Bob Morris may have disappointed, infuriated and befuddled his parents along the way, but he loves them enough to keep trying to get it right. In Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents, a memoir that offers few sentimental excuses while laying bare his big, if often misguided, heart, Morris does an unforgettable job of trying to redeem himself. He even manages to share the humor in it all. Anyone who has ever had to survive that heart-piercing time when the parent becomes the child, the child finds himself a most reluctant caregiver, and both are miserably needy, will see themselves in this familiar familial tale. As NPR’s Scott Simon recently said about his own memoir, Unforgettable, “There are some lessons that only grief and responsibility can teach us.”
When Morris’ mother lies dying after a years-long decline, her son—a successful writer and happily married, middle-aged gay man—questions how well he has done by her. Could he have made her days and agonizing death easier? Yet his name is the last word she utters when he finally, reluctantly reaches her deathbed. Now is the time to commit to being a better son for his father’s remaining years. No easy task: His father is as eccentric as he is lovable, and not one to go calmly anywhere. Soon the octogenarian has a long-distance girlfriend and a longer list of needs, as his health rapidly fails. When the son can manage to overcome his own impatience and annoyance, they have quite the time together. It is a painful, comical push and pull as together they navigate through to that final hour.
Exclaiming “Wonderful!” as he gives up the pump keeping him alive, the father achieves a dignified death. Morris takes this final word as a blessing due a good son. He combines it with his mother’s last word to create the title that begins this story of memorable endings.