Surviving My March Meltdown and “Springing” into Action

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on April 06, 2017 # Caregiving

Her wheelchair pushing technique is text book. Knees bent as to take pressure off her back. Hand placement on the backrest is perfect with direct pressure not too high, not too low to cause her dad to flip backward. She has known this practically from birth, an inherent skill as a daughter of a paraplegic. The bigger and older child, the one holding the trophy, has lost steam walking home and needs a lift. This time of year, when we transition from winter to spring, is confusing for us living in northern New England. There is still snow to be skied upon in the mountains, yet bikes beg to be ridden in the neighborhoods and balls yearn to be thrown on new green grass.

Despite spring’s arrival, mud season is my least favorite time of year between the dirt/sand Geoff tracks in with his wheelchair, and our children’s boots, along with what is actually on their clothes and bodies, we can fill a small playground daily. April is slightly better than March because I usually “max out in March.” When people ask how I am able to keep up the facade of having my life together, I tell them they should see me at home during the month of March. I’m a mess. I’ve had enough of winter snowstorm shoveling, enough of stepping in puddles on my kitchen floor because of tracked in wheelchair snowmelt, enough bringing in of wood for the stove, and enough of the traveling professional skier husband, including the packing and unpacking of mono ski and giant ski bag. March is my own personal meltdown season in many ways.

Geoff is tired by winter’s end too. His elbows, especially have taken a beating pushing through deep snow and skiing six of seven days a week on top of driving long distances. Yet, he does not complain because he loves his work so much. I complain enough in March for both of us, so when April does finally arrive after six months of winter, we smile. We sit outside with a glass of wine after work as the kids investigate the rebirth of our perennial garden, the return of insects, and the reunion with baseballs and gloves and bike helmets and scooters and hoola hoops. Our neighborhood is very child and wheelchair friendly, evenly paved, FLAT, ground in an otherwise mountainous landscape.

We are figuring out the spring sport thing as we go. Carver and Geoff have never had an easy time of playing catch because of Carver’s inaccuracy of throwing (he’s only 7) and Geoff’s inability to scoop up ground balls easily. However, we did pick up those “velcro frisbee to catch the tennis ball” set up and they work much better than a traditional glove and ball. More forgiveness if accuracy is not spot on. We are fairly entertaining to watch play frisbee and our kids are learning to be patient with their dad’s lack of speed even though he tries very hard. We are still young parents even though we are 42 and 46, so as our kids grow older and more coordinated, we dabble in sports like tennis, swimming, and soccer. The kids have decided not to play T-ball this spring because they would like to start a neighborhood biking club, which their dad can actually help to coach because he rides a hand cycle.

Our most consistent spring sport, however, since Carver was a toddler, has been fishing, mostly at the pond we can walk to from our house. This was one of the few independent activities Geoff could take our kids to do alone. Granted, they wore life vests while fishing because we worried about what if they fell into the pond and Geoff could not get them out. Greta learned to put worms on hooks before she spoke in complete sentences. Carver has been telling “we caught the biggest hornpout ever” stories since diapers. Since then, we’ve been able to try out ice fishing on NH lakes with friends and deep sea fishing boats in the Atlantic with both kids, and they love eating what they catch.

Springtime is a family walk after dinner on a warm day, the magic of holding my husband’s hand and not feeling like I’m pulling him. Springtime foreshadows the wheelchair ramp covered in sidewalk chalk and action figures and biking obstacle courses to come.

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 5. Please check out her novel " True North", website www.heatherkrill.com, and @heatherkrill1 on twitter.