Last night I did something I haven’t done in quite some time ~ dressed up in a fancy outfit, put on some (very!) high heeled shoes, and went to a black tie dinner, the huge spring fundraising gala sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. It was a work function, actually, so our table of 10 was filled completely by my co-workers. In our medical case management business, we work with a lot of brain injured people, and it’s both rewarding and frustrating for the nurses. Rewarding when you see someone “come back” from a devastating brain injury and be able to maintain at least a semi-independent and productive life style. Frustrating, when, despite your best efforts and the work of medical science, someone is unable to make that recovery and life as they once knew it is over. We have clients in both those camps.
This was the first time we’d gone en masse to this event, and it was enjoyable and enlightening. But the best part of the evening was the guest speaker – John Grogan, author of Marely and Me, who grew up just down the road from the convention center where the event was held.
Grogan talked to us about his second book, The Longest Trip Home, a memoir of growing up in the midwest as part of a very traditional, large, Catholic family, with parents who were extremely devout in their faith. The book is at turns funny, poignant, and thought provoking, as the author explored what it meant to his relationship with his parents when he was unable to embrace their faith as the hoped and expected.
Grogan is a fine raconteur, and in his remarks he related several stories I immediately recalled from reading the book about a year ago. He was no altar boy – well, actually he was, but only got into it when he realized he could sneak the remainder of the communion wine, and thus go to class with “a nice buzz.”
He told us that what he wanted to explore in the book as the “long road” it sometimes takes to repair and establish relationships with people we love when we have basic ideological differences. It is possible, he concludes, with love as the basis, to overcome the disappointment and anger that sometimes result from these disputes. He was able to do that with his father, although the complete reconciliation did not occur until practically the end of the senior Grogan’s life.
Because this seems to be the year of the “story” for me, I loved hearing this man talk about his story. I enjoyed reading the book, but listening to the author tell the tales added a new dimension. It was as we had gathered 850 people around his dinner table, and were sharing, as friends often do, the stories of their childhood and what we had learned.
At the end of the evening, everyone received a copy of the book, and since I already own it, I’m offering my copy to one of you. Just leave a comment with a favorite story from your childhood. I’ll choose a winner at random on April 13, 2011.