MUSCATINE, Iowa – “There’s no place like home” is a phrase that carries special meaning for Josh Miller.
For the 39-year-old who suffered debilitating injuries and the devastating loss of his wife, Meghan, and their unborn son in a 2008 accident, living independently in his own home with daughter Tenley, 9, means the world to him.
Their ranch-style home on Highland Court, decorated in hues of rust and taupe with gleaming wood floors, is the culmination of years of hard work by Miller in rehabilitation centers and in physical therapy to get to the point where he could live independently.
From 2008-2009, Miller was in four different hospitals and treatment centers in Iowa and Illinois, including a time in Carbondale, in southern Illinois, when he was able to see his daughter only twice a month. From June 2010 until last year, Josh and Tenley lived with his parents, Denis and Diane Miller, in their home, which is just a block away.
“We moved in last November,” Josh Miller said during an interview last week. “It’s been wonderful getting close to my daughter … that time we have to be together.”
McKinley School, where Tenley is a fourth-grader, is a stone’s throw away, and she can walk there.
Independent living was one of a series of goals Miller set for himself.
“We noticed the house was for sale,” said his mother, Diane. “He was just ready for the next phase of his life. Of course, we were thrilled he was able to do this. We are just excited for him to go on and raise Tenley.”
Another one of his goals was to drive again, which he accomplished in 2014. As his left side remains weaker than his right, special additions to his Hyundai SUV include a knob on the steering wheel for his right hand, and an adaptation that allows him to activate the turn signals with his right hand.
Yet another goal is to walk on his own, which he describes as “a work in progress.”
“I’m continuing to improve physically; walking is a big thing. I can do it. My speed is very slow,” he said. He uses a wheelchair or walker to get around and “is working with a cane right now.” A series of exercise bars in his garage allows him to do walking therapy at home.
Keeping up with the busy schedule of a fourth-grader is great motivation.
“The biggest thing is making sure she stays on schedule,” Miller said with a smile. “She’s involved in dance and a traveling girls basketball team.” And with all of that, the proud dad says Tenley is very helpful with household responsibilities.
This year, Miller, who was a basketball standout for both Muscatine High School and St. Ambrose University in Davenport, will help with coaching Tenley’s team, a prospect he is excited about.
He said Tenley has attended past basketball camps at St. Ambrose. A basketball hoop on the driveway of their home attests to their shared love of the sport.
Another goal still looms for Miller, who was a history teacher and coach at Durant High School at the time of the accident.
He would like to get involved again in education, and has kept his teaching and coaching certificates up to date. His love of history is represented in a large black and white photo that hangs in his living room of former President John F. Kennedy sitting in his familiar rocker. Below the picture is a “Kennedy rocker,” a replica of the one the chief executive is sitting in.
To what extent Miller would resume teaching at this point he’s not sure, as he acknowledges that talking for a length of time is tiring for him. But like the other goals he has attained, he plans to work hard at this one, too.
His family has seen up close just how hard he works.
“He always has had a lot of determination,” said Diane Miller.