Thursday, August 25, 2016

Two Decades Of Ross

This Post Originally Appeared On Medium August 23, 2016
Twenty years ago today, my son Ross was born. I know it’s not quite a milestone like his 18th birthday when he got to be “legal” or his 21st birthday, but this is an incredibly special day. Not for me, but for one of the most incredible, unstoppable people I’ve ever known.

This guy has been a fighter all his life. My wife and I tried for years to have him, her pregnancy was, to say the least, difficult, and Ross entered the world in truly dramatic fashion as I described to the Chicago Tribune in this column that ran on my first Father’s Day.
“All of a sudden the door flies open and it seems like a hundred people flew into the room and the attending doctor is saying, `OK, we gotta go right now, we gotta take her,’ “
Ross was delivered by vacuum extraction, and I won’t embarrass him by posting a photo of his pointy newborn head for the world (and his future bride and children) to see. But suffice it to say we almost lost him, but he came out fighting and has never stopped.
Ross didn’t grow as large or as fast as most babies, and eventually he was diagnosed with “short stature” and spent over a decade having to be injected with growth hormones every day. At first, my wife or I gave him his shots, but he eventually learned and wanted to do the injections himself, and became as skilled at it as Dr. Doug Ross, and I promise you it’s only a coincidence the he shares that name.

He also has, and will always have, Asperger Syndrome, which is now considered being an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some call it “high functioning autism”, and the main symptoms Ross presents have to do with social interaction. But he’s worked incredibly hard to overcome his affliction, and has indeed been “high functioning”, taking Honors classes, playing in the high school and college marching bands, getting great grades, and doing an amazing job working part time at a fast food chain, both through his Senior year of High School and now at another location in College. He’s not gregarious, but he gets better at interacting with people every day, and when he’s with his friends, you’d never know how being social can be challenging for him.

Ross started his Sophomore year of college yesterday, and is fascinated by history, so much so that he wants to get a doctorate in the field. He speaks fluent Latin, knows facts about every era of the past, and is a voracious reader and learner. College can be challenging for him, but he handles every part of University life with confidence and grace. Undergraduate study is hard enough, especially at the state’s “Honors University”, but his grades are fantastic and he’s committed himself to do whatever it takes to get his PhD. It’s not going to be easy, but he’s faced adversity more times than I can explain and has come out ahead in every instance. His courage, strength, and refusal to let obstacles deter him are truly remarkable.

I don’t want you to think I’m bragging on my parenting skills or some secrets I’ve learned to create an amazing son. I’m not, and I’ve seen for twenty years how Ross has overcome multiple obstacles all by himself and is becoming an exceptional adult. He’s come a long way from being that pointy head baby, and I have complete confidence that he’ll go on to do whatever he wants to, no matter how big the sacrifice or how hard the battle. He certainly hasn’t stopped, or even slowed down, yet.

Happy birthday Ross. You amaze me every day. I love you and wish I could be with you to celebrate.
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