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Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
A remarkable memoir from the best-selling author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August.
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 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, kinda man of excellent character.
T-Shirts For Daddy, Husband T-Shirt, Coach Father TShirt, Baseball Dad is a perfect Father’s Day gift: a road trip story of a man trying to bond with his son, while reflecting on his own father, his other significant relationships, and his personal triumphs and failures. It is heartfelt and powerful and a little sappy and a little funny.. and I love it passionately.
The skeleton of Bissinger’s book is a road trip that he designs as an opportunity to get to know one of his sons, a young man who suffered brain damage at birth and grew up Different. Zach is a complicated person, mentally retarded on certain tests but with an uncanny memory for facts, and Buzz creates an epic journey to revisit places from Zach’s history. Buzz acknowledges early in the book that the trip is a selfish one, considering the relational pressures of exhausting days in a minivan together and Zach’s strong preference for routine, but he has undeniably unselfish goals as well. The trip turns out to be something beautiful, with the moments of transcendence and disaster that accompany any good long drive, and some fascinating glimpses into a rapidly developing father-son relationship.
One of the surprising strengths of the book is Buzz’s relentless honesty. He makes hard admissions about the difficulties of having a son with disabilities, especially a son whose twin brother is Normal. He transcribes conversations where his temper is disturbing or where he doesn’t have the right answer to one of Zach’s questions or where he isn’t doing the Right Thing in a given situation. I found myself angry with Buzz on multiple occasions, as he would build up his hopes for a plan that could only end in catastrophe, only to recognize his error and start to make it again. The honesty, though, really hit me in those moments – Buzz’s imperfections and failures helped me understand his perspectives on fatherhood more than a sanitized vacation summary would have.
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This is an amazing book, a father’s heart poured onto paper with all of its flaws on display. It will encourage anyone who cares for individuals who are Different, and anyone who has ever been a father (or a son) should read it.
Back in the 1970’s Buzz Bissinger, best known for the book Friday Night Lights, watched as his twin boys were born 13.5 weeks early and three minutes and three ounces apart. And although it doesn’t seem like it should, those three minutes and three ounces made all the difference to your younger twin, Zach. Because of them, Zach, unlike his brother Gerry, suffered irreparable trace brain damage that has left him mentally retarded, unable to process the abstract, but with a savant’s memory, especially in the field of calendaring. This book chronicles a road trip Zach and Buzz made one year to all of the places in the country they had once lived. For Zach, it’s a pleasurable chance to visit places and people he wants to know (and still remembers as if it were yesterday), and although he enjoys the trip, he would have rather flown. For Buzz, the trip is a much more complicated endeavor that has him trying to reconcile the guilt and difficulties he’s had not just with a child with special needs but with his parenting and relationships in general. T-Shirts For Daddy, Husband T-Shirt, Coach Father TShirt, Baseball Dad
And that is where the bulk of the book lies. The road trip provides the metaphorical journey and the setting for various revelations and epiphanies, but really the heart of the book is Buzz coming to grips with his own perceived flaws: his vanity, his insecurities, and his guilt that he still can not set aside the preconceived notions of what a “son” should be as opposed to the son he actually has. When worded that way, the book sounds harsh, and Buzz is harsh on himself. There is no hiding behind his pen; every gut-wrenching, heart-breaking feeling is explored and analyzed, sometimes with devastating consequences. It’s one of the most honest, and hard-to-read memoirs I’ve ever read, yet I had trouble putting it down.