This Is Where I Leave You

Taking Bebe’s advice, I recently picked up “This Is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper.  Wouldn’t you know she’d get me all hooked on fiction again after a long snobby stream of solely non-fiction.  That Bebe, when she’s not being an asshole, she’s totally Buddha incarnate.  Do what she says people, trust this lady.

I read it quick, with one day left on my library rental.  Long enough to end up standing at the copier getting sunburns from holding the book open-faced on the copier, trying to steal all of the little snippets that were too long to rewrite by hand and too good to let go without keeping for a revisit.  I have pages and pages and notes and notes where this book made me look up and go “well god damn.”

A quick aside: I have been indulging in a book club with a coworker for the past couple of years and it’s led to a string of fascinating, connecting, synchronous subjects that have completely broadened my understanding of the way we work as people.  That being said, it’s hard as hell to go back to any old fiction. Not just because I’m hooked on facts lately, but I have a precious half-hour a day to actually read anything for leisure.  So if it’s fiction, I hope like hell to get something from it.

But again, when Bebe suggests, I listen.  Plus, bonus, my library had a copy and the cute, funky, arty library worker raved about the author too.  I tend to follow people’s advice when I covet their jewelery or footwear.  Yes, I am that shallow.

Back to the book…one passage that got me thinking about my recent quest to figure out my family vs. shaping my new family, was the following:

“We deflect emotions with logistics.  Instead of talking about our father’s death, we figure out how to get to the airport.  It’s what we do.  Our parents can continue to screw us up even after they die, and in this way, they’ve never really gone. My siblings and I will always struggle trying to confront an honest emotion.  We’ll succeed, to varying degrees, with outsiders, but fail consistently, sometimes spectacularly, with each other.”

My god did that hit home.

My mother, bless her heart, and her heart is HUGE, doesn’t like to get real deep.  She doesn’t like uncomfortable situations, talking out problems and feelings, and she’s spectacularly good at “keeping the peace.”  She’s the typical oldest sibling and very very clearly one of the most responsible ones in the family.  So we don’t get into super emotional talks or talk about our feelings.  We fix things, immediately, and move on.

My bio-father, well…let’s just say I love him for who he is, but I had to remind him that he should be a lot more excited outwardly about certain big events in my life, like having his grandchild, because the stone wall routine wasn’t going to work out for our relationship.  He obliged in his way, but yeaaaaa.

Me?  Well I have a blog for Krishna’s sake.  Pretty sure I don’t mind, and indulge in, hashing shit out.  I hash out shit so much it’s hash browns.  For my daughter, I’d love somewhere in between.

Someone once told me that that famous saying from Socrates, “The unexamined life is a life not worth living.”  I take this to mean that for your life to be worthwhile you should sit down and look at where you’ve been, where you are going, and what you want it to be.  I have no interest in waking up 65 years old with no idea how I got there.  No flat surface life here, thanks.

I want more than one kid, so I suppose this book excerpt hit me in that way too.  Because I have a sister and besides a few friends, she is definitely someone I can hash shit out with.  I’d love that for my baby too.

I would love for my munchkin to feel, feel completely, feel free and loudly and openly, and have siblings to share this with, let alone her parents.  But at the same time, I hope she keeps a little of that part where you can also figure out how to get the airport quickly too.

Balance, right?

So thank you, Jonathan.  You just articulated why I’m really good with details, really good at coordinating people/food/decorations, really good at my job, but really spectacularly awkward talking with people at funerals and in emergency rooms and to my family.  Especially my family.



I interrupt my big fat loud mouth…

To do something a bit different today. I am going to make you read a book.

Please read This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper.

It’s an absolutely hilarious novel about a man who is forced to spend seven days with his family to sit shiva after his father dies. His father didn’t believe in God, but it was his last wish, so they all do it.

Sitting Shiva is a Jewish mourning tradition. Shiva means seven. I am not Jewish and I don’t want to put out the wrong information, I assume it differs from region to region.  Immediate family mourns for seven days in the home of the deceased and receives guests. You cover the mirrors because you don’t want vanity or worrying about yourself to interfere with the mourning of your lost loved one. I promise you that the premise of the book doesn’t sound all that fun, but really it’s genius.

The writing is snappy and flows nicely. It’s not a dumbed down book either. It’s a great read. Judd Foxman is the main character and within the first 40 pages, you will laugh about infidelity, death, siblings, mothers, fathers, cheesecake, and yes, flaming genitals.

The point is, every one of us has his siblings, his father, his wife. They are so likable and so complex. You think they might be a bitch, a hard ass, a drugged out sex freak with a wicked sense of pop culture. But you get to know them, love them, and identify with them. I got teary over their memories of the their father as children, and all of the little intricate family stuff that you don’t think about day-to-day. It’s all there.

When you are done, you won’t feel like your family is the worst in the world, you might even feel like there are some of them who are redeemable. And if that’s a little too much for you, there is plenty of sex, poop and fart jokes, and like I said, flaming genitals.