Friday, June 11, 2010

A Charmed Life: A Look at Making Toast

I picked up Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt after seeing it recommended in O, The Oprah Magazine, I believe. I was pulled in by the synopsis. The author’s daughter, a 38-year-old pediatrician who had an unknown heart abnormality that people rarely succumb to, collapsed while on a treadmill. Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, move in with their son-in-law, Harris, to provide support for their three young grandchildren.

Sammy prefers whole milk in his Froot Loops or MultiGrain Cheerios. He calls it “cow milk.” Jessie drinks only Silk soy milk. She likes a glass of it at breakfast. Sammy prefers water. Such information had to be absorbed quickly. (6)
One of the most touching things that I read about in the book is that Amy and Harris' friends made a website in order to provide meals for the family.

Participants deposited dinners in a blue cooler outside our front door. Food was provided every other evening, with enough for the nights in between, from mid-December to the beginning of June. (7)
In addition to being surrounded by the love of family and friends, the family also has Ligaya, a nanny for the youngest child. She gives them her take on the situation as only an immigrant can:

“You are not the first to go through such a thing, and you are better able to handle it than most.” (8)
Ligaya is right. Harris is a hand surgeon. Rosenblatt is a professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University, Ginny is a former teacher and the kids have access to a grief counselor.

Rosenblatt talks about a road trip that the family went on when Amy wanted a plain hamburger from McDonald’s which made me remember my own requests for plain hamburgers. Actually, I have no memory of it but my family tells me that they had to wait and wait – just like the Rosenblatt family:

Since orders for a plain hamburger were not anticipated in the billion hamburgers prepared by McDonald’s daily all over America, it took as long as twenty-five minutes for the fast food restaurant to dish one up. (23)
When Amy turned 21, her mother gave her letters from 30 of her friends. Ginny asked her friends to advise Amy on the nature of womanhood. How cool is that?

Rosenblatt feels like nothing has prepared him for the death of his daughter:

Except for a few disappointments, probably less than my share, I've had 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. (156)
There were so many touching moments in this book including how Jessie, I believe she's eight, is so tender with her two-year-old brother James. This part of the family story is only 166 pages but, substance-wise, it feels twice as long...

If anyone has a need, I highly recommend Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' On Death and Dying. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is another memoir that deals with grief. Didion and her husband were eating dinner when her husband stops speaking mid-sentence. Not only does Didion lose her husband to a heart attack, she loses her only child who was already gravely ill before her husband's death.

A poem that has always pulled me in is Grief by Gloria Wade Gayles which reads, in part:

I tell them,
"It's not my mind I have lost,"
but those who have not seen
the cutting of the cord that gave them life
cannot understand.

There is a female poet whose name eludes me. I've been wanting to reread her book for a long time. Her brother had cancer of the eye, I think, and there's one poem in which she talks about a doctor sticking a needle in his eye and another poem that says something like:

He had washed his last dish...
I am hoping that in the process of decluttering, I will come across a book review that I undoubtedly clipped of this book.

Hope this post doesn't come off as gloomy but I have a need to know how other people deal with grief. In addition, food memory also fascinates me...

I happened upon this article in Salon the other day. I swear, I didn't go looking for it: Building my father's coffin.


  1. I am dealing with a private grief right now and it's hard. I rely on my faith and I read a lot of books on how to handle it all. One thing I've learned is that my grief is mine and not to compare the level of my loss to other people's.

  2. Diane,

    I'm glad that your faith helps and that you've also found books to deal with your grief; good point about comparing...

  3. I just downloaded this to my Kindle based on your review. Sounds like something I need to read right now, as I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself at the moment.

  4. Angela,

    I'd like to know what you think of Making Toast. I'm also interested in your thoughts on the Kindle. Hope that you'll feel more inspired soon...