Nearly six months ago, actor and comedian Patton Oswalt took on a new role: that of a single father to his 7-year-old daughter.
His wife, Michelle McNamara, unexpectedly died in her sleep, and since that tragic day, Patton has come across a variety of heartbreaking realizations as he adjusts to this new life as a family of two.
In a raw article for GQ, Patton shared in his own words how he came to the realization that despite being half of an amazing parenting team, he and his wife weren't actually equals. "Michelle was the point person, researcher, planner, and expediter. I was the grunt, office assistant, instruction follower, and urban Sherpa," Patton wrote. "I did idiot sweeps before we left hotel rooms and ran checklists before we attended school functions and boarded planes. But Michelle put those lists together."
Now that Michelle is gone, Patton is not only coming to terms with the fact that the happy ending he pictured for his marriage is no longer an option but also the daunting reality that he is all his daughter has left. "It feels like a walk-on character is being asked to carry an epic film after the star has been wiped from the screen," Patton wrote.
Just like the unpredictable waves of grief he feels over his wife's death, Patton is hit with thoughts of self-doubt over how he can parent alone despite knowing it is his only option. "I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it. I want to tune out the world and hide under the covers and never leave my house again and send our daughter, Alice, off to live with her cousins in Chicago, because they won't screw her up the way I know I will," Patton shared. "Somebody help me! I can't. I can't. I can't." But instead of running from his new job, Patton finds strength by thinking back to a different time when he felt just as terrified: when he AND his wife first became parents together. "I felt the same terror. I longed for the same retreat. And somehow I sort of half breathed in and clumsily took steps forward and I screwed up a lot of stuff — we screwed up a lot of stuff, Michelle and I — but eventually we got the hang of it," Patton wrote. "We had it. Or our version of 'it.'"
As the days pass, Patton realizes that he will never be prepared for anything that he does for the first time, but he has hope that he'll eventually get better. "This is my first time being a single father. I've missed forms for school. I've forgotten to stock the fridge with food she likes. I've run out of socks for her. I've run out of socks for me," Patton said. "It sucked and it was a hassle every time, but the world kept turning. I said, 'Whoops, my bad,' and fixed it and kept stumbling forward."
Now, not only does he know where to buy the clothing and foods she likes, but Patton has also become a pro at scheduling play dates and activities — all of which is helping him to gain more confidence with each passing day. "If I can persuade a comedy club full of indifferent drunks to like me, I can have my daughter ready for soccer on a Saturday morning," Patton wrote.