The "Friday Night Lights" bestseller describes "Father's Day," out next week, as a "love letter to my son."
Bissinger has three sons: Zach and Gerry from his first marriage and Caleb, 19, from his second marriage. He doesn’t share any biological children with his current wife, Lisa Smith (or “wife number three” as he charmingly refers to her on Twitter).
Zach’s disability can’t be tidily diagnosed but can be easily seen. “Why sugarcoat it? My son is mentally retarded. Because of three fucking minutes,” writes Bissinger. He also exhibits some aspects of autism. His body sometimes jerks with fidgety ticks and he makes involuntary noises. He has the comprehension skills of a second- or third-grader but is a savant who can tell you the day of the week of any date in history and can memorize all the maps he loves to collect. He’s a handsome, friendly guy who immediately makes you hope that he likes you and fear that he doesn’t.
The waitress drops off the dinner plates. “Looks good, Zach!” Bissinger enthuses.
Talk turns to Bill Marimow’s return. Zach loves Marimow, maybe even more than the journalists at 400 N. Broad St. who eagerly await his return. To them, the rehiring of Marimow symbolizes the paper’s commitment to tough, investigative journalism despite industry meltdown. To Zach, it means he’ll soon get to see one of his good friends at work the two days a week he delivers mail and water jugs at the Daily News, which shares a building with the Inky. The other three days, he works bagging groceries. Zach lights up when talking about life at the Daily News. He loves it, he says, because he always wanted to work there.
“Are you excited Marimow is coming back?” asks Buzz.
“Yes. Dad, you know him. You’ll see him when he comes back.”
“Yeah, he and I are good buds,” responds Buzz. “He’s a nice man.”
“He’s driving back today,” says Zach. “Today he starts driving.”
Buzz looks at his son quizzically. “How do you know all this?”
“He told me in an email.”
“I sent him an email, and he never answered me. And he answered you?”
“How often do you email him?”
Zach plays it cool. “Not much.”
“How often?” Pause. “Zach. Every day?” Pause.
Smiling, Bissinger reaches across the table, curls a finger into Zach’s hand and playfully wags it back and forth. “Zaaaaaaaaaaaach?”
“A couple! A couple times a day?”
“No, not a couple. Maybe once a week.”
“Starting in 2006, I would hear from Zach almost every single day,” clarifies Marimow in a call from a pit stop on his way back to Philadelphia. “Usually it was a cordial email that would usually pose a question. The question might be, ‘When is your anniversary?’ … It might be, ‘Today, where are you now?’ Literally, I hear from Zach every day, and I welcome it.”
PW's Summer Guide 2014