When Richard, Joe and I took Emma to Costa Rica for her first round of stem cell treatments this past March, we arranged to have Alycea stay with Nic.  Alycea is one of those people who is multi-talented; a musician-singer- songwriter, terrific with both children, with an unbelievable upbeat-can-do attitude.  So when we explained to Nic he could either come with us to Costa Rica or stay in New York with Alycea, he didn’t hesitate in saying, “I’d rather stay with Alycea.”

And he had a blast, though there were logistical hoops we had to go through to get him to Denver where we met up with him and Alycea before we continued on to my mother’s.

Upon our return from Costa Rica, my mother said, “Next time you must leave Nic with me.” She said it more as an announcement than anything else.

“But Mom, are you sure?” I asked.  After all she is 81 years old with degenerative disk disease and though she and Nic have a special relationship, I wondered just how she would manage.

“Yes.  I’m sure,” she said, with the authoritative tone used by someone of a certain age – in other words – there would be no further discussion.  “He might like to go visit your sister Toni,” she added brightly.  “I thought we’d drive down with the dogs after you leave,” she said.

My sister operates a working ranch with free-range pigs, sheep, lamb, chickens, a number of ornery roosters and that’s just naming the non-domesticated animals.  In addition she has four dogs, horses and I’m sure, upon this post she will have acquired new animals I have failed to mention.  I can just hear her as I write, “Ariane!  I can’t believe you forgot the __________________!”  (Fill in the blank of some rarely heard of species belonging on a ranch.)  In summary her ranch is a ten-year old boy’s version of heaven.

About a month after it was decided Nic would stay with his Grandma, I heard from one of my three brothers, Victor.  He and his wife, Susan had decided they would also come out, “to help with Nic”.  As it turned out another brother, Andy and his fiancé were planning a trip to Colorado during the same period.  Andy is on Nic’s top ten list of favorite people.

So it was with a certain amount of mental freedom that I boarded the first airplane on my way to Panama to meet up with Richard, Emma and Joe three weeks ago.  I knew Nic would be well taken care and the removal of that particular concern was deeply appreciated.

When we returned from Panama, Nic greeted us with countless tales of Wilbur the several hundred pound boar, the pigs, the lamb, the dogs and all the various adventures he had had while we were gone.  Not once did he mention missing us.  Why would he?  He had been surrounded by my siblings, their significant others and my mother – who should be sainted – for the entire week.  If anything, Nic had a difficult time adjusting to our return as his carefree week of animals and family came to a screeching close.

Victor and Susan extended their stay so they could be here for my birthday festivities, which meant Emma was able to spend a week with them upon our return from Panama.  Emma has always loved Victor and Susan and they return her love. During the winter we over lap for the Christmas Holidays and Victor and Susan make sure they spend a few days skiing with Emma.  When we return to New York Emma asks after them for several months.  We know she misses them.  To also spend time with them during the summer was an added bonus.  Emma was overjoyed, as was I.

“Victor and Susan tomorrow!” Emma said after they left a few days ago to return to their lives in Illinois.

“No, Em.  But we’ll see them over Christmas,” I said.

“See Victor and Susan later,” Emma said. Her way of conveying how much she wants to see them and wishes they were still in Colorado with us.

“Yes, over Christmas.”

“Ski with Victor and Susan,” Emma said, showing she understood.

“That’s right, Em.  You can ski with them.”

“Victor and Susan tomorrow?”  Emma said sadly.

“Do you miss them?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Emma said.

Later that day as my mother, Emma and I were out walking the dogs, Emma said, “Say hi to Victor?”

“Sure Em, good idea.  I’ll send him a text and you can say hi to the camera, I’ll text the photo to them.”

Below is the photo I took as Emma said, “Hi, Victor!”

Richard and I realized early on we needed help if we were going to give Emma the support she needed to make ‘meaningful progress’ as Stanley Greenspan use to say.  We realized her needs were greater than our ability to provide them on our own.  When we made the decision to start doing stem cell treatments, the help we required multiplied.  My family jumped in unasked, voluntarily and cheerfully.  My siblings and mother joining forces so Richard and I could take Emma for her second round of stem cell treatments without worrying about our son was an act of kindness above and beyond the call of familial duty.  It is my family and our close friends who have helped us help Emma.  We could not have done or continue to do as much were it not for them.  Because of my good fortune in having such an amazing family and friends who have given of themselves so selflessly time and again, I feel all the more determined Emma should be given the opportunity to have a life, which includes deep friendships.  That she may one day know the indescribable joy of connecting with family and friends is my hope for her.

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