Friday, February 26, 2010

MAKING TOAST- A FAMILY STORY


The worst pain a person can feel is the death of a child. Roger and Ginny Rosenblatt's 38-year-old daughter Amy, a doctor and mother of three young children, died on her home treadmill of an asymptomatic heart condition.

Roger and Ginny left their home on Long Island and moved to Bethesda, Maryland to live and care for son-in-law Harris, and their three grandchildren: six-year-old Jessie, four-year-old Sammy and eighteen-month-old James, called Bubbies.

Rosenblatt's memoir paints a portrait of the beautiful daughter they lost. He describes her as "a very clear person, even as a small child, knowing intuitively what plain good sense a particular situation required. " She was "both self-confident and selfless, (and) when she faced you there could be no doubt you were the only thing on her mind."

While her clarity sometimes caused her to be brusque with her brothers Carl and John, it also "contributed to her kindness". Rosenblatt tells of a time when Amy was six-years-old, and a friend got carsick in the backseat of his car. The other two friends in the car moved away from the sick girl, but Amy moved closer to comfort her sick friend.

Roger and Ginny were thrown back into a world of caring for young children. Roger is in awe of his wife, who jumps right in and with boundless energy helps with homework, makes school lunches, comforts a crying baby, and attends soccer games with the moms and dads of her grandkids' friends.

He writes of her selflessness, and in what I think is the saddest sentence in the book, Ginny states, "I am leading Amy's life", she says in despair, yet comfort too." It breaks her heart when she eats dinner alone with her son-in-law, knowing that it should be his wife, her daughter, there listening to him talk about his day.

Roger bonds with a man he hires to turn his garage into a playroom for the grandkids when the man's college-aged son dies. Men generally don't share deep feelings with other men, and this relationship is moving. He also hears from so many other people who have suffered a similar loss, and it surprises him how many people there are in the same situation.

After a year passes, Roger and Ginny wonder if their son-in-law still wants them to stay. There is no question that they are where they need and want to be, and they sincerely wish for their son-in-law to someday find a new woman, knowing that he "will choose well".

Making Toast puts me in mind of Calvin Trillin's memoir about his wife, About Alice. Both books are slim, yet Rosenblatt, like Trillin, paints a full portrait of a special person he loves with carefully chosen words. It's about coping with unexpected loss, raging against the unfairness of it, while at the same time carrying on the day-to-day living that must continue. Roger and Ginny's tribute to their daughter's legacy is to step into her life and care for her family. Their story will touch (and sometimes break) your heart.

Rating 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Kayleigh from Harper Collins for providing me with a copy for review

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