‘Everyday is Father’s Day’
LaGRANGE — Every night when Jeff Battle gets off work and walks through his front door, he knows his first stop will be to greet his 8-year-old son, Sam.
His second stop will most likely be to grab his guitar, plus Sam’s ukulele, and sit down with his son to strum a few tunes.
“He loves it when I come home. I’ll ask him ‘Do you want to me play the guitar?’ He’ll get all excited, and freak out until we do,” Jeff said as he laughed.
The daily routine has forged a unique bond between Jeff and his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. The 8 year old is wheelchair bound with limited movement, sight and is almost completely nonverbal.
But none of those disabilities seem to stops Sam’s ability from “singing” along to his father’s tunes.
“Playing the guitar with him is the most fun,” Jeff said. “I was in a band in college but never went and did anything with it. Then I started playing again around Sam and he really likes it. But the funny thing is, he doesn’t want anyone else in the room … just him and I. Then he’ll even vocalize things … just sounds … when I start playing.
“He’ll definitely get the writing credit on any of my music,” Jeff added with a laugh.
Sam and his twin brother, Charlie, were premature babies — born at just 26 weeks, said Jeff. While still in the womb, doctors detected a heart problem in Sam and performed surgery when he was only a few weeks old.
A lack of oxygen caused a portion of Sam’s brain to not develop correctly, Jeff explained. The disorder is known as Periventricular Leukomalacia, or PVL.
Sam also had infantile spasms, or small seizures, several times a day. Medication and a low carb diet have slowed the seizures down to one or two a month, Jeff said.
While Sam’s cognitive abilities may be delayed, his spirit is very much alive. Jeff said he can see it shine through his son’s eyes and his smile. Seeing the joy on Sam’s face also reminds Jeff of his purpose in being a good dad.
Jeff and his wife, Leslie, have a total five children — including Sam’s twin brother, Charlie, Chloe, 20, Gavin, 17 and Madeline, 15.
Each child has their own special talent or sport they specialize in, said Jeff. He and Leslie make sure they attend every event and spend quality time with their sons and daughters often. They also make sure Sam is included in everything they do.
“It’s just hanging out with him and having him enjoy being part of the kids … part of the gang,” Jeff explained. ” … His sisters and brothers are really good with him, and our neighbors. They’ll sit and play Legos with him all afternoon.”
But once Jeff walks through the door, “basically we hang out until its time to go to bed,” he laughed.
Jeff said he does not have any big plans for this Sunday. But he does not seem to mind as long as he has his children and guitar around, plus Sam working his magic on vocals.
“My main Father’s Day is being able to sit down in my chair a little longer than I usually get to and take a rest,” he laughed. “But to me, when you have five children, every day is like Father’s Day.”