However, I had no idea that this type of love would come in another form.
At first, it was hard for Tiki to understand the noises, behaviors, and aggressive acts that Richie would periodically exhibit. Having never been exposed to anyone with a disability, Tiki was confused by many of Richie’s behaviors (flapping of his hands, rocking back and forth, constant moaning, or other self-stimulatory behaviors).
Tiki: “Why does Richie have autism?”
Me: “No one really knows for sure why anyone has autism. Doctors and scientists are still learning about what causes it. We all hope to learn how and why anyone has autism soon.”
Tiki: “Will Richie ever learn to talk?
Me: “There’s no reason for us to believe he can’t learn to talk. Richie learns to say new words all the time. We can all help him learn by reminding him of how and when to say some words.”
Tiki: “I’m going to help Richie learn to talk, Christina. I can help Richie learn to do a lot of things.”
Me: “Richie is very lucky to have a brother like you.”
Tiki: “I know Richie is older and bigger than me, but I think I am his big brother. I’m going to take care of him.”
Me: “The world could use more people like you, Tiki.”
When Samantha lived with us, she would check on him at night, and if he kicks the sheets off, she’ll lovingly cover him up before she kisses him and then says, “I love you, Monkey. Good night” (Monkey is her pet name for Richie since he was born). My heart would just melt every time I heard her on the monitor. Samantha could never say "no" to Richie. If he wanted to eat what was on her plate - she would give it to him, even if she were hungry and it was her favorite dish. If she walked into the house with a drink or treat she just bought and he asked for it, it was his - no questions asked.
Samantha is a sister who expressed her unconditional love for Richie in ways that was undeniable, unmistakable, and dazzled my heart as a mother.
“Who is that – what’s wrong with him?”
Without missing a beat, Tiki replied, “That’s my awesome brother, and there’s NOTHING wrong with him.”
I was so moved, that it goes without saying both my boys had ice-cream and chocolate bars that night!
These are truly just small examples of the hundreds of things Samantha and Tiki do to illustrate their love and care for Richie. It would take forever and a day for me to capture every kiss, hug, and act of kindness by Samantha and Tiki in this post. As well as the hundreds of times either of them said, “It’s okay, he didn’t pinch me that hard.” Witnessing their love for Richie is a privilege that well exceeds my expectations for simple kindness and understanding.
The greatest gift of all is that there are no disparities in treatment, no one would never know these three leaves didn't grow off of the same vine.
Whether bound by love or marriage, these magnanimous children have learned how to love selflessly, benevolently, and unquestionably, and it has made all the difference.