Make the Season Bright

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on December 07, 2021 # Lifestyle

Howard and his husband with friends and familyAs the holidays approach, we all begin to think of Hallmark-style gatherings - the food, the reunions with family and friends, the cold weather outside and the warm feeling inside. But for many of us with spinal cord injuries, the reality is that there are limitations to our travel, and our mobility. These things can cramp our style and we might even think they prevent us from creating the photo-ready moments we all want. But we have a choice: we can wallow in our limitations, or we can concentrate on the many wonderful things we can do and the joy of being with family and friends.

We have all discovered that Zoom gatherings are not as awkward as we thought they would be. If we can’t travel to see family, then share a recipe for a quick and easy snack, have everyone make it at their own home, get up on Zoom, share the snack and a glass of wine, and share what you have been doing since you were last together. I guarantee it will bring you closer together.

Hanukkah menorah

If you are able to be with family for holiday meals, let your family members know what you are comfortable doing, and how you want to be a part of the festivities. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

Can’t stand up long enough to set the dining table? Think of the table as a stage set, a play or a painting. Every work of art needs a creative soul. Work with a friend or relative to design the table with beautiful flowers, fun and festive china (or paper plates for easier clean up), and even if you can’t place every item exactly where you want it on the table, you will make the holiday meal special for everyone.

Do you love to cook, or even just love to eat? Sit at the kitchen counter or in your wheelchair to help chop the veggies, prep the marinades, or combine all the elements for Mom’s famous casserole so it is ready to bake. Often the best conversations are the ones in the kitchen getting the meal ready!

When the family is ready to sit for the meal, if you are in a wheelchair, pull up to the table. If you can transfer, grab your place in a dining chair. And remember to say thanks, and to express gratitude for all the gifts we are given. This does not have to be a religious moment. But I assure you that just naming a few things for which you and everyone around the table are grateful sets a positive tone. And it’s a lot better (and calmer) than discussing politics!

Fireplace with Christmas Decorations

If you have a Christmas tree, help unpack the family’s ornaments from the boxes where they have been stored all year. I guarantee memories and stories will follow!

Shop online for family Chanukah, Christmas or Kwanzaa gifts. Online shopping is a blessing to those with mobility challenges – let the goodies come to you!

The holidays mean different things to different people. They may even bring back difficult or sad memories. They may frustrate us if we can’t celebrate exactly as we want to. But we all have so much for which to be thankful. Make these holidays about gathering with the family – either the one you were born into, or the one you have chosen to create with friends. Or both.

We all have people who love us and support us, and this feels like the time of year to share good food, good memories and good dreams. So, enjoy them and concentrate on what you can do, what you want to do, and the people with whom you want to do them. It will bring you the good feelings we all hope for.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.