Thursday, June 28, 2018

Celebrating Some Inspiring Fathers

My dad always says the best gifts you can give your children are roots and wings, and I think he's done a pretty great job with that over the years.

As I continue to think about the people that inspire me in my life, my dad always comes to the forefront. He's someone whose passion for life abounds in every facet of his life, and he shows kindness and generosity to everyone he meets, even if he still can't "make a long story short."

Two of the best dads I know!
Growing up in the newspaper business, I think my brother and I often begrudged the number of times we thought we were being "drug" along to certain events. But really, my dad was showing us how to be good community members. To this day, I buy raffle tickets from anyone who asks me, and we certainly do our share of eating at benefit meals. And it's not just because I don't like to cook!

I can't think of anyone who loves his community more than my dad. He's proud to be a graduate of Hillsboro High School, and still remains active in many organizations that make our community a better place to live.

And while you won't find my dad anywhere else but on the sidelines of a Hillsboro football game on Friday nights, he has always encouraged Johnny and I to find our own paths.

When I was in high school, we toured a variety of colleges, including his alma mater, Eastern Illinois University. Dad never finished college, and he joked with the admissions counselor that maybe he and I could graduate together. I was less fond of that idea.

Dad and Grace

One rainy day in February, we found ourselves on a tour of the University of Missouri in Columbia, billed as the world's oldest journalism school. I had big aspirations to be a world-famous photographer for National Geographic at the time. And as we got in the car to go home, he looked over at me, and said "Lou, if this is what you want to do, then this is where you need to be."

And that was that. I studied journalism for four years at Mizzou, even spending one semester working in London. I took a job at a small, daily newspaper in Indiana after college. I had pretty much decided that I wasn't cut out for big city life, but I also never really thought about coming back to my roots either.

One weekend, I came home to shoot a Friday night football game for my dad. After the game, we sat at home just talking. He and mom were working on a deal to put the two newspapers in Hillsboro together, and he asked if I would come home and help be part of the process. I was honored that he asked me, and that he valued my input so much, he wanted me to be part of the project.

Dad and Charley
It took me a long time to understand what my dad meant by giving us roots and wings, but I think he did a pretty good job. He's always encouraged our dreams, even if they sometimes led right back home. And I'd like to think he shared some of his passion for his community with me too.
And while my dad gave me roots and wings, there's another dad in my life, helping me do the same for Grace and Charlotte.

When it comes to dads, he's one of the best, and someone who inspires me with his passion for life too. After deciding to return home, I prayed God would put someone in my life that would be able to help me at the paper someday. I didn't know that meant marrying the sports editor, but Kyle is also someone who is very passionate about the community and Montgomery County as a whole. And he works hard every day to make it a better place.

And while that in and of itself is inspiring, it's his passion for Grace and Charley that makes me so happy.

I read in a book once that the divorce rate of parents with special needs children is higher than one in every two. That means more than half the marriages where special needs children are involved don't make it. Why? Because it's the hardest thing you will ever do. In addition to things all couples argue about, like money or who took out the trash last, you have the added pressure of raising a child with very special needs. In our case, we are taking care of a child with a terminal illness, who can't tell us any of her wants or needs and depends on us for everything. There's no reprieve when she goes to a friend's house. There's no down time while she plays by herself. Grace needs one of us for every single minute of the day. And while we wouldn't trade this journey for anything, it can be overwhelming at times.

But instead of dwelling on the hard times, we try our best to focus on the positives and live each day to the fullest. Thanks to a couple of really great sets of grandparents, we also usually make some time for a date night every now and again.

I've come to learn that the road on this journey is never easy. And I'm pretty sure that's true for everyone, even though we all face different struggles.

But my dad is right, the best gifts you can give your kids are roots and wings. Even though sometimes I feel like my wings are flapping, but I'm not getting anywhere, I know that my strong family roots are always there to lift me up. And I hope someday that Charlotte will feel like those are the best gifts she's ever been given too.


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