And You Know You Should Be Glad, by Bob Greene

Book 33

I was in the mood for some schmaltz, so I pulled Bob Greene’s And You Know You Should Be Glad from my shelf. I had originally picked it up at the Library Used Book Store.

Greene had a lifelong best friend develop cancer when they were 57 years old and this book tells the story of the friendship and the final journey. Greene’s flashbacks get rather heavy-handed, which is no surprise, but when he is talking about the present day, he does a really good job in describing the things said and things unsaid and how reality hits us in different ways at different times.

Two things stuck with me:

First, I didn’t realize that about five minutes after the scandal – the one that so disappointed me I still haven’t stopped calling him “Disgraced Former Chicago Tribune Columnist Bob Greene” – Greene’s wife died. I was somehow left with the impression that it was a rather sudden illness, and my icy heart started to melt. A bit.

Second, there was a moment in the book when cancer-stricken Jack calls Greene to ask if Greene’s mother might be able to help him find some home nursing care. I remembered from another of Greene’s books that his father had been through hospice care before his death and one of Greene’s better observations was about how hospice care workers become part of your family at the worst time, make everything easier for you, and then it is over and they are gone and you never see them again. But Greene didn’t relate the request to his father’s final illness, just to the fact that his mother can do anything. And when he called her, she knew exactly what to ask, whom to call and how to set it up. Greene noted that things like home nursing care (which he adamantly stated was not the same as hospice care) are things that we never, ever think about until we need it right now. But Mrs. Greene pulled it off.

The end of the story is about what you would expect, and there are no cosmic truths to be found. I think in the end, Greene just wanted to keep his bud with him awhile longer. And give Jack some small piece of immortality.

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