Keeping time and pace

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on May 20, 2019 # Travel, Caregiving

Being a writer- wife- teacher- mom is hard work. Being married to one is maybe even harder. One never knows what one might say or do around her that is then plucked from oblivion and stuck in her blog. It’s not like she is eavesdropping exactly, but that’s what it feels like at times. In fact, one writer teacher whose blog I follow is contemplating not writing about “important” issues facing young people anymore -- issues like depression, substance use and abuse in the home, anxiety -- because people read the stories and make assumptions about whom they are really about.

The thing with writing for the Reeve Foundation is that it’s generally Geoff I’m writing about. This is what happened. This is what we learned from it. This is what I hope another may take away from our story. The operative word there is “may”; they also “may not” take anything away. Plus, most of the thousands of people who read the Reeve Foundation’s blog or follow their website or Reeve Connect don’t actually know us as people. This becomes harder when one’s audience is a small town. I could write an anonymous story about a student in one of my classes who shared that they are concerned about a parent who suffers from substance abuse, and they aren’t sure where to turn. I could write that story, and it’s likely that a number of different people could assume I was writing about their situation.

With the Reeve Foundation, it’s different. There is little I can say to cause controversy, but I do run the risk of unknowingly hurting my husband’s feelings in trying to express my own. For example, before we had children, I held his hand everywhere we went or pushed him up hills if walking around town. This last trip to London, I held our children’s hands everywhere because my daughter actually asked me to buy one of those leashes. She was worried we would lose her in such a busy place like London. I explained how we didn’t use leashes when they were 2 and 3 at Disney World, and we would not begin now at 8 and 9. City sidewalks are tricky to navigate three across though because of oncoming traffic and potholes and tree roots. This also makes navigation tougher for Geoff in his wheelchair, and of course, we were without his Free Wheel (out for service) and felt lost without it. So moving our family felt like constant triage -- we could only move as quickly as our slowest link, but helping Geoff would have then put the children in a far more risky business.

But as any parent knows, if your kid has to use the bathroom or needs a snack or nap -- or all three within an hour, that takes precedence over any forward momentum. Yet when the pavement or linoleum is smooth, Geoff’s wheeling outpaces us all as he welcomes a break from the resistance -- where he can just roll and not worry about tree roots and missing cobblestones, or curb cutouts that are far from legal. So I’m often worried about Geoff being behind us and unable to help him or him being ahead and losing us in the crowd accidentally. He and his sister took off at breakneck speed to try to catch the Queen’s horses, and one of the kids stopped to take a photo of a bird and suddenly we had no idea where they went as we had come to an intersection. They did this once before during a road race, leaving me in the dust to push the double stroller while running.

And so, my sweet mother-in-law Joyce captured this photo of us walking down a perfectly wide and danger-free sidewalk in London, four across and eight hands wide. No one is fighting or stopping to tie a shoe or asking me for a snack from the mom backpack; no one is dozing on my shoulder on a double-decker bus or claiming they will pee their pants any second when there is no bathroom in sight. We are just one family taking a walk anywhere in the world at any moment in time where nothing is needed by anyone other than a hand to hold. The moment didn’t last really much longer than a moment, but Joyce captured the fleetingness for me to remember. Our hands kept our feet and wheels in sync even just for a few minutes -- the best gift of time any mother would love.

Heather Ehrman 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 9 and 7. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.