How Stories End

Dad and Silas

I have been very lucky in life to experience less than my fair share of loss and grief. Being a rookie made the last two-and-a-half years that much more difficult. My father’s diagnosis of terminal Leukemia at the age of sixty-eight nearly melted me. I thought he and I had so much more time; that he would live to be influential on Silas and Arlo as they grew up; that he would teach them things I couldn’t say; communicate ideas with simplicity and truth in ways only the best grandfathers can.

So rattled that day in November of 2012, I slid into an obsessive state in which I could do little else but write about Dad, about my childhood, my adolescence, and his integral role in making me who I am. As he grew sicker, and the circumstance more grim, I came to understand that the authenticity, candidness, and honesty of our relationship would serve as a foundation for how we approached its corporeal end. Humor and pragmatism, mixed with armchair oncology fueled us for two years.

My book, “Rock, Meet Window: A Father-Son Story” unpacks the new perspective I gained on the past, connecting it to what was my new reality of the present. It begins with his diagnosis and ends two years later with a restrained optimism that Dad might somehow escape the fate prescribed by his doctors.

What isn’t in the book, however—the part of the narrative that was impossible to tell because of a firm publication date and my feeling of how best to cap our story—is Dad’s death on January 26th of this year.

While he was sick, and during those respites when he was not, the book I was writing became an emotional buffer for us. I would send him passages that he would sometimes read from a hospital bed, other times from the comfort of his leather sofa in the T.V room. We laughed about buying (and later smoking) medical marijuana together the month prior, cringed over his wanton use of the word semen when speaking to a nurse, and quibbled over the details of how exactly it came to pass that I was baptized three times. There was a comfort in talking about our experience of his illness, about our lives together, which might not have been possible without the emotional space that storytelling creates.

Friends asked if it was hard for me to write this book. It wasn’t. But nor was it necessarily therapeutic. In those increasingly fleeting moments when I would find myself in the swell of a creative wave, the process was more of a lucid nap—a time when I could freely, without the nagging voice of my internal critic, create a constellation of memories and meaning. Feeling both refreshed and empty, I would awaken with a sliver more clarity, unsure of exactly how I achieved it. Of course, that left much work to be done later when I had to not only listen to the critic, but also provide him a comfortable place to sit on my shoulder and fashion him a miniature megaphone he could use to amplify his tinny voice into my ringing ears.

And now that the book is done and nearing its release date, I’m left grieving without Dad, without the storytelling buffer that steered us through the dark thickets and made the times of hope feel like something more.

In the prologue of “Rock, Meet Window” I expressed my desire for Dad to read the finished product, to hold the book in his hands. And he did—a flimsy, paperback advanced copy at least. “You’ve given the greatest gift a person can give,” he said. “You’ve immortalized me.” Honestly, Dad, it was the least I could do.

Starting today, for a limited time, you can download a Kindle preview of the book on Amazon. If you enjoy it, I hope you buy it. The pre-order page on my publisher’s site is live as well. They are giving away signed copies of my previous book This is Ridiculous This is Amazing to a few lucky buyers.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

12 comments On How Stories End

  • I love these arislcet. How many words can a wordsmith smith?

  • Jason,

    You have done a great job. Your Dad was an awesome guy and so is his son.


  • I am so sorry about your dad’s passing. To have a parent who not only believes in your storytelling but encourages you to do it, shares in the process, and is so much a part of it that you end up writing a book like this because of him? What a gift. Truly. I cannot wait to read it.

  • i would like very much to buy your book when it is released. Is there any way that you could notify me when it is available!

  • Melissa Watts

    *Sobbing* I’m so sorry for your loss. Glad he got to hold a copy of it and I can’t wait to get my copy. Your writing always brings joy to our life, (never fails to bring giggles when I read your stuff aloud to my husband and we quote your lists all the time.) So while I know the grief is still fresh and words are never enough to make it better, just know that there are people out there that love your dad even though we never met him and he will live on through your words.

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