Editor’s Note: As part of our continuing series on special fathers, we are pleased to present this story. It was written by Kristin Campiglia, the Director of Admissions of Mother Seton High School in Clark and Group Leader with Touchstone Crystal. Kristin holds a Journalism degree from Rutgers University. She relies on her strong faith to get her through family challenges. And, she’s learned to appreciate moments.
Some dads are pretty amazing. But, one in particular continues to inspire me with his strength, courage and love. Not just words. The real thing. And, I’m pretty lucky. He just happens to be my soulmate.
Anthony and I met in college in 1993. I can remember the moment when our eyes locked together. I guess there is such a thing as love at first sight.
We had the same Journalism major, but had no classes together. We spent all of our time together. My friends became his friends and his friends became my friends. We became the definition of Best Friends.
We are still Best Friends.
From Love to Marriage to Baby Carriage
Anthony wrestled with pursuing his on-air news personality. Ultimately, he decided to pursue a news career on the other side of the camera. And took a job as a producer in New York City.
We were thrilled when we bought our first home in Clark, NJ. In 2001, we welcomed our first not so little bundle of joy. We were both elated upon the arrival of our 9 pound, one ounce baby girl. It was the beginning of a family dream. Our sweet Hanna.
As a news producer, Anthony spent many hours away from us. The good news was that I had the chance to stay home with our beautiful daughter. Despite his harried schedule, Anthony immediately became a doting father.
We had some financial struggles back then. We made some good decisions and bad decisions, but stayed together through it all. We could not have asked for a better life together.
Anthony wanted more time with the family. In April of 2006, he made a career change. He left the news producer roles in New York and became of television production teacher for a central New Jersey high school.
This changed our family dynamic in the most amazing way – ANTHONY WAS HOME AT 3:30 every day. He became the coach of the kid’s softball team, baseball team, and football team. He could attend events at the school.
Anthony was a truly present father. It has been the most amazing blessing.
Life Throws the Proverbial Curve Ball
It would be nice if the story finished here. With maybe some nice family anecdotes. But life is not predictable.
We’re going to skip past a few years to April of 2012. Anthony woke up to a day off on his spring break. I wish I could remember it as a normal day. It wasn’t.
When Anthony walked outside, his eyes squinted unusually. It’s hard to describe even. I’d never seen it before. He remarked on the sunshine.
As the day progressed, my sweet husband complained of double vision. He said his eyes were not lining up properly as he looked around the room. GOOGLY-MOOGLY eyes. That’s the best way to describe it. Anthony’s balance was off and it was difficult for him to get around.
Something was wrong. Very wrong.
We visited the family doctor that day. Followed by a slew of other doctors over the next few weeks. Ultimately, Anthony had an MRI of the brain. We were beyond anxious awaiting for results.
We took a day off, pulled the kids out of school and went to the beach. It was a warm spring day in May. The kids played with their buckets of sand and Anthony’s vision was thankfully almost 100% restored. Maybe everything would be alright.
Anthony’s cell phone rang and we easily recognized the doctor’s office phone number. The words seemed to echo from the phone. “Your MRI shows lesions consistent with multiple sclerosis, I recommend you see a neurologist who is a specialist in MS.”
Then there was silence. A long silent pause that felt like all the air was pulled out of us.
We let the sun shine on us as we sat silent staring at the ocean, afraid to make eye contact.
Quiet decision to pack up our beach gear and head back to the car. What now?
Did Life Change for this Father and His Children?
Multiple Sclerosis is not a death sentence. But, it is a life sentence. Daily battles. Medication. Added diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia, with a really scary nickname that puts me in tears.
In the midst of all of this, my husband has only shown strength. He still coaches. He still teaches religious education at our parish, He still works every day. He still lives. He’s still a doting father.
What he has taught our children over the past four years is where this story really takes shape. He has taught my now 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son that nothing can stop you. He continues to teach them how to overcome obstacles and that life isn’t always easy.
He has taught our children compassion for others by actively involving our family in Multiple Sclerosis awareness and fundraising.
He has taught them honesty, being honest about their capabilities and how their feelings, whether it is a good day or a bad day.
He has taught them healthy living — which was not our forte before his diagnosis — but now they know the benefits of allowing healthy foods into your body and the direct correlation to how it can make you feel.
He has taught them love – in a way that is so hard to put into words. While he definitely tries to shield them from his pain and from his fears, he allows the children to know that his love for them helps him overcome each MS hurdle.
We have a tradition in our home which we share at the dinner table on the nights we all get to eat together at the same time (which seem to be few and far between). We go around the table and say one thing that made us each smile today. Often times my smile is from the ability to just sit together in that moment. On a daily basis Anthony makes me smile, because he smiles through the pain and has learned to live in the moment now more than ever.
We don’t know where the future will take us. I can tell you that he has been such a strong example of what a father is. Anthony is someone who makes you feel safe, someone who is your biggest cheerleader when you don’t think you can do it and someone who with the holding of you hand makes you feel loved.
We are still Best Friends.