For TODAY's Al Roker, the silver lining of lockdown life during the coronavirus epidemic has been getting to spend more time with his son.
In the October/November 2020 edition of AARP The Magazine, Al opens up about one special gift that keeps bringing his quarantine life into focus: his 18-year-old son, Nick.
“The nicest part about this experience has been spending more time with Nick, and watching him grow and learn,” Al, 66, shares in the article. “You want the best for your kids, and this period has been hard because all our normal routines have just been turned upside down. But Nick is adaptable.”
“He knows exactly when to give his dad a little zing on camera.”
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Nick, who is the youngest of Al's three children, is on the autism spectrum. He’s had developmental delays since infancy; at age 3, he hardly talked and could barely walk. Nevertheless, in recent years Al and his wife, ABC News senior correspondent Deborah Roberts, have watched Nick blossom into a black belt in taekwondo, an accomplished swimmer with two gold medals from Special Olympics New York, and the principal cross bearer on the worship team at their church.
During quarantine, Nick has been flourishing in a whole new role: as Al’s right-hand man in “What We’re Cooking,” an IGTV series of videos where Al prepares favorite recipes, whips up fun dishes from leftovers, shares grilling tips and more. Al describes the evolution of the “What We’re Cooking” Instagram videos in the AARP article.
“Nick started running the camera, then started commenting from the wings, and before I knew it, boom, he was like any other good broadcaster — trying to pad his part and doing his best to take over,” Al explains.
“He knows exactly when to give his dad a little zing on camera,” the proud father continues. “The audience loves it. There were a couple of weeks when Nick couldn’t do the show because of other commitments, and we just put the whole thing on hiatus, because nobody really wants to see me at home without my star sidekick.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Al regularly praised his son for helping him have fun, relax and maintain a positive and grateful outlook in life. Over the years, the father and son have shared their “manly” manicure-pedicure rituals, their determination to pick out the perfect Christmas tree together and other adventures on TODAY and social media.
Through their involvement with the annual ADAPT Leadership Awards Gala, Al and his wife Deborah have called on people to be more open and accepting of children with special needs.
“Being in the house together all the time can be challenging for anyone, and it’s especially hard when your child has additional needs,” Al acknowledges in the AARP article. “But I’m so proud of the person Nick is becoming, and so glad I have this extra time to see him maturing into an adult.”
It's "really important," Al says, "and one of the gifts of this weird pandemic moment, to bond as father and son.”
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