About the Time I Wanted to Smother My Father to Death

I thought about putting a pillow over my dad until he was smothered dead. He was just lying there looking at the ceiling and the doctors said his brain was basically over. I could barely even hear him breathe and he couldn’t move at all except blink. Who would care if I smothered him? It would take me about two minutes.

Instead, I chickened out. I felt obligated to stay there for an hour so I could say I put in my time with him. I watched the stock market on the TV in the room. I was short the market and the market was going straight up. So my dead-but-alive father was right there and I was losing money. What a horrible day. I left the home he was imprisoned in.

(gratuituous sexy pillow smothering image)

Then on the way home I was lost in that clusterfuck intersection between the GW Bridge, NYC, and NJ, and upstate NY. It’s like a galactic wormhole over there. And at one point I saw a police blockade so I panicked. My driver’s license was suspended. So I made a right turn. The next thing I knew, three policemen were chasing after me. “hey,” Hey!” “HEY!” “STOP!” So I stopped.

“You’re going the wrong way down a one way street,” the cop who caught up with me said. He was out of breath. “Let me see license and papers.”

I opened up the glove compartment and took out the papers. “Are you Anne?” the cop asked.

“Uhh, that’s my wife’s name.”

“So this is not your car?”

“Well, it sort of is.”

“Ok,” he said, “where’s your license.”

“I left it at home.”

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” he said.

“I usually have it,” i said. I lied. My license had been suspended a year earlier. “But my dad just had a stroke and I was visiting him. Im really sorry.”

“you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” he said again, “you have no license, this is not your car, and you were driving the wrong way down a one way street.”

In the background the lights from at least four police cars were flashing. Who knows what their blockade was about. Maybe they were hiding Osama Bin Laden in one of the suburban houses right behind the blockade

“Youve gotta be fucking kidding me,” the cop said for the third time.

I didn’t know what to say. I was really scared. My car was going to get impounded and I was going to go to jail. I remember thinking that would’ve been my last chance to kill my dad and I blew it because now I’d be in jail.

“Get out of here,” the cop said and he handed me back the car papers. “You would be too much paperwork for me.” And he started to walk off, back towards the blockade where, presumably, they were catching criminals.

I turned around and started to drive past him.

“Umm, excuse me?”

“What can you possibly want now?”

“How do I get out here? I want to get to NY.”

“Go up that road and get the fuck out of here.”

I went up the road. Made a left. Made a right. And I was lost again. Nice suburban houses. Lots of trees. I’m sure people in these houses had stable jobs and weren’t running out of money like I was at the time.

Then they peeled out onto a highway with some stores. I stopped at a McDonalds. I was really hungry and I had McDonalds. I haven’t eaten at McDonalds since in years. I had two hamburgers, lots of pickles on them.

That night I got home and my kids were watching TV. They didn’t notice that I had come in. They didn’t care. Eventually I would no longer live with my kids. My wife was upstairs somewhere. Eventually she would be my ex-wife. I sat down in my ex-kitchen and had some ex-wine. My house was one foot from my neighbor’s house. I could hear them go to the bathroom. Then flush. My ex-neighbors.

My kids at the time were 6 and 3. “I hope to god one of you kids will have the courage to kill me when the time comes,” I told them.

One of them, the three year old, looked at me but then looked back at the TV. I hope in the back of their minds, somewhere, they were tuned in to me. I hope when the time comes they smother me with a pillow until I turn purple and not a single breath will ever escape me again.

They’re older now. And I can see they  are trying to understand life around them. They keep secrets.

And I’m married to Claudia now. And I still don’t have a driver’s license but at least my dad is dead.

When I was four years old I remember when we were moving houses. My dad took me around the neighborhood so I could say goodbye to the kids who had been my friends for 80% of my life at that time. I didn’t even understand what “good-bye” meant. We said goodbye to Adam and Jonathan. I remember their names. It was a hot day and I was in a t-shirt. I kept saying goodbye over and over again.

Finally my dad laughed and said, “ok, we have to go now.”

And my dad and I went into the car with my mom and we drove to our new house. And we never went back again.

  • Billstenzel

    Well if you’re ever in Los Angeles and you need a ride someone, give me a call, or get your damn drivers license.  You’d make your dad proud.  Good book btw, bought it for myself durning Christmas since no one else would.

    • shit4brains

      Ditto – if you’re in London,call & I’ll drive you.

  • Adam

    Wow – that was jarring. But great.

  • Many thanks for such a write-up. I undoubtedly cherished reading it and talk about this it to my friends.

  • Jeff

    Wow James, sounds like the worst day ever.    Thank God that cop gave you a break.  I once had a cop cut me loose loose after nailing me dead-to-rights on a DWI. 

    Believe it or not, while reading your story, I was having flashbacks to a similar time in my life.  It was about this time 5 years ago, I was sitting in a chair in a hospital watching my oldest brother gasping some of his last breathes of air.  Lung cancer had destroyed everything in his body but the will to live. 

    At midnight, I left to a home that was already empty.  I knew in a few hours I would have to get up and go to work at one of those shitty temp jobs where they regard me as nothing more than ‘cheap labor’ even though I knew inside of me I had far more potential then they would ever allow me to express.   

    In addition, my love life had been reduced to nothing more than an unrequited infatuation.  It occurred to me at that point I was suffering a perfect trifecta of misery. 

    Overall, my life has improved since then, but I still feel the psychic scars of having endured this tough period in my life. 

    Thank you James for this blog and your books. 

    • Psychic scars are only psychic scars if you think of them as psychic scars.

      Muscles develop in the exact same way.  It might also be the building of psychic strength. 

  • Bill

    … at least me dad is dead. LOL.
    Thank you James for sharing. You blog is comforting and informative

  • LG

    Great… just had to make my mascara run, didn’t you? This is really a hot-button for me (losing loved ones) because I’m so afraid of it. I don’t think I’ll be able to go on when I lose my mother.

    This actually reminds me of a brilliant professor out of New Zealand or South Africa. He says that it’s actually selfish to have children and that we shouldn’t procreate because everyone is bound to experience pain. I found him a few years ago when I was typing search phrases like, “suicide is logical.”

    People can say all they want that “things happen for a reason” or that “the point of life is to do good on this planet,” but I honestly think there is just no point to any of this. I’m not saying this from an emotional standpoint, rather from a logical one… maybe I’m being too logical.

    I’ll try to find that professor and post his writings. They’re so interesting.

    • Embe

      …you’re being too logical. It can be seductive to think that way but reasons can be very complicated and very non-logical. There’s an interesting British website where a number of the writers call this increasingly popular outlook  ‘neo-Malthusianism’ or (my favourite) ‘miserabilism’. The site is called ‘Spiked:humanity is underrated’ and is at  http://www.spiked-online.com/ – excellent, critical, non-sucky writing.

      • LG

        Thanks! Will check it out. Also, thanks for not attacking my point of view– your response was very matter-of-fact, and I appreciate that.

    • Searx

      there’s not much point to this existance when one considers that we are subject to the same universal will to procreate as the most primitive forms of life.

      in order for this existance to be bearable one needs to be truly spiritual & believe in god.

      that excludes me. and probably 90% of humanity.

      i know, most people claim to be believers. but in their darkest moments they have grave doubts from which they suffer torment.

      a true atheist almost welcomes the end of this nonsense/bs/drivel we are faced with daily.

  • Opendev

    What if you did actually have the “strength” to smother your father at the time? Would you feel better or worse about yourself now? Having watched my own father, grandfather and grandmother die in front of my eyes, I understand the urge to want to “help” them end it all quickly, but I’m not convinced that is the right approach. People who want to arrange Kevorkian style to minimize suffering need to plan in advance, and not in the last few weeks or days expect that their loved ones will have the “strength” to end their suffering. That’s a pretty heavy expectation without a lot of advanced planning and discussion.

  • LG

    Found it. David Benatar, and he’s in South Africa. Very interesting stuff. If you can read it without being emotional, you will find total logic in what he says.

    Just want to stress that he acknowledges that suicide comes with consequences, so he doesn’t necessarily think it’s a good thing. The reason is that suicide will cause pain to loved ones, so there’s a delicate balance (a sort of timing) one must strive to achieve.

    Life is illogical. Suicide is selfish. If you can find happiness in life, you are one of the lucky ones.

  • This article somehow made me think ‘Actually, a McDonalds sounds like a good idea’ so guess where I am right now?

    Also, this was hilarious: ‘I remember thinking that would’ve been my last chance to kill my dad and I blew it because now I’d be in jail.’

    Probably unintentional though.

    • LG

      I agree. Very “Larry David” of him. He’s got a great perspective– so real and down-to-Earth.

    • Haha, it had the same effect on me. I immediately thought hmmm, I haven’t been to McDonalds in ages, maybe I’ll grab a burger after the gym. Clearly a hypnotist would be put me under in five seconds…:-)

  • Andrew_Ferri

    Deep bro.  That is all. 

  • I avoid saying the word(s)”good-bye”, because it is just too sad of a thought for me to handle.

  • Anonymous

    I held my dad’s hand while he died last fall. Very interesting experience. Awkward as hell. Nothing you do seems to be the right thing. He lasted 8 days without food or water (he had signed his advance directive years before and that’s how he wanted it) at 74 years of age. Tough old bird.

    • Same here, only it was a few years ago.  I kept telling him over and over again,” it’s okay to go, we love you.”

      They messed up on the end of life care and it was an awful and difficult struggle for him at the end. :(

  • James this is the first post of yours that I want to cry but I’m at work (ex-work) and I can’t. 

  • Daniel

    James – I went to your Chinese man on E65th last night. I can’t wait to start feeling better.

  • All your posts are good, some are great, but this one has a real bit of brilliance in it.

  • Anna

    This was great. I loved  “I sat down in my ex-kitchen and had some ex-wine.”

  • MarktMovr

    Bleed, baby, bleed.

  • Hello, hello, you say goodbye, I say hello.

    You make me want to listen to Beatles now.

    Sometime it seems like all that I can remember about my life are the goodbyes. All the goodbyes I’ve said. All the goodbyes I never had a chance to say. The goodbyes I hate. And the goodbyes that will stays with me for the rest of my life.

    Life is full of goodbyes.

  • Altucher, you are one unpredictable cookie, I thought you’ll be blogging about yoga and India.

    Death has the ability to keep us healthy. I think about the day when I’m on my death bed, very helpful especially when dealing with crap, it puts everything in perspective and brings me happiness. 


  • great job! believe me, that is a good post

  • Hello James,
    I am happy you didn’t kill your father. It wasn’t because of a lack of courage that you couldn’t do it; it was because it is a repugnant and inhuman act to kill another man and that day, even   if everything seemed to fall apart, you were actually able to find in yourself, (even unconsciously), that core of humanity that prevented you from doing it.
    That’s probably the reason why I like to read your posts: it’s because sometimes I find in them that kernel of humanity that relates to my personal experience;and to the universal experience of the other human beings. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. (If someone, only human in semblance, doesn’t smother me in my sleep).

    • Guest

      Truly spoken like someone who’s never seen a slow, painful, horrific, creeping death happen to someone they love. For your sake, (and their’s), I really hope you never do.

      • Let’s not make it personal, (you don’t know what I’ve witnessed). I am just saying: yes,death is ugly and repulsive; and the compassionate human act consists in accompanying the sick to the event: death; and not putting him or her down, or letting anyone die like an animal.
        I wish you to find yourself always among compassionate people.
        By the way, a little help from human to human: it’s spelled: theirs. (It’s a pronoun).

  • Patrickm


    Great Article

    I HAVE A GRAND IDEA & NOW I NEED 100 MILLION!!! Get in-touch if you want first dibs on this! I will even send you to the website.


  • Great Post James.

    – Lee


  • Great Post James.

    – Lee


  • C0zmikn0mad


      How do you get by without a driver’s license?  I recently had mine suspended and I have no means to get it re-instated so I may not have a license for a very long time.  Any advice for living without a license?

  • Travisbfields

    “I sat down in my ex-kitchen and had some ex-wine.”

    Good line.

  • guest

    you strike deep.
    some years ago I was watching my grandfather wasting away from alzheimer’s.  all that he was evaporating day by day.  One day in a moment of rare clarity, when I called on him he replied “I was here once, but all gone now”.  Such moments became more rare, we could not longer keep him at the house, than there were nursing homes, hospitals, complications. My aunt, his step-daughter, admitted later that she wanted me to sign a DNR but could not bring herself to tell me so, I would never do this anyway.  I knew very clearly that the man, the mind, was long gone, but I could not let go.  My mom seemed lost too, seemed she was looking to me to make decisions, I was not ready for the responsibility.  or just stubbornly not willing to give up.  And the only person I thought I’d turn for advice was no longer there – just a shell.  dark timesmet a girl around that same time, as it turned out: the girl.  She started coming with me to visit him at the home.  In the months before he often would not recognize me.  now he did, and he remembered her from visit to visit.  This was short lived and he was gone at the age of 89 just a few months after the girl and I got married.  we could not even have him at the wedding his condition was so bad.I sharply felt something ended that year: the childhood.but something else started, and I pray to god that I don’t believe in that I make the right choices in this part of life.

    • Sschaloc

      Altzheimer’s sucks – especially for the family. 
      Usually for “the patient”, they are in an earlier, happy place. Usually.Parkinson’s is worse. Far worse. The mind is there, the body is frozen. Death sucks. We are all going to make that trip (dammit, I was going to be 18 forever!).I’m trying to be some sort of comfort, probably not succeeding.”the girl”… he knew.He knew, and gave his blessing.He still lives in you (y’all).  That’s all that lives of him.Make him some babies – raise ’em right.May you (and I) live to bless YOUR great-grandkids.Wishing you the best, and peace.

      • guest


  • Searx

    ‘My kids at the time were 6 and 3. “I hope to god one of you kids will have the courage to kill me when the time comes,” I told them.’
    no doubt about it, James, you are 1 of a kind.

    but, realistically, there comes a time when that would be the best outcome for all of us.

  • Searx

    a comment on death from K. Amis i find comforting:

    death has this much to be said for it
    you don’t have to get out of bed for it
    wherever you happen to be
    they bring it to you free

  • Travis

    Went and saw my grandma today for probably the last time and tried to get her to remember me and the Mardi Gras parades she used to take us all to as kids. Got nothing back but a firm hand grip. I am glad I didnt read this till just now bc the thought of smothering her would have definitely come to my head otherwise.

  • rollingdancefloor


  • Gonzalo Gandia

    That was the “Seinfold Show” of blog posts: it didn’t try to say anything, really, but somehow it made an impact on me nonetheless. I was caught off guard today…well done! 

  • that is really great post! thanks!

  • Dyish

    Once while driving home from a long vacation road trip with my two kids going crazy in the back of the car, my wife had one of those moments that left all of us silent after she stopped screaming for the arguing to stop in the back seat.

    I simply looked at her and said “Someday when we die, those two people will argue over our stuff!”

    Thanks for bringing back that memory….I think.

  • cowboylogic

    Now I understand why most of the world doesn’t understand America.

  • b3ksmith@yahoo.com

    Great post.Thanks for bleeding.

    It is gratifying to know that someone else has dark thoughts while watching a loved one die a slow lingering death 

    The western taboo that refuses to address death and dying is very sad and debilitating.
    When death comes for us or our people we are not prepared. We deny death, refusing to acknowledge our limited mortality thinking that we can avoid the inevitable.

    Science has succeeded in prolonging the dying process, sometimes to our detriment.

  • Hows India James? Seems you haven’t updated your blog in a few days. 

    Check these Awesome movies all Entrepreneurs must watch:


  • I don’t think I could do it. I think my natural reaction would be quite the opposit. I think I would be clinging to whatever life was left.

    My relationship with my father is complex, but I love him. When I see him now, older each time, it’s hard. I can see the years adding up and I know I will eventually lose him. I can see it in his face, more and more every time I visit.

    I don’t feel the same way with my mom. She doesn’t seem to change as much between visits. But my dad, I can see the toll life is taking on him. And it makes me ache.

  • Anonymous

    And this is how you write about tough subject matter. Superb.

  • Tobias Lehtonen

    I call shenanigans. The part about the cops is more than a bit unbelievable.