The Perfectly Imperfect Holiday Card

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on December 21, 2020 # Lifestyle

We send out holiday cards like many families, this year fewer cards but carrying the same well-meaning intentions for health, love, and laughter for friends and family near and far. Over the years, we have been more or less successful. There was the time I wanted to take one in the snow when the kids were little, but that required me to push Geoff in his wheelchair through several inches of the white stuff. Geoff is always a good sport, but even the most patient person does not like to risk health and wellness for the holiday photo shoot.

Last year was our first in this house. Our dear friends had traveled to Hawaii during the summer and brought us home shirts and sundresses, even a matching one for our dog. Since we had just moved into the “house of our accessible dreams” and “south” three miles, I thought it would be fun to wear these Aloha outfits even if it was 40 degrees. Our daughter wore her long underwear beneath her spaghetti straps. I wore a sweater over mine, trying to smile and not shiver; the dog shook his head at us repeatedly. Geoff and Carver wore their hibiscus flowers proudly, and the photo was snapped before the sun went down. No one cried. No one spilled chocolate milk on their shirt or scraped their knee while running in the driveway, all Christmas card memories of years past. Geoff didn’t run over anyone’s toe with his little front wheels, which often happens when we are standing too close together. All Christmas miracles. Krill family

This year, I decided it would be fun to take our family photo on the porch of our newly constructed accessible treehouse, salvaged from another treehouse that literally fell out of its tree last April. As there is no railing yet, we could sit on the edge and all be in the same plain without Geoff’s wheelchair. (For those of you who are Safety Sam’s out there, we will build a railing-- we just ran out of time before winter’s arrival.) I pitched the idea to Geoff, explaining that we could get him safely out of his chair and he could sit on his chair’s cushion to avoid injury to his bum, something all paras need to be concerned with. His legs could just dangle over the edge like the rest of ours.

The next day it snowed just enough to look pretty, so I put the plan into action with our friend and photographer, Ken Wason. Ken is wonderful in many ways, and he also takes pictures of the not so perfect moments as they are happening, knowing that there is much to be appreciated from those challenges as well. The snow-dusted the bazillion leaves I had not yet leaf-blown, so the wheel-over adventure proved difficult, but not impossible. The treehouse has an accessible porch built into the side of a mountain, and I carefully helped Geoff transfer out of his chair and onto his cushion without me plunging off the deck. The kids scooted him to the edge, one holding his feet up and the other pushing the cushion under his butt.

Ken took a bunch of pics from close up to across the road and everything in between. After assuring us that at least one of them had us all smiling and the dog looking in the right direction, we began the process of getting Geoff back into his wheelchair safely. Anyone driving by our house, which is located on the main road, probably either chuckled (if they knew us) or grew concerned that I was abusing my disabled husband (if they did not in fact know us.) I know, I know, the abuse of disabled people and/ or the elderly is a real thing, and I do not mean to poke fun. But the situation was just too funny. We are yelling at each other because he thinks he knows the best way to get back in his chair, and, while he is usually right, I know in my heart he is actually wrong in our current predicament—the magic of a family Thanksgiving card.

The kids and dog have since abandoned us at the treehouse, and Kenny is already editing the photos. The only problem with our accessible treehouse remains the path to get there. We will fix that problem next spring or summer once the snow melts, but until then, we have to wheel Geoff out on a crazy angle, which is totally unsafe, where he teeters on flipping over to the side, thereby falling onto roots, rocks, and stumps-- not a comfy place to land. Kenny captured it all, but we will just share the one which met up with our vision. The good news is that no one was hurt, and the sun stayed out long enough to get us back to the firm and level ground. Much love, laughter, and patience are coming from our house to yours this holiday season!

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

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90PRRC0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.