University of Baylor, Texas.
Thursday, March 23, 2006.
By JUSTIN JAKSHA, columnist.
"For those of you who are wondering: Yes, I am blind.
And, no, my favorite color isn't black."
The audience laughs as they quickly warm up to the tall man in his mid-50s wearing an ordinary plaid shirt and jeans.
But there's nothing ordinary about him.
This is my father, John Jaksha. He's blind, which typically evokes certain images of walking canes and Braille in the minds of those he hasn't yet met.
Stop. Whatever you're thinking of, it's probably a bit off. Way off, most likely. And that's just how my dad likes it -- anything but ordinary.
His life's track has been far off the beaten path since the beginning.
Born four months premature with shaky chances for survival, it was a miracle he ever left the hospital. His eyes never fully developed, and my dad lost his sight when he was about my age after a series of eye diseases and mistreatments.
That should have been his cue to get bitter and endure life as a recluse.
Heck, I wouldn't have blamed him (except for the fact I wouldn't exist).
Instead, he took the road less traveled.
Always a delight, he brought his personality to the airwaves, working as a DJ for several local radio stations. A few years out of college, he soon faced another challenge.
A blind guy parenting kids? Rough, right?
Sure. But show me any parent who says the job's easy.
When the time to start planning baby showers came around, my father fought off insecurity.
As stereotypical American images of baseball games and camping flashed through his mind, he secretly hoped for girls.
He got two boys.
But ask my brother and me, and we'll tell you we never felt cheated.
We're beyond grateful. In fact, we've camped and thrown a few baseballs, too.
You see, my "disabled" father does things many "abled" dads don't.
He mows the lawn, installs ceiling fans, puts up Christmas lights and continues to work as a radio commercial producer in a studio he and a friend built into our garage.
He sounds like an infomercial, right? But, unlike that personal alarm system and underwater shark detector you bought, my dad almost is "too good to be true."
After all but one of the kids left the nest, my dad didn't waste any time taking on another impossible task.
He's taking another bold leap into the unforgiving world of stand-up comedy, a dream he's had since his college radio days.
I try to remind myself of the incredible paradox my father lives in. In the wake of his tumultuous and unique experience, my dad savors the bright side of life.
This is a man who has never seen the face of his wife and kids. This is a man who sees more in his dreams than when he's awake.
And I've never once heard my father complain. Not once.
My father never let blindness stand in the way of his vision.
That's why he's one of my heroes.
And I have company.
Moving on to college helped me appreciate him more as our relationship developed into friendship and away from dependency. It's funny how tables turn.
Just a few years back, he was encouraging and evaluating me as some friends tried to gel our musical talents into a rock band.
Years ahead of my deflated rock dreams and starting a family of my own, I find myself giving him the same input he gave me before he takes the stage.
"You just gotta go for it, dad," I say. "Don't let fear hold you back."
"Unless it's fear of the dark," he replies, grinning. "That could be a real debilitator."
Justin Jaksha is a senior communications specialist major from Houston.
End of article.
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