15 January 2011

"Closure is Bullshit"

My son Jeffrey died nearly four years ago. I work pretty hard at not being the 'dead boy's father.' Instead, I am a man who's son has died. In that role there are lots of parts of my life - some extremely good, others less so, still others indifferent, a handful of active irritants. You can count Doug and (my own) August and Susan among the very, very best parts. Writing here regularly ranks up there, but in a different category. Lots of things have happened to me or are going on in my life. And, by the way, my son died nearly four years ago. Please don't forget that last thing, while I try to sort out and enjoy the rest too. Hence the title to this post, which I've lifted from An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.*

Elizabeth McCracken has written the single best book - a very frank and sorrowful and cynical and funny all at once memoir - I have read on this struggle. Now, you may think that faint praise, given that what little I have written here about the literature of grief is ambivalent at best. O.K., so there is no real competition. This is a wonderful book nevertheless. It made me sob and laugh out loud repeatedly, more than once almost simultaneously.

McCracken and I occupy different branches of the family tree of grieving, an image she plants in the book. But our branches are adjacent. And while we never have met, I understand completely the inappropriate, irresistible urge she describes to treat people, in this instance herself, as close. So far I've resisted the urge to send McCracken a thank you note. But I could not resist writing about her book here. Go ahead and read it.
* Elizabeth McCracken. 2008. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. New York: Little Brown.

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Blogger bastinptc said...

My brother was killed by a drunk driver almost seven years ago. While I dread the death of one of my own children, and losing my dear brother was bad enough, yet it is my mother who continues to grieve in a manner that resists relief. Thanks for the book suggestion.

I wish you well in your healing.

15 January, 2011 14:56  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

B ~ I am sorry about your brother. Thanks for writing. Among the things McCracken is smart about is the way people who think they have no words in the face of a friend's loss often do; they surprise themselves and the person who is grieving. I highly recommend the book - in case that didn't come through in the post. And I wish some respite for your mom. It is, I am sure, a struggle for her every day. Best, J

15 January, 2011 22:10  

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