Bob Odenkirk says he thinks about his 2021 heart attack every day

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life’s parenting series on the joys and challenges of child-rearing.

If you know Bob Odenkirk best for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of the slick, scheming and exasperatingly charming Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, it might be a big disconnect to consider him as a family man. In real life, the actor is a doting dad of two who can recall with impressive detail his son’s childhood sleep habits (Nate is now 24) and counts himself lucky that his entertainment career allowed him the flexibility to be a hands-on parent.

“I was actually home a lot because I was writing and developing and directing movies when they were little,” Odenkirk tells Yahoo Life. “I was able to go to school a lot, take them to school every morning. I was very available.”

Daughter Erin, the younger of his two kids with producer Naomi Yomtov, describes him as a “very present” father.

“He was my soccer coach for a few years,” she shares. “He would take us to every dentist and doctor appointment and friends’ houses and pick us up from school.” Her childhood was “totally normal.”

“Every once in a while someone would say something to him about Mr. Show [With Bob and David] or [comedy collaborators] Tim & Eric,” Erin says. “I hadn’t watched those things, but I knew what they were and I knew they were from lifetimes ago.” She was around 12 or 13 when “it started to become more of a thing.” Erin and her friends weren’t watching Breaking Bad, but older kids were. To mark the show’s final episode, “the senior boys went up and shaved their heads in honor of Walter White” during a school meeting. “And I was like, What is going on? What is this?

“And since then it’s only been kind of crazier,” she says. “Kind of anywhere you go in the world, people are recognizing my father and it’s weird. But it’s fine. I still got to have him as a quiet life and a quiet parent until I was 12 or 13. And then even after that, we made a lot of effort and a lot of time to be at home all together and live a very, like, normal life.”

Bob and Erin Odenkirk. (Drew Gurian/Invision/AP)

Bob and Erin Odenkirk. (Drew Gurian/Invision/AP) (Drew Gurian/Invision/AP)

Her dad, she adds, liked to introduce his kids to art in all its forms, whether that meant putting on a favorite movie or listening to the Strokes and the Replacements during carpool. But it wasn’t just about enjoying other people’s art; Odenkirk wanted his kids to know that they too could create art. So he started writing poems with them.

Taking inspiration from everything from wads of chewing gum and dog poop to goals, he and the kids wrote about two poems a week. “We were just little kids, but it was kind of a faux writer’s room,” Erin says.

Odenkirk figured the poems would be something he’d revisit at some point. The pandemic — during which the family hunkered down together — turned out to be the catalyst. With the world on pause, he had the time to rework some of the original poems and hand them off to Erin, an artist who has since graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York City, to illustrate in a suitably whimsical style. It was “really a thrill to see how good she was in that area,” the proud dad says.

The result of their efforts is the new children’s book Zilot & Other Important Rhymes, which will be published Oct. 10. (“Zilot,” incidentally is a word his son coined to describe a fort.) What didn’t make the cut from the original Odenkirk family book? Anything too pedantic. “A certain number of poems that were too much of a lesson got killed,” Odenkirk says.

Erin Odenkirk illustrated Zilot & Other Important Rhymes. (Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company)

Erin Odenkirk illustrated Zilot & Other Important Rhymes. (Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company) (Little, Brown and Company)

While she’s focusing on solo art projects for the time being — “just to feel like I’m an established person by myself, and an established artist by myself and capable by myself” — Erin calls working with her father “an honor.” Odenkirk has also recently collaborated with son Nate, a comedy writer with whom he’s just written a piece for the New Yorker. But the Lucky Hank star has a different attitude about work these days, largely in part due to his 2021 heart attack.

“It’s something I think about every day,” he says of the health scare. “Weirdly, it didn’t affect me much for a long time.” The heart attack, he says, impacted his memory for a while. “I had a strange kind of upbeat energy literally the next day, and every day. It was because I had, like, a mind wipe every night,” he laughs. “And so my ability to even think about what had happened to me [was compromised] — I needed to hear about it from people who’d been there, and I needed my brain to get back on a normal state.”

He also had a lot of projects to finish up. As with the pandemic, the strikes in Hollywood gave him some time to reflect.

“Now that I’ve been able to make some space in my life — partly because of the writer’s strike and the SAG strike — I’ve had time to contemplate what happened and, and it makes me think, How do I enjoy the days that I have?” he shares. “And part of that is you need space. You can’t just rush from thing to thing. I know one of the poems in here is called ‘Lollygagging,’ and that’s certainly is something I’ve thought a lot about, is the ability to daydream or just take things in and reflect upon what happened to you.”

These days he’s concerned about “going back to work too hard” once both strikes have ended. “I don’t think I’ll ever do it,” he adds. “I’ll never agree to working as much as I did for so many years. I’ll never do it. If I see that coming down the pike, I’ll avoid it. If you’re not able to collect memories because you’re just hustling exhaustedly from one project to the next, then you’re not really able to enjoy the work you’re doing and it’s not worth it. You don’t get to live forever. It’s gonna end. And in order for it to feel like something, you have to have the time to take it in.”

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