I never thought I’d ever have to take another math class, but there I was, sitting in the front row of a Lane Community College classroom trying to determine the square footage of a rectangle.
The campus is in Eugene, Oregon, a few miles from the campus of the University of Oregon, where I spent tens of thousands of dollars in tuition (Go Ducks!).
I bought a couple of condos in Eugene a few years ago — one for me and one for my adult son Luke, who is autistic. I wanted Luke to live independently, but close enough so I could make sure he is eating and cleaning and doing all the things you are supposed to do when you live alone. My place is five floors above his, so I can take an elevator to see him.
The condo building is in the center of the city, which allows Luke to walk, or take public transportation. He is also involved with a supported living program, so Luke has a lot of people in his corner.
I came to Wenatchee with the sale of The World to Wick Communications, a family-owned company out of Arizona. It was important to the Woods family that they sell the paper to people who shared a similar passion for the business of community journalism and the Wick family (led by Francis Wick) fit that bill.
Through my years in the industry, I knew some people who were working with Wick and out of the blue I was asked if I’d come out of retirement to lead the transition.
One lunch meeting with Francis and I was sold. You can’t help but feel optimistic when you are around that kind of positive energy.
I figured my son was in a good position to be on his own and that I’d be able to work with him from afar, so I headed for Wenatchee and instantly fell in love. The past 15 months or so have blown past and I have enjoyed every single day. This is the best community I have ever lived in and there isn’t a close second.
My son needs me with him again, so I’m headed back to Eugene. Luke has done pretty well in my absence, but not as well as he was doing when I was five floors above him. As much as I appreciate what they do (and I am grateful for every minute of their time), a government agency will never really provide Luke the support I can.
He’s my son and I know him better than anyone else. I know what makes him tick. I know what motivates him. I know when he’s down. I know when he’s hungry, or tired, or frustrated. Autism can be frustrating to live with and even more so for those who don’t really understand it.
He’s officially “disabled,” but Luke is able to do whatever he puts his mind to; and lately, he wants to get a college degree. He wants to translate that degree into a career in digital design and one day move to Croatia. I know…don’t ask. He’s actually researched it and determined that Croatia would be a great place to live. I don’t care, so long as they have a beach and cold beer.
And so, there we were, sitting side-by-side in that math class on a beautiful summer day. Luke has a long way to go, but decided to “get the tough classes out of the way,” which means a series of math classes. My head is splitting just thinking about that.
For the record, I went into journalism to avoid math. I’m very good at “business math” and can read a financial report better than most. But for the life of me, I just don’t get calculus, or really even algebra or geometry. I can’t remember a single time in my 40 year career where I’ve needed to know what the square root of anything was. Not even the time I had $100 on a difficult pool shot.
My son knows this, and when I ask if he needs help with his homework, he’ll just shake his head and say, “No thanks, dad. You can’t be good at everything.”
I’m there to keep him on task; his unofficial “wing man.”
Sean Flaherty will assume day-to-day oversight of The World, serving as general manager. Sean is a Washington guy who grew up in the business. His family owned newspapers and that same ink that runs through me, runs through Sean.
He and his wife also joined The World with the sale and recently built a home in East Wenatchee. The World is loaded with great, talented people whose passion for this business is unmatched. They are the best of the best and will do just fine without me in the way.
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read us. Journalism still matters and these community newspapers are more important than ever. The World has been around for more than a century and, with your support, there is reason to believe that we can make it another 100 years or more.
Thanks for having me and feel free to stay in touch. If you ever get to Eugene, just look for the old guy in the front row of a math class with a bewildered expression. That’ll be me.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.