.  Since my rewards these days lie in the survival of my family, I am content to try and earn them.  (p. 156)

More than anything, this is an intimate book.  As I read, I felt close to Rosenblatt and his family having only come into contact with them on these pages.  I grieved for them and I hoped for them as they slowly pieced their lives back together, learning how to function again.  The worst and best part of losing a loved one is hearing stories about them from others, learning about a side of them you might not have seen, hearing about actions that you never knew they took, wonderful things that only make you love them more but which make your loss that much harder to bear, knowing that you’ll never be able to look on them again with this new knowledge of who they were.  For me, the most moving passage in the book was one that dealt with this:

Odd that I seem to know Amy more completely in death than I did when she was alive.  I do not know her any better (I doubt that I could know her any better), but there was so much to her life that I was unaware of until now, when I speak with her friends and colleagues and learn of this sound decision or that small gesture of thoughtfulness.  Jean Mullen, Amy’s former chief resident, told me that she and Amy happened to have the same set of dishes, and complained of the too-shallow soup bowls.  Jean said, ‘Amy showed up at my door one day, carrying new deep soup bowls for both of us.’  One sees many good qualities in one’s children as they grow into likeable adults, but their stature may remain obscured, because stature is most often measured at a distance.  The distance of death reveals Amy’s stature to me.  My daughter mattered to the histories of others.  Knowing that did not prevent my eyes from welling up with tears for no apparent reason in Ledo’s Pizza the other day.  But it is something.  (p. 141-142)

Rosenblatt has written a lovely tribute to his late daughter and to his family and I highly recommend it.

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