DSL Board Vice-President
“Everything will come. It will come slowly, but it will come fully.” – Steve Swan, September 2015.
I’m from Frankfort, Madisonville, and Louisville, Kentucky. I’m also from Boston, MA. I was born or grew up in some way in each of those places. But I really finished growing up when I met my daughter on the Stansifer Avenue Exit off of I-65 in Southern Indiana in September 2015.
So the technical part: born in the late Carter Administration in Frankfort. My dad got laid off when a new governor came to town, and we moved in 1982 to Madisonville, where all the Slatons have lived since the 1790s. My mom missed Louisville enough that we moved here in 1989.
While I was in high school, my friend’s dad, a chef in a Spanish restaurant at the time, asked me to wash dishes in his kitchen—I said yes, and after a month, the sous chef left, and I got to start making my way up the food chain in the kitchen. When I left Louisville in the late 1990s, I was the sous chef. I took those skills to Boston, and worked in a few kitchens, from sports bars to fine French dining. I got my college degree up there, but I continued my culinary career.
When I moved back to Louisville in 2004, I struggled to find work in kitchens – you have to know somebody, and everybody I knew in kitchens was 900 miles away and pronounced car as ‘cah.’ So, I promptly got into politics working for a lobbyist. That ended up being a career snowball, and I’m still doing it all these years later.
As that career was getting off the ground, I met Elizabeth, my wife, and we fell in love pretty quickly. It’s a longer story, but you’ll have to buy me dinner to get all the details.
We had our son Henry in 2011, and then we got pregnant with his sister, Lila, in 2015. We opted to do as little testing as possible, so when she was born in the front seat of our car on the way to the hospital, we didn’t even know she had Down syndrome. I caught her on her way into the world and held her while I drove us all to the ER. As it became clearer that she was different, the excitement/trauma of the car delivery quickly took a back seat, and we started to wrap our heads around what Down Syndrome was, and how it would change our child’s trajectory. It was a hard few days, but there were several points of light that led us out of the worried wilderness.
First, DSL sent us the care basket while we were still there at the hospital. I never knew how much something like that would mean to me, and to my wife. It was the first instance when we knew we were not alone on this journey.
Second, my wife’s uncle, Steve Swan, told me something that changed and ultimately calmed my worried mind. He is close to the DeSanctis family, and was involved with DSL in its early days and has been an advocate for people with Down Syndrome, especially in education settings.
The day after we got home from the hospital, while we were still trying to figure out how to breastfeed a child with Down Syndrome, Steve and his wife Julie came over. I wasn’t quite ready to really talk about it all, but he said something that I know I’ll never forget – something that still makes me cry happy tears when I say it in my head. Lila was in his lap, laying there with her low tone muscles following gravity wherever it led, looking up at Steve. He told me “Everything will come. It will come slowly, but it will come fully.”
I’ve learned a lot since then, but those words still guide me. It’s part of why I was excited to join the Board. I want to share the calm I found from hearing Steve say those words to me – I wanted to give another young family the confidence he gave me.