At the risk of Thanksgiving

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on November 23, 2017 # Caregiving

The first Thanksgiving I celebrated with Geoff meant dragging a 16-foot pine tree from the woods and then into his house with two friends who had helped him cut it down with a chainsaw. When we stood the giant pine in the tree stand, branches at the base stuck out approximately 5 feet in all directions blocking the stairs, which he didn’t care about as he did not use the stairs. However, his legally blind roommate Andy did; Geoff and his friends thought it was hilarious that Andy would need to push his way through pine boughs just to get to his bedroom. “This is what happens during Christmas,” Geoff explained, “Andy understands.”

The fact that he could barely wheel through the front door or sit on the couch to watch television without a massive bough sticking out did not faze him. For years, his parents and various friends would help him decorate the entire tree; this now fell to me, and, again, I thought it was ridiculous given the small size of the condo, coupled with a ridiculous amount of winter equipment including skis and winter wheelchairs, etc.

The second Thanksgiving I celebrated with Geoff meant I actually used the chainsaw to cut down our tree. Friends still helped us to drag it in the house and secure it to the wall. But once I was pregnant and due in January, we relied on our parents to help with the tree. This time they insisted on a smaller tree since we would have a baby and blocking the stairs wasn’t safe for me. And then we were pregnant again the following winter so saved again by smaller trees and parents’ good sense.

However, once our kiddos were toddlers and big enough to participate in the Thanksgiving weekend tree cutting, I lost all semblance of control again. “At least 12 feet,” he insisted which was still too big for the size of our living room on top of all the kid crap. Our children LOVE the tree search as much as their dad. I’m the only one who is reasonable, and they scoff at me when I suggest, “How about this nice five footer over here?”

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous!” Geoff smiles knowing he has infected them with pine spirit, and three on one is an impossible odd to beat. The last few years, we’ve returned to his parents’ woods for tall pines with less girth, a compromise which has helped to limit the branch-reach into the living room, blocking the one coat closet we have. Decorating is a fiasco still as the lower third is hammered down by too many ornaments but the rest of my family is very short. This leaves me with the sometimes dangerous job of using Geoff’s grabbers to hang ornaments on the top third, sometimes while hanging from the staircase or leaning over the loft from the second floor. Yes, I risk my health and well being to decorate our damn Christmas tree.

The rest of Thanksgiving is anticlimactic following the excitement of the tree cutting tradition. We are lucky to spend the day each year with all four of our parents in one of their homes, mostly because ours stresses them all out too much. Might be the size of our tree. Might be the chaos and excitement of seven Rubbermaid bins of lights and ornaments. I have, however, remained firm in my refusal to “Elf Any Shelf” in our home. We remain grateful for so very many things.

Last year, my dad, 73, and father in law, 76, helped me to shlep the tree out of the woods in six inches of snow, no easy task even for the youngest of Christmas tree- dragger- outers. I was sweating from tying the tree down on the car and making sure neither grandfather was going to have a heart attack on Thanksgiving and said to Geoff, “Maybe we need another plan for next year. I don’t want one of our dads to have a career-ender dragging out your damn tree.”

He smiled, like usual, all blue eyes and dimples and said, “No, Heather, they need this. This is good for them and look how happy the kids are.” So, this year, on November 23, I want you to think of me and my chainsaw. Geoff loves me. He also loves big trees. I love Geoff. This is what we do. Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours.

Heather Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 7 and 6. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.