Jason Rosenthal writes that he's working on his "single parenting skills" while working from home with his adult children during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Jason Rosenthal
August 17, 2020 01:17 PM
Miles, Jason and Paris Rosenthal
Jason Rosenthal

Jason Rosenthal became a figure of grief — and hope — after his wife Amy Krouse Rosenthal published a heartbreaking dating profile for him just 10 days before she died of ovarian cancer on March 13, 2017. ("He is an easy man to fall in love with," Amy, a bestselling children's book author, wrote in her New York Times essay. "I did it in one day.") Since his wife's death, Jason, 55, has taken time away from his law practice to speak publicly about navigating loss and resilience. In April, the father of three released a memoir, My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, which is both an ode to his late wife and an unflinching look at what it means to care for a loved one during her last days. Now, in an essay for PEOPLE, Jason reflects on parenting their adult children, sons Justin, 27, Miles, 25, and daughter Paris, 23, after Amy's death.

The global pandemic of 2020 has forced all of us to think deeply about what "loss" means. Consciously or not, we are all grieving something.

My family and I have some experience with the effects of loss.

My wife, the author and creative force Amy Krouse Rosenthal, died of ovarian cancer in 2017. Her last piece of writing was a “Modern Love” column for The New York Times. It was called “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” a creative play on a personal ad for me written during her terminal illness. Yes, that essay. You probably read it.

Despite my all too familiar connection to loss, I feel very fortunate, even in the face of this global pandemic. It is through that lens that I am practicing gratitude for what I have during this crisis. At the top of that list are my three adult children.

All of us are isolating from people we love. I am hyper aware that many around the world are experiencing family members and close friends suffering through very serious illness, and many precious lives have been lost. I can relate. Grief comes naturally from these losses.

Jason Rosenthal and Amy Krouse Rosenthal
courtesy Jason Rosenthal
Jason Rosenthal
Brooke Hummer

I am working on my single parenting skills in this pandemic in a way I never expected. While I have been living alone for the past year in the Chicago house where Amy and I raised our children, two of them returned from Manhattan to quarantine with me. We are all working from this home full of memories and love. The same place where their mom died in home hospice.

We are enjoying the experience in surprising and unexpected ways. We process the events happening in cities all over this country with passion and maturity. As we spend literally every waking moment together, I have an even deeper appreciation for the young adults they have become, and I respect them immensely as representatives of the future.

I miss my eldest son considerably in this setting. One morning, when I was about to take my immunity-boosting daily regimen of vitamin D, vitamin C, ashwagandha and apple cider gummies, he called. Justin welcomed a quarantine dog, Bruce. My first granddog! I was excited to have this new family member and thrilled my son, living alone in Los Angeles, had a constant companion.

On a typical day in this new normal of isolation, we start off with caffeine. We are reminded of Amy’s knack for enjoying the same cup of coffee most of the day. Her habit was to heat it up in the microwave multiple times — one cup of joe lasted hours. We can laugh about that together now. The days are peppered with good music. "You play something now," my daughter says from the work space next to me. How she knows the lyrics to literally every song she listens to is beyond my comprehension. Most days include a Zoom yoga class or other type of workout.

Harper Collins
Amy and Jason
courtesy Jason Rosenthal

It is nice to see that the values we instilled, from a document Amy and I created when we were first married called “Amy & Jason’s Marriage Goals & Ideas” which included “#11 – Keep the cupboards and fridge stocked with good, healthy food,” had a lasting impact on the kids. I have been reenergized to cook nice meals for the three of us.

We play games. We enjoy classic films. We dance. Ping pong balls can be heard frequently in our basement. The sheer enthusiasm and energy emanating from the walls of this house as we play together brings light to these otherwise uncertain days. It also is reminiscent of many happy moments full of laughter, tiny footsteps and general chaos that was family life here. Speaking of dancing, we even did a TikTok dance, clearly something I would not have done by myself, let alone even known what the heck it was.

Jason Rosenthal

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I am acutely cognizant of the fact that many people are physically alone right now. I check in on my mom every day, and that too has been a nice connection. She reminds me of how heartening it is to have these incredible kids with me, and that I have some physical contact — a kiss on the cheek or, if I am lucky, a shoulder massage.

We will get through this period of social distancing, separated from the ones we love. In the meantime, it seems to me that focusing on what we are grateful for will go a long way toward having the fortitude to get through this crisis. For me, the core of my gratification comes from the young adults that share my gene pool.

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