Beyond the fact that it's Father's Day, today will be a special timie for Jamie Tricoglou.
He will celebrate his son Kaiden's third birthday, and they might be playing a little baseball or racing to the kitchen to blow out candles on the cake except that Kaiden can't yet walk, much less run.
The celebration will be anything but a pity party, though. Keep your tears and your sympathy to yourself, thank you. No "woe is me" in this house.
"I don't want people feeling sorry for him or me," Tricoglou said this past week. "Kaiden's an amazing kid and he's an inspiration. I look at him knowing what he's been through and what he's enduring and I think, 'How does he smile?' I'm so happy to be his father. This child has brought so much joy into my life."
This child also has brought patience into it and curbed his dad's once legendary temper.
While he admits being scared when told his son had been born with cerebral palsy and he recalls initial self-recriminations, Tricoglou now views cerebral palsy as a challenge, a series of hurdles to leap and an opportunity to teach Kaiden perseverance and other life and social skills.
"At first it was panic mode," said Soddy-Daisy High School's pitching coach, a former professional pitcher. "I didn't know what to do and what I was going to do and how if he was going to live. But he's had shunt surgeries and infections and beat every one of them. I look at him and think, 'Gosh, dude, you're tougher than I ever thought about being.'"
Said Jared Hensley, Soddy-Daisy's head coach and a lifelong friend: "Trig is like most any real parent across America. He loves his kid more than anything in the world. He's constantly working to improve Kaiden's mobility and life situation, and I'd like to hope I'd be as dedicated as he is if I was in the same situation.
"People that don't know Trig see that tough outer shell and maybe they realize he's hard in order to get the best out of his players, but he's as tender-hearted and as kind and caring as they come."
Trig and wife Amanda have had help from a number of people -- especially his parents and employer Damian DeMatteo -- and he calls them a godsend. But he also sees opportunity in the challenges facing special-needs children and their parents.
Kaiden was born 11 weeks premature. He weighed slightly more than two pounds and spent the early part of his life in neonatal ICU. He already has endured 11 surgeries and will be having more.
"He's smiled through it all," said Tricoglou, who adds that his own elbow and shoulder surgeries from his pro baseball career and the subsequent physical therapy sessions were nothing when compared to Kaiden's trials.
But those trials will earn the youngster no slack from his dad, who on his nicest days working with the Trojans pitchers has been described as a grueling, grinding taskmaster.
"I wish I was as tough as him, and I'm trying. Everything he wants he's going to have to earn," Tricoglou said. "I'm not going to give him anything. I guess it's tough love but you're handicapping a kid even more by giving him everything and him not working to earn something. I want him to understand it, and I want him to look at me and realize it when he's earned something.
"Aw, I love on him and it's tough sometimes when I see him get frustrated. Should I give him a little pat? I'm never going to do it. I'm never going to give him the easy way out."
It's that way, though, with all children from 3 to 18 and beyond whom Tricoglou mentors.
"You give them the opportunity to succeed and maybe the demands you make are sometimes tough love, but it's the only way you're going to get them to come through," he said.
Short-term goals for his son include stretching his right arm with the goal of one day being able to shake someone's hand.
"I want to see him walk 50 or 100 yards unassisted," Tricoglou said. "I would love for him to live the life I've had and have a good quality of life on his own when I'm gone.
"I don't want him ever to sit back and allow someone to do everything for him, and I hope if he falls he won't wait for somebody to help him up."
He wants no more for Kaiden than all fathers want for their children.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
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