One of my friends from my old job at the clinic offered to arrange for an ambulance to come to the house. I received a text message providing a heads up that they were blocks away, and I quickly told everyone inside to gather on the front porch. There is nothing quite like a group of adults holding wine glasses cheering on an approaching ambulance. We giggled and hoorayed with gusto as it approached with its spasmodic lights piercing the slightly gloomy afternoon. The neighbors probably thought that one of my wild parties had finally claimed a life. The kids were amazed and ran without hesitation to greet my friend and the slightly bashful EMT driving. The back doors were opened wide, and Erik was coaxed inside. Erik stood next to the stretcher and said, "Look at YOU on that ambulance!" He cautiously inspected everything, including the vehicle's undercarriage, by the time we headed back inside to feast on pizza. It was a very surreal and oddly festive sight to behold.
We then sliced into the cake. The candles were no match for Erik's lung power. He unwrapped presents for the first time, encouraged and guided a little by Brian this year. It was good to see him actually tearing wrapping paper and being interested in what was inside the boxes, not just the boxes themselves. He enjoyed the kids and adults around him and understood that it was his day. Towards the end of the party he played with the other children in his bedroom, although they mostly played around him and asked him to join them in their very imaginative games. Erik said goodbye as each of them left, and the sweet, strange formality of his words made us smile.
I was a little emotional today. After some of the stress that comes with planning an event like this finally lifted and all was said and done, I realized we had been given the best gift of all: A rare day of feeling almost completely NORMAL.
(Videos and slide show coming soon)