Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And You Know You Should Be Glad

Bob Greene and Jack Roth are very lucky men. Very few of us meet our soul mates (even if we are one of those lucky enough to make that close a friend at some point in our lives) when we are five years old, but it happened to these two during the first few days of Miss Barbara’s kindergarten class. Jack, always the one sensitive to the feelings of others, stood and announced to Miss Barbara that Bob was suffering a bad nosebleed and needed some help, something that Bob was too embarrassed to do for himself – and a bond was formed between the two that was destined to last their lifetimes.

Now, more than fifty years later, Jack’s cancer is threatening to end one of those lifetimes and Bob can hardly imagine life without him. Jack, Bob and three other Bexley, Ohio, boys were practically inseparable all the way through high school but the bond between Jack and Bob remained a special one even within their friendships with the other boys. After high school, as always happens, real life intruded on old friendships and the men saw less and less of each other. But Jack and Bob remained close and spoke often despite Bob’s relocation to Chicago, and Jack and Chuck, another member of the group, even became brothers-in-law after marrying identical twin sisters.

When Jack’s four friends gather in Bexley to show him their support they find the old friendships are as strong as ever. What they bring to Jack – old stories, inside jokes and countless memories – are exactly the things he needs to keep him going despite the ever-worsening news he receives from his doctors.

As Jack and Bob walk the streets of their childhood, revisiting old haunts that are vivid reminders of the years they shared in little Bexley, the reader experiences Jack’s longing to revisit his memories one-at-a-time, one final visit for each with nothing skipped. And because Jack has lived in Bexley almost his entire life, every one of their walks brings him past the physical markers of his lifetime, each marker triggering one of the memories he so earnestly seeks.

Jack Roth was a man blessed with the ability and time to make the most of his last days and he was lucky to have four good friends willing to revisit the past with him. When together, the five of them joked and laughed just as they always had in a vain attempt to hide their feelings about what was happening to one of their own. Jack understood that and welcomed the chance to push his worries aside for even a few minutes, the best gift his friends could give him. Best of all, though, since Jack’s best friend in the world, Bob Greene, is not a man afraid to express his feelings and emotions, the rest of us can learn from Jack’s example in And You Know You Should Be Glad.

You really should be.

Rated at: 5.0

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