FOUR FUNERALS, NO MARRIAGE

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In Keren’s family, he says, communication was often difficult, and in this work, he tells of how he learned to navigate unavoidable “deep conversations” when the health of both his parents deteriorated. The author, a psychotherapist, was looking forward to starting a new job as a financial analyst when his father suffered a stroke. Soon after getting his dad settled at the hospital, Keren and his husband, Tom, received a knock on their bedroom door: “I’m sorry, boys,” Keren’s mother announced, “but I think I need to go to the hospital.…I’m having a heart attack.” The author writes with humor and heartbreak as he recounts his mom’s warning: “do not even think of having me share a room with my husband. Unless, of course, you want a suicidal patient on your hands.” Although this declaration wasn’t surprising, Keren admits that he “was saddened to hear her say it out loud.” He goes on to advocate for both of them with a fierce, moving loyalty. The memoir feels overburdened with unnecessary details at times, as when Keren describes his brother’s divorce or cookies in a hospital snack machine. However, its portrayal of the love and care that he gave his parents shines through and provides occasions for his most poignant prose. At one point, for example, he tells of being incensed by nurses’ inattention to his father, and he conjures the spirit of Shirley MacLaine’s “mother bear” character in the film Terms of Endearment: “I know my volume was high.…I slammed my hand on the counter for emphasis… Shirley won an Oscar for that moment, and I was preparing to win mine in the halls of the hospital.” Later, the author tells of brushing his father’s hair and holding his hand to make sure his father “would feel I loved him as he left this world”; later, as his mother took her final breaths, he remembered her favorite songs and lovingly sang her “to the other side.”

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