Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
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Buzz Bissinger’s twins were born three minutes—and a world—apart. Gerry, the older one, is a graduate student at Penn, preparing to become a teacher. His brother Zach has spent his life attending special schools. He’ll never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He is a savant, challenged by serious intellectual deficits but also blessed with rare talents: an astonishing memory, a dazzling knack for navigation, and a reflexive honesty that can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.
Buzz realized that while he had always been an attentive father, he didn’t really understand what it was like to be Zach. So one summer night Buzz and Zach hit the road to revisit all the places they have lived together during Zach’s twenty-four years. Zach revels in his memories, and Buzz hopes this journey into their shared past will bring them closer and reveal to him the mysterious workings of his son’s mind and heart. The trip also becomes Buzz's personal journey, yielding revelations about his own parents, the price of ambition, and its effect on his twins.
As father and son journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, they see the best and worst of America and each other. Ultimately, Buzz gains a new and uplifting wisdom, realizing that Zach’s worldview has a sturdy logic of its own: a logic that deserves the greatest respect. And with the help of Zach’s twin, Gerry, Buzz learns an even more vital lesson about Zach: character transcends intellect. We come to see Zach as he truly is: patient, fearless, perceptive, kind—a man of excellent character.
myself that Zach didn’t quite grasp the subtleties of office etiquette. He saw the place as something of a commune, and he would sit at partners’ desks and use their computers while they were out at lunch. He was perfectly content but the partners were not. He repeatedly asked one back-office colleague if he could rub his bald spot. It is difficult to deny the irresistibility of bald spots. But this was a new riff on an old habit of his, which he’d started with his brother when he was four and
It is the most terrible pain of my life. As much as I try to engage Zach, figure out how to make the flower germinate because there is a seed, I also run. I run out of guilt. I run because he was robbed and I feel I was robbed. I run because of my shame. I am not proud to feel or say this. But I think these things, not all the time, but too many times, which only increases the cycle of my shame. This is my child. How can I look at him this way? Because I do. Because I think we all do when
lived in the Philadelphia suburb of Ambler when he used to work at the Inquirer. He says he knows this because Inquirer reporter Raad Cawthon told him, noting to Dan McGrath that Cawthon himself has moved from the Inquirer to Pensacola in Florida. Three-pointer from thirty feet. At lunch, Zach tells Marie the date of the Tribune awards dinner we all attended in 1992. Buzzer-beater. Knowing Zach’s interest in the physical plant of the Tribune, Ann Marie tells him as we finish lunch that a new gym
back slightly. The warm air encircles him. II We sit across from each other at a blue Formica table. He eats French fries and I eat a foot-long hot dog with a crumbling bun that leaves bits of soaky mustard on my shirt. It is only a matter of time before I become the official Six Flags mascot, unshaven, barely belted, flecked with mustard like some rare skin disorder. We are done for the day after seven hours. We need to head to Oklahoma so we can make Texas by tomorrow. We walk to the
will be nice to get out of the car won’t it you’ll be happy for me? —I’ll be happy for me. I need directions to the hotel, and I’m trying to read the AAA guide while driving. The print is small; the pages are thin. I turn too many at a time. I can’t read without taking off my glasses. When I take off my glasses the road becomes blurry. Phoenix, we have a problem. I hand the book to Zach and tell him where to look. He seems confused. It is taking forever. —Are you looking at the right page?