Bob Brody is on a mission to preserve his history
by Michael Perlman
Jul 17, 2017 | 9138 views | 0 0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age” was published just in time for Father’s Day.

Penned by Bob Brody, Forest Hills resident, author and public relations executive, the memoir celebrates a family man’s life in New York City, with an emphasis on Queens, which he has called home since 1977. That is where he learned to become a mature adult through trial and error, and today he is a husband of 38 years to Elvira, and a father to Michael and Caroline.

The memoir chronicles Brody’s pursuits as a writer to find his voice and be heard in response to his deaf parents. It also highlights how his father pioneered a communications network that united the deaf community, and a visit to the AT&T Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair to sample the new Picturephone.

Revealing moments include how a man with a gun ran towards Brody and his wife on Austin Street, forcing him to prove how much he would sacrifice for her. Also featured is how his 10-year estrangement from his family resulted in a reunion with his mother, sister, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

His memoir’s title reflects a summer 2012 experience in Mystic, Connecticut.

“I saw a kid throwing a tennis ball to himself in the pool after his mom got tired,” he recalled. “I signaled and his mom said it was okay, so we had a catch for 15 minutes. Then I told my wife that I really think I could spend the rest of my life playing catch with strangers.

“Having a catch is a form of dialogue that unites people, and it feels like a metaphor for much in life, such as landing a new job, attending a new school, or marrying into a family,” he added. “And every friend is a stranger at first.”

Over the past 12 years, Brody has published around 150 personal essays. Then in 2013, a realization surfaced.

“I had written a memoir piecemeal, and saw an opportunity to bring the pieces together into a book,” he said.

As a firm believer in passing on family history, Brody created the “Letters to My Kids” blog, and in 2008 he created a journal for each of his children.

“I intended to leave something behind,” he said. “An heirloom more precious than any wedding ring, a legacy ultimately more heartfelt and tangible and valuable in its own right than any insurance policy. Without becoming a father, I would have never seen the need to write those journals, and I would probably have never written this book.”

Although Brody did not write a memoir with lessons in mind, “if people can learn something from what I have written, that’s wonderful.”

“Play catch with your kids, stay in touch with your family no matter what and try to work out problems in real time,”he said. “Pay attention to your past and keep a journal for your children and your children’s children. Unless you put it in writing, it may wind up forgotten and no one should live a life that could wind up forgotten.

“Once you’re old enough, you are kind of surrounded by ghosts, so writing is sometimes an act of resurrection,” he added. “My father is gone, my grandparents and my mother-in-law, but through writing, I bring them back, even if it is only for a moment.”

His maternal grandmother encouraged him to become a writer, which is how he communicated with his deaf mother.

“Since she was unable to hear, I had to choose my words carefully and learn from my earliest days how to be clear, concise, and communicative,” he said.
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