Last column, I featured Paul Daugherty, nationally acclaimed Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist, whose daughter Jillian was born with Down syndrome. Daugherty authored a memoir about raising his daughter, An Uncomplicated Life.
This week you’ll learn about 26-year-old Jillian’s wedding a year ago to husband Ryan, who also was born with Down syndrome.
In a telephone interview, Paul Daugherty said, “(Jillian and Ryan) had a wedding at the Nature Center outside of Cincinnati. I felt what every other father feels: proud, happy, and privileged. (My wife and I) are a little strange in that we didn’t get emotional at the big moments, such as when Jillian graduated from high school or when she went to her first homecoming. We were emotional getting to those moments, though. For all these events in her life, we just assumed they would happen for her just as they do for any other kid. My wife always thought Jillian would get married-and she did. We always thought she would graduate from high school, too.”
It wasn’t as if the young couple eloped. Ryan politely asked Daugherty for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and Daugherty, jokingly, asked for extra time to think about it. That’s because Ryan and Jillian had known each other nine years before that day and because the Daughertys and Ryan’s parents had been “best friends” for years.
Said Daugherty, “Ryan has Down syndrome. He is intelligent, a smart guy. They get the Cincinnati Enquirer delivered to their home every morning and Ryan knows what’s in it, especially the sports page. He’s a good son-in-law and he treats Jillian with respect. They argue like any other couple and are as mature as any other couple after only a year of marriage. They are able to work things out.”
Asked what advice he would give parents of an adult with a disability considering marriage, he said, “I hesitate giving any advice because I don’t know it all. I just know what we did, which was to allow them to define who they were, which is what you would do for any typical child. We didn’t put limits on their relationship or say you probably shouldn’t get married. We allowed them to set the agenda and it seems to have worked out pretty well.”