John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


Going Home Again

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In August, my oldest son, who is a high school senior, and I packed the car and headed off on a week-long tour of college campuses in the Midwest. It was a great week with ample father-son bonding. We even seemed to agree on what music to play in the car. Before heading home, we made a detour north to my hometown of Orchard Lake, Michigan. The main purpose was to visit my mother, who is 93 now and, despite the expected age-related infirmities, has retained her good cheer and optimism.

Those of you who have read my memoir, The Longest Trip Home, know Mom quite well. She was a colorful firecracker as a younger woman and, blessedly, has retained a good deal of that spunk into old age. It was great to see her, and to see how my 17-year-old could make her face light up just by being there. Mom entertained us with stories from her childhood, which she remembered with crystal clarity even though she has trouble remembering what she had for lunch. (That's her above, mid-story.) My son found the stories highly amusing, especially the ones that involved her getting into trouble with her own parents. Some aspects of the parent-child relationship just don't change.

While in town, I had another item on my agenda. I wanted to revisit my childhood haunts, the places I describe in The Longest Trip Home, the ones that helped shape me. And so, video camera in hand, I walked the neighborhood streets, dropped by my old grade school, found an open door into the church where I had my disastrous first confession, and where two decades later Jenny and I were married. I walked down to the neighborhood beach on Cass Lake where we swam and smoked cigarettes as kids, and to the special place my brother and I would steal away to when we were skipping Sunday Mass.

You can view the video of my trip home here:

As you will see, much has changed in the old neighborhood since I was a kid. And some things haven't changed much at all.

Happy New Year!

posted by John Grogan at 2:10 PM


Blogger Tracy Wu said...

From your mom's smile on that photo, i can tell she enjoys her life so much on a daily basis.
Long time ago, I watched the movie "Marley & Me", so touched, now i'm reading the book.
Thank you for writing such a good novel. As a mom of two little girls and busy at work, one of my 2010 resolutions is to finish reading this book in first month. Best wishes for your and your family. Happy New Year !!

11:18 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Just finished reading "The Longest Road Home" this morning. A truly good book that made me laugh out loud and shed tears in the end. I loved it as much as "Marley and Me". I hope you publish something else soon!

7:53 AM  
Blogger Tina said...


Just REread The Longest Trip Home... and love it more each time. Other than my sister, I have no contact with my parents and both my brothers have died. So, although, it shows you clearly had issues and hardships with leaving behind what was expected of you... I revisit your book because I would love to know a family like yours ... thank you again for writing it. I look forward to your next book.


3:14 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Oh! And the reason I wrote to begin with --- I loved the Utube movie... thanks for doing it... hope you do more... nice to put the "real" stuff with what we read in the book.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I have read both of your books which are incredibly good. Not only did I laugh but also shed a lot of tears. Your books were also interesting to me because I grew up not far from where you did and can relate to all the places mentioned in The Longest Road Home. Also, I really related to Marley because I have a precious Bichon and can relate to the antics of our 4-legged children. I am anxious to hopefully read another book that you may write.

10:10 AM  
Blogger C&M's Life As We Live It said...

I know you get a lot of people writing to you regarding your book Marley and Me. You were an inspiration to me with my life with Maggie and Me ... she is a beautiful golden retriever who has cost me a lot of money with medical bills and medicine. I have written a blog regarding her life, as you, but I am no writer. I just wanted to share with people how one dog could change the life of a person like me and give me great joy. Yes, she was very sick in her day but today she is living the life of a regular dog. Please, if you have the time, read my blog. I'm not writer but that is not important right now. My blog address is

Enjoy reading it ... but you need to read it from the beginning ... where my life started with this dog of mine ...

11:54 AM  
Blogger Dietz said...

John, thanks for another look into your life. "The Longest Trip Home" took me back down the roads and paths of my own life. You and I travelled through the same decades, the bloodshed and upheaval of the sixties, permissive and drug-induced seventies... and bad hair styles of the eighties. Like yours, my parents were guiding lights with very strong religious convictions. I only hope I learned by their example how to be a good (if not religious) person. There is no doubt that you have honored your own parents with your own version of "ministering". Mike Murray is right.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...


Thank you for the wonderful article in Parade magazine! I am so glad you went back for Marley and brought him home. Right now we have our lab at MSU vet hospital where she is fully recovering from a very freak infection. They do get into your hearts, don't they. I loved your Marley book, loved the movie, loved seeing you at my school (Gull Lake Middle), and will definitely buy your new book. Again, I am so glad you brought Marley home. That is true love.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Jillian said...

I loved seeing that face of your smiling Mother! I am sure she enjoyed spending quality time with you and your son. Do you think your son would have enjoyed your old Detroit suburb stomping grounds as much as you did as a teenager?

Jillian and the Labs

9:16 AM  
Blogger Jon Stolpe said...

Mr. Grogan,

I just finished reading "The Longest Trip Home" at lunch today. When I got in my car to return to the office, I called both my parents to thank them and to tell them that I love them.

Thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed your story, and I was definitely inspired. I'll be recommending it to others for sure.

10:18 AM  
Blogger gail said...

Ah, Midwest college visits. We did 18 of them last year. Our college freshman, a lifelong Unitarian is now a freshman at the lutheran St Olaf in Northfield MN and loving every minute. It is a college match made in heaven, Hope your son loves his choice as much as our daughter loves hers.

3:06 PM  
Blogger blarney rose said...

John, I'm not breeding contempt with my familiarity, but after reading "The Longest Trip...,"it's as tho' we grew up together! Being an Irish Catholic & experiencing so much of what you shared with us, I was actually sad the book ended! Your book was a Xmas gift to my grandson, Patrick, who lives in Shelby Twp., Michigan. Your book has passed to my son-in-law, my daughter, Shawn, & me, and I'm in Ohio! Thanks for taking us on your very special journey!
Karen Bloom
Mansfield, Ohio

10:02 AM  
Blogger Cec said...

Marley and Me-What a hoot!
The Longest Trip home-An exercise in Holy Hilarity.

Being a RC (Recovering Catholic) who grew up (albiet in the '70s) with a codependent canine called Cuddles and overly fervently religious parents, I totally related to both your books.

I grew up with rosaries, novenas, statues and holy pictures in every room. The 'Sacred Heart' hung above our TV for close to 40 years. I ceased to notice it.

I used to see my guardian angel as a kind of celestial imaginery friend. I talked to her all the time and even named her "Jacinta"

Nutty dog Cuddles was a German Shepherd/Labrador who stood about 5ft tall when she greeting the postman. Cuddles also had issues with restraints. We tried duct tape reinforcements, however that didn't prevent her from appearing next to my mother one day to receive communion. (Our parish priest never forgot that one).

As I grew up in Queensland, Australia, reading the books was like entering a parallel universe where names, dates and locations were changed. It is good to know that crazy Catholics and dysfuncional dogs have no geographic boundaries.

I too was taught by a nun who suggested that I may be good at writing. Best bit of advice one of those penguins every gave me. So, now it's "Get thee to a computer".. "Publish or Perish" and all that.

So John, thanks for the laugh out loud stories and for your honesty and willingness to write about your funny family and neurotic dog.

I know that you must be incredibly busy but it would be great if you could write me a quick email.

That would be even more exciting than the day I thought my guardian angel answered me back.

Regards and best wishes,


4:55 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

A fellow 1957'er and Catholic born and bred child, I found your book 'The Longest Trip Home' so fantastically funny, heart warming and, best of all, one I could relate to with almost every single page...only from a female perspective.

Thank you for this witty and honest memoir that has so opened you up to your faithful fans. I truly look forward to your next literary endeavor. Thank you for bringing laughter, tears and joy into my life.

1:29 PM  
Blogger deborah said...

The biggest story teller in technicolor is giving us the smile, however Ruth took life seriously. Much that we feel we navigate our lives it just isn't the raison detre, si vous plait. Just like the Olympics, it's o.k. to cry, but only after the performance-We can only assume that life shapes us, but I know that our best is granted not given-hurray for Ruth

12:42 PM  
Blogger bruno said...

hi jonh
I loved your book I cried when I get in so he dies
I gagarlhadas when he vomited in the sand
i also when he carried the table in the restaurant
wants you to answer my comment ta

6:15 AM  
Blogger bruno said...

hi me again i I wanted you to send email
'm from Brazil

6:21 AM  

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