Growing up, 47-year-old Victor Clarizio was the image of athleticism. A full-contact karate champion and avid mountain biker, Victor was always pushing himself to new limits. His ambition translated to his professional life, where he found much success in the graphics industry, setting up new shops for Minuteman Press worldwide throughout his 20’s, despite only having two years of college under his belt. Victor got married and fathered two wonderful children, Nico and Gabriella.
Around the time that Victor turned 30, things began to change. Piece by piece, the beautiful life he made for himself and his family began to fall apart. After undergoing medical testing, Victor was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, possibly brought on by the concussions he experienced during his competitive karate years.
As the disease progressed, Victor has gradually lost his ability to walk, stand, hold his head up on his own, and most recently even talk, necessitating his transfer to a nursing home. His mom, Gina, became his primary caretaker, adapting her own life to meet the needs of her son. A successful restaurateur, she would visit Victor regularly when he was in the nursing home, providing home cooked meals for not only Victor, but the other residents on his unit. As his needs increased, Gina realized that his care needs exceeded what the nursing home could provide and he would need to come home. Gina retrofitted their home to become accessible for Victor to live in, and Victor moved in with her and his dog Benji, who is loyally always at his side.
The summer day finally arrived. This was the first outing that Victor had been on in months. Upon entering the barn, Gina was struck by its beauty. She reflects on its cleanliness and the stunning pinewood tongue-and-groove ceiling that sheltered the horses they were to meet. Immediately, the horses approached Victor. Both Gina and Kristin were amazed that the horses gravitated straight to him, ignoring all the other people in the barn, as if they sensed it was Victor they were here to see.
The group was captivated by the gentle way the horses interacted with Victor, and in turn the way that Victor responded to the horses. When one horse came up and started kissing him, Victor said clear as day, “kisses.” And as he continued to pet the horse, Victor chimed in to tell the horse what a “good boy” he was. Both statements were incredible gifts to his mom Gina and all who cared for him, considering that he hadn’t spoken in months.
Victor’s face lit up and he smiled and smiled as the horses nuzzled him, kissed him and even nibbled on his ear. Victor soaked it all up. As the visit continued and he started feeling hints of tremors, the horses intuited this and backed away, to give him the space he needed.
This was a day to remember for Victor and all the people who love and care for him. His mom Gina has framed the pictures and says she loves looking at them. They remind her of her joyful son and his compassion and vitality.