Children will wake today and run to their fathers, to present them with cards and gifts and words of affection. Lance Ringler will feel such love from two, from the son he and wife Missy had six years ago and the daughter they wanted to raise since first holding her as an infant.
Mother. Father. They are just words to some. Actions determine how much they mean.
Missy Ringler is correct. It’s easy to be a lousy parent. It’s tough to be a good one. She and her husband have chosen to follow the latter road, accepting all the ups and downs and joys and sadness and smiles and worry lines that accompany it.
They have since 2003 had legal custody of Shea Collins, the daughter of Missy’s younger sister and one of the state’s leading prep basketball players. They have since 2003 offered a young girl who for years bounced from one family tree branch to the next the devotion and stability all children deserve.
“When we took Shea in, we took her in, and we haven’t looked back for a second,” said Missy, in her seventh season as women’s golf coach at UNLV. “It hasn’t been perfect. It has been tough here and there. But at the end of the day, we wouldn’t change it for anything. We love her as if she was our own daughter.”
The story: Missy and Lance were high school sweethearts in Bloomington, Ind., where Shea’s mother had her at age 16. She tried raising the child, tried making it work by marrying Shea’s father for a year before that ended, tried to do what ultimately couldn’t be done.
Missy’s parents took Shea for several years. Shea’s father re-entered the picture with a new wife and took her for a time. Then he got divorced and left her with Shea’s stepmother in Indianapolis. The word got to Missy, and enough was enough.
She had, from her time as a golfer at Iowa State and a coach at Washington State and Minnesota, spent as much time as possible with Shea but now wanted to make the arrangement permanent.
In a span of 18 months from late 2001 until the summer of ’03, Missy and Lance were married, moved to Las Vegas, welcomed son Landon and opened their home to a preteen girl trying to discover some sort of sense about where she best fit in the world.
Basketball was the instant connection between Lance and Shea. They are from Indiana, which means they both probably would swear the state bird is named Larry and believe death and taxes are joined by the jump shot as the only certainties in life. Lance assists with Shea’s club team. The connection is even stronger now.
“I think (basketball) made moving out here a lot easier,” said Shea, a two-time second-team all-state pick from Silverado High who has scored 1,254 career points. “I think at first, it was more about them being the fun aunt and uncle that I remembered. But then the rules started, and it became more like parents.
“If we have problems, we treat it like most families. We talk it out, give hugs and go to bed. I definitely view them as my parents, and I know the move was the best thing for me.”
The little girl is 17 now and already making unofficial recruiting trips to interested colleges, awaiting a senior season that is expected to earn her a Division I scholarship. She’s a typical Hoosier. She shoots the lights out.
The link between daughter and parents was tested four years ago when Shea’s biological mother, Lora, moved to Las Vegas with Shea’s half-sister. But whatever confusion Missy and Lance feared might disrupt their family never occurred.
Shea never played one side against the other, which says a lot about those who raised her these past six years.
There is a major AAU tournament in Bloomington next month, where Shea for the first time will play in front of family members and perhaps even her biological father.
One thing is certain: Those watching the talented, confident young woman she has become might know who her mother and father are but more importantly will know who her parents are.
They will know who gave her life.
More importantly, they will know those who were devoted to giving her a stable one.
“We knew from when she was a baby that as soon as we were financially and emotionally ready, that we wanted to take care of her,” Lance said. “We knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. It hasn’t been in no way, shape or form.
“She’s a teenager. But she’s a great kid, and she knows we would do anything for her and will always be there for her.”
Shea was in California at a tournament on Mother’s Day, but her first words when telephoning Missy were, “I called you first.”
Something tells me Lance will receive such special treatment today.
Good parents, after all, deserve it.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.