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Patton Oswalt Pens Touching Essay on Being a Single Dad After Wife’s Death: I ‘Kept Stumbling Forward’

For his little girl. Patton Oswalt penned a touching essay on Friday, December 2, on the trials and travails of being a single dad after his wife Michelle McNamara’s sudden death in April.

“Five months and 10 days ago, as I write this, I became a single father,” the 47-year-old actor began his piece for GQ. “I was half of an amazing parenting team, except we weren’t equals. Michelle was the point person, researcher, planner, and expediter. I was the grunt, office assistant, instruction follower, and urban Sherpa.”

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Oswalt and his late wife share one daughter, 7-year-old Alice, for whom Oswalt admitted he has been a less-than-stellar father. In April, McNamara died in her sleep, leaving Oswalt in a tailspin and unable to function. Finally, however, he found the willpower to pull himself out of his slump and try to find a new normal.

Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara
Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara arrive at the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 12, 2012, in Los Angeles.

“You will never be prepared for anything you do, ever,” he wrote. “Not the first time. Training and practice are out the window the second they meet experience. But you’ll get better. I have subjective yet ironclad knowledge of this.”

To prove just how humbling the experience has been, Oswalt listed a number of things he’s tried and failed at as a single dad.

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“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,” he wrote. “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.”

“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,” he pointed out.

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His advice to fellow single dads was simple: to keep “moving forward — clumsily, stupidly, blindly” — because “none of this is for you.”

“I’m going to keep going forward, looking stupid and clumsy and inexperienced at first, then eventually getting it, until the next jolt comes, and the next floor drops out from under me, until there are no more floors,” he wrote.

Though McNamara’s cause of death has not yet been determined, Oswalt said in an October interview with The New York Times that he suspects it may have been an overdose. “That’s what the paramedics there were saying while I was screaming and throwing up,” he said at the time.

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