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Jeff, Who Lives at Home

(Warning, at least two f-bombs occur in this post.  If you are offended by the f-word, you will be offended twice)

Yesterday, I watched Jeff, Who Lives At Home on Netflix.  I wish I could tell if this movie was brilliant and awesome, or if it was the right movie at the right time.  I honestly don’t know.  There are some movies that just hit you the right way at the right time.  Waking Ned Devine was one of those movies.  The first time Will and I saw we loved it.  Thought it was brilliant and fantastic.  The second time we saw it, we thought it cute, but nothing special.  Some movies are the right movies at the right time.  Other movies (Pan’s Labyrinth) are the wrong movies at the wrong time, but that discussion is for a different time.

I am not going to say much about the movie, because I do not want to spoil it for those who have not seen it.  I will say that if you are expecting a quirky, funny little indie film, you will be disappointed.  It is quirky and definitely has moments of humor, but this is a drama.  Straight up drama.  I liked this movie as much as I liked Dan in Real Life but because the cast has Jason Segel and Ed Helms as the two main characters I think many people go into it thinking comedy and they will be disappointed.  It is not a comedy.  Very much a drama.  Very very very very.  For me enjoyment of movies is about expectation.  If I expect a comedy and it is a drama, I am disappointed more often than not.

That said it was a good drama and it was interesting and it held my attention.  I normally play video games on my iPad when watching movies, but not with Jeff, Who Lives At Home.  I was riveted watching this movie because I wanted to see where the path was leading.  I was also riveted because this was the right movie at the right time.

The past month has been a particularly difficult one for me.  I have been unhappy.  I have spoken here before about the death of my dad, but one of the surprising things about grief is that it just never goes away completely and sometimes, it just kicks your ass for a month, or two, or three.  This past month it has been kicking my ass.  Depression and grief are both very isolating emotions.  Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.  I mean, people can ask, “What is wrong?”

I can say, “My dad is dead.”

“Didn’t he die a couple of years ago?”

“Yeah, but he is still dead, so I am still, periodically, fucked up by it.”

Then the conversation is pretty much over.  No one can really help make you feel better when someone you love dies.  Can you resurrect the dead?  No?  Well, thanks anyway.

My entire life my birthday and my father’s birthday were linked.  His birthday is exactly one week before mine, January 26 and I am on February 2.  When I grew up and moved away from my home town, I would go back to visit on his birthday and we would celebrate both birthdays together.  Out of my entire family, Dad understood me best and I often thought it was because we were both Aquarians and we both had that slightly skewed view of the world.  When I was a kid he would take me with him to run errands and we would just talk and talk and talk.  Before his lung cancer made talking on the phone a trial, he and I would talk for an hour or two almost every week on the phone.  We’d talk about books and animals and guns and politics and all kinds of things.  We read the same books and liked the same movies and generally speaking, got along pretty well.  I am a good mixture of my parents’ DNA, I look like my mother and I have her smarts, but I think like my dad, both for better and for worse in some instances.

This year my birthday kind of sucked.  I had a wonderful, lovely dinner with my in-laws that really was the highlight of my day and saw a movie with two of our friends, but for the most part it was uneventful in a deeply depressing way.  My mom was supposed to come down to visit but couldn’t due to a migraine.  Normally, I spend my birthday with two of my close friends who live a couple hours away – one two hours east the other two hours west – but I didn’t do that this year because my mom was coming down instead.  Those friends who live in the area that I invited to go see a movie were completely unavailable for various reasons.  The overall effect was feeling old and alone.  Guess who is 38 and has no friends?  This girl.  Is this the reality?  No, but sometimes emotions are not based remotely in reality.  During a time when I needed a distraction from my own head, I had none.

I am great at projecting.  Instead of dealing with whatever the core issue is that I am having, I project my upset onto other things.  After my birthday, I projected a lot.  The weekend after my birthday, a friend canceled plans on us two days in a row and I just kind of lost it.  My feelings were hurt and I was insanely upset.  It was at this point I realized that something else must be going on.  The amount of upset I felt did not match the action prompting it – hurt feelings?  Yeah, that is acceptable when someone invites you to do something, thinks better of it, and cancels last minute, twice.  Hurt feelings and irritation?  Sure.  Tears?  Not so much.

Will, who was pretty frustrated by me making a big deal out of what was essentially nothing, went to work and when he came home I told him that I realized what I was really upset about and it wasn’t the friend who canceled.  I was really upset because hey, dad is still dead.  Will looks at the sobbing crazy mess that was me, and offers to go kick the ass of the friend who canceled.  He always knows how to make me laugh.  He defended the friend earlier, so it was particularly funny – Will can’t fix death, but he can go off on an irrational journey for me if it will make me feel better, or at the very least threaten it to make me laugh.  Love that man.

Discussing why I am upset does NOT help and promotes wallowing, thus I have eschewed discussing this with a few exceptions – some people just know you too well to let you get away with saying “I’m fine.”  Since my depressing epiphany, I have been using my arsenal of tricks to defeat depression.  Working out helps, walking outside anywhere helps, reading helps, writing helps, Music helps, stand up comedy helps, cleaning the house helps (environment does have a big impact on mood, I’ve discovered), shiny distractions and even minor accomplishments helps.  My Nightlife editor is probably in shock that I have had stories in either right on deadline or early for the past month.  I’ve done these things but in the back of mind a little voice occasionally pipes up with “Yeah, but dad is still dead.”

Good job on that workout today!  Don’t you feel great?  Yeah, but dad is still dead.

You got both Nightlife articles finished a day ahead of time!  Awesome!  Yeah, but dad is still dead.

The kitchen looks super clean and you even got the floors really well!  Good job!  Yeah, but dad is still dead.

I am really enjoying the hell out of the book John Dies at the End.  Dad would have liked it and dad is still dead.

So, when I tell you that Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a good movie, you have to keep in mind that I am not in a normal (whatever the fuck normal is supposed to be) mindset.  The two characters lost their dad an undisclosed amount of time in the past.  This past informs the present action of the movie.  What I liked about the movie is it made me feel like my grief wasn’t special to me.  Other people feel this, too.  Other people have these very real and very specific emotions that I also have.  The best stories, the timeless stories have what my high school English teacher called a universal appeal.  Love and loss are two universal emotions we all feel, and Jeff, Who Lives at Home taps into both of these emotions rather well.

I cannot necessarily recommend this movie.  I would not recommend it to my mom or sisters who are pretty much where I am this time of year.  I can say it was the right movie at the right time.  It made me cry, but it made me feel better, too.  It was a good movie yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3 thoughts on “Jeff, Who Lives at Home

  1. While I can’t relate to losing a parent, I can relate to people not understanding what you are going through. My dad has been on the heart transplant list for 13 months now and the waiting has been pure torture for him and for all of his family. People tell me, “Well, his health is good and he’s doing okay at home.” I know people mean well but I want to look at them and scream: “DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HE CANNOT LIVE A NORMAL LIFE RIGHT NOW???” My normally very active father who rarely sits down for more than 10 minutes has been reduced to this sedentary lump of a man who gets winded walking a block and can’t even do something as simple as shower due to the LVAD. My mom and dad are also unable to travel anywhere due to having to be at the hospital in a moment’s notice and their income is at poverty level since my dad is on medical leave at work. While I am overjoyed that we have had my dad with us for another 14 months, the wait is killing him. I have never known a man who wants to go back to work as badly as he does.

    People also tell me, “Well, it will happen, you will get the call and your dad will be as good as new!” I try not to be Debbie Downer but I always tell them: “It’s not really that simple.” I am scared to death for my dad to get his heart transplant. It took me nearly two months to wrap my head around the idea that my father needs a heart transplant. Other people get heart transplants, not my dad. He could have complications during the surgery…he could reject his new heart…he could get an infection…he could have complications with the numerous drugs he will have to take afterwards…the drugs suppress your immune system and he could have higher risk of cancer…this is NOT a “simple” procedure. No one seems to understand that. I feel selfish for wanting to keep him at home in his little box because I know he’s with us right now and he’s safe. No one understands the emotional toll that comes along with this. I also don’t think anyone here at work understands my need to be there when they get the call. I really don’t care what they think about it…they will never have any understanding of it unless they go through it themselves.

    So, I can completely relate to “Good job on that weight loss! You have awesome discipline!” “Yeah, but my dad still needs a heart transplant.” It’s something that never leaves my mind and often my dreams.


  2. Elizabeth,
    While I hate that you and your family are going through this, I appreciate the empathy. It is not the same thing at all, but when my dad was fighting the cancer, my sister lived at home and took care of him pretty much full time, because he would be winded so easily. I totally and completely relate to seeing a vibrant, active man reduced to being a sedentary lump. It is just awful, beyond words awful.

    As always, thank you for your compassion and your empathy. I think unless you are going through it people aren’t going to quite get it and each of these debilitating diseases come with their own, special little tortures.

    And yeah, the call comes, OF COURSE you have to be there. It makes total sense to me!


  3. I, too, hate that you and your family had to go through what you did with your dad. Life never seems fair.

    On brighter note, I bet Matt and I would like that movie “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” So, we will put it on our list! We love quirky movies that aren’t what you expect. A lot of my friends hated “Silver Linings Playbook” and we absolutely LOVED it! Matt also brought home “Jesus H. Christ” not too long ago and the whole family liked it. That is a good one if you haven’t seen it yet.


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