Excerpt from Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Making Toast

A Family Story

by Roger Rosenblatt

Making Toast
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 176 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 128 pages

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Excerpt
Making Toast

The trick in foraging for a tooth lost in 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 trash can for the top left front 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, Bubbies’s nanny. Bubbies (James) is twenty-three months and the youngest of our daughter Amy’s three children. Sammy, who is five, is uninterested in the tooth search, and Jessie is unaware of it. We would prefer to find the tooth, so that Jessie won’t worry about the Tooth Fairy not showing up.

This sort of activity has constituted our life since Amy died, last December 8th. The night of her death, Ginny and I drove from our home in Quogue, on the south shore of Long Island, to Bethesda, Maryland, where Amy and her husband, Harris, lived. With Harris’s encouragement, we have been there ever since. “How long are you staying?” Jessie asked the next morning. “Forever,” I said.

Amy Elizabeth Rosenblatt Solomon, thirty-eight years old, pediatrician, wife of the hand surgeon Harrison Solomon, and mother of three, collapsed on her treadmill in the downstairs playroom at home. “Jessie discovered her,” our oldest son, Carl, told us on the phone. Carl lives in Fairfax, Virginia, not far from Amy and Harris, with his wife, Wendy, and their two boys, Andrew and Ryan. Jessie had run upstairs to Harris and told him, “Mommy isn’t talking.” Harris got to Amy within seconds, and tried CPR, but her heart had stopped and she could not be revived.

Amy’s was ruled a “sudden death due to an anomalous right coronary artery”—meaning both her coronary arteries fed her heart from the same side. Her combined arteries could have been squeezed between the aorta and the pulmonary artery, which can expand during physical exercise. The blood flow was cut off. Her condition, affecting less than two thousandths of one per cent of the population, was asymptomatic; she might have died at any time in her life.

Amy would have appreciated the clarity of the verdict. She was a very clear person, even as a small child, knowing intuitively what plain good sense a particular situation required. She had a broad expanse of forehead, dark, nearly black hair, and hazel eyes. Both self-confident and selfless, when she faced you there could be no doubt you were the only thing on her mind.

Her clarity could make her harsh with her family, especially her two brothers. Carl and John, our youngest, withered when she excoriated them for such offenses as invading her room. She could also be slightly cutting in her wit. When she was about to graduate from N.Y.U. Medical School, her class had asked me to be the speaker. A tradition of the school allows a past graduate to place the hood of the gown on a new graduate. Harris, who had graduated the previous year, was set to “hood” Amy. At dinner the night before the ceremony, a friend remarked, “Amy, isn’t it great? Your dad is giving the graduation speech, and your fiancé is doing the hood.” Amy said, “It is. And it’s also pretty great that I’m graduating.”

Yet her clarity contributed to her kindness. When she was six, I was driving her and three friends to a birthday party. One of the girls got carsick. The other two girls backed away, understandably, with cries of “Ooh!” and “Yuck!” Amy drew closer to the stricken child, to comfort her.

Ginny and I moved from a five-bedroom house, with a den and a large kitchen, to a bedroom with a connected bath—the in-law apartment we used to occupy whenever we visited. We put in a dresser and a desk, and Harris added a TV and a rug. It may have appeared that we were reducing our comforts, but the older one gets the less space one needs, and the less one wants. And we still have the house in Quogue.

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Excerpted from Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt. Copyright © 2010 by Roger Rosenblatt. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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