The Sunday Salon ~The Longest Trip Home

The Sunday
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.


8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon ~The Longest Trip Home

  1. What a wonderful post! I love memoirs, anyway, especially when they chronicle family stories. I’ve written some of mine down in my short story collection (unpublished, so far), and on Authors Den.

    One of my family memories is the story of a Thanksgiving dinner (in our dysfunctional family) that has gone awry when one of the adult children starts ranting and raving, and bringing up all his personal angst and disappointments by lashing out at me. I fictionalized this one a bit and called it Family Values.

    The story concludes with me gathering up my children and making my exit, only to go on with my very separate life…afterwards.

    Would love to win a copy of this book!


  2. Becca, it’s pretty special to go out with you (virtually) and see more of your world. I hadn’t before completely understood what you do. This is marvelous and important work.

    • Beth, I don’t actually work with clients, but just provide supporting paperwork for our nursing staff. That includes “telling their story” each month by preparing reports on their progress for attorneys and insurance companies. So I’m vicariously along for the ride. Sometimes it’s hard on my tender heart to read/write about what these folk endure. But it’s inspiring as well, because the majority of them fight so hard to get their life back.

  3. Your work must vacillate between great rewards and great frustrations!

    No need to enter me in the giveaway (I’m too tired to recall a story tonight 🙂 ), but thank you for sharing a glimpse of your evening out. Sounds like Grogan has the skill to speak so intimately to such a large gathering!

  4. It sounds like a wonderful evening. I loved school as a kid and I also loved reading. That meant that I was often reading in class, anxiously holding my book under my desk so my teacher wouldn’t see. Now I realize that there wasn’t any need for anxiety. I’m sure my teachers saw and smiled inside. I also used to read while walking and once walked right into the principal of the elementary school. I was reading Tom Sawyer. How my heart beat when I looked up! He just smiled.

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