Jack has his share of challenges. His life began by being born with Down syndrome, to a 14-year-old mother who knew that she wasn't ready to care for a child with his extensive needs. He joined our family at the age of one month, and ever since then he has been teaching us how to live.
My son barely survived open-heart surgery at the age of six months, but he pulled through. It takes him longer to learn than it does others, so he just works at things for as long as it takes. Jack is almost 19 now, and it bothers him that his brothers and friends move on to things and a future that he struggles to imagine for himself. I don't know if Jack will ever get married and neither does he. But while nature deprived him of intellectual prowess, it did not withhold that intrinsic desire to share his life with someone who means more to him than anyone else. Still, I know Jack and I know that he will work towards his dream and never give up.
Football has become an obsession for my son, thanks to the father-in-law of his older brother, who taught him how much feeling could be tied up in a game. Jack wears his emotions on his shirt sleeve, so football games which are best experienced by jumping up and down while screaming in jubilation or despair were right up his alley.
I have a younger brother who has been a Denver Broncos fan since his earliest football memories. Several weeks ago, when the Broncos clenched the right to play in the year's biggest football game, my brother gave Jack a Denver football jersey and a baseball cap, effectively transforming him into a raging Denver Broncos fan.
Last Sunday, right from the beginning, Jack got into the frustration of what Denver coach John Fox described as "running into a buzz saw." He didn't let it get him down too much, though. You see, Jack knows that you can always keep trying. He kept cheering while he watched his team run headlong into that saw, always believing that they could pull it off. That's kind of the story of his life. Just because you run into a buzz saw doesn't mean you quit! You would have thought Denver won the game had you been watching Jack when his team finally scored. And then when they ran for and extra-extra point, it was pure triumph.
Perhaps what was least fair was that Jack thought his team had a chance at winning right up until the final second ticked off the clock. He was devastated as a voice enthusiastically announced that the Sea Hawks had won Super Bowl XLVIII.
Jack sobbed the tears that Peyton Manning would have like to for several minutes before his mother told him to come and give her a hug. After a while, he calmed down. He took off his jersey and reverently folded it while sitting on the couch in a forlorn, gray t-shirt. Then he kissed the white numbers on the orange jersey and said, "Try again next year."
That's what I love most about my son. He always tries harder. He always sticks with it longer; and Jack never, ever gives up. So if you're having a rough time in your life, take a page from Jack's book: Have a good cry. Get a hug from someone you love. Then get up and try again.