Buzz Bissinger’s twin sons were born three and a half months premature in 1983. Gerry weighed one pound and fourteen ounces, Zachary one pound and eleven ounces. They were the youngest male twins ever to survive at that time at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest. They were a medical miracle, but there are no medical miracles without eternal scars.
They entered life 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 and self-contained classrooms. He is able to work menial jobs such as stocking supplies. But 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 which can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.
One summer night, Buzz and Zach hit the road to revisit all the places they have lived together during Zach’s 24 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. He also hopes it will help him to better come to grips with the radical differences in his beloved twin boys, inverted mirrors of one another when defined by the usual barometers of what we think it means to be successful.
As father and son follow a pinball’s path from Philadelphia to LA, they see the best and worst of America and each other. Ultimately, their trip bestows a new and uplifting wisdom on Buzz, as he comes to realize that Zach’s worldview, as exotic as it is, 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 sixth sense for sincerity. It takes 3,500 miles, but Buzz learns the most valuable lesson he has ever learned.
His son Zach is not a man-child as he so often thought, but the man he admires most in his life.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Buzz Bissinger’s new book, Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son is available on Amazon.