When Spring projects “ramp” up

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on June 19, 2019 # Mobility, Caregiving

Our deck is very important to us in the spring, summer, and fall, as it’s a space big enough (attached to our tiny condo) for our friends and neighbors to congregate over shared meals. Our children literally run amok, much as we did in the 70s and 80s, together, biking or shooting hoops or skateboarding or playing pickup soccer in the yard. They are filthy when they come inside at night, and, beyond the May black fly bites and daily tick checks, they love deck season as much as we do. When Geoff first bought the condo almost 25 years ago after the accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down, the deck was inaccessible given its stairs and location off our bedroom which lacked a slider. So more than a decade ago, we broke through the wall, and put a sliding door in, revolutionizing deck life as we knew it.

But we never ramped the two stairs as we always thought that, one day “when we had more money,” we would build onto the deck so that it wrapped around the end of our condo, almost doubling our living area at least in the summer months.However, that has not come to fruition, and, in case of an emergency, my dad is quick to remind us regularly of our lack of a second accessible egress. So, a few weeks ago over dinner with friends, we decided to build the ramp.

We debated portable metal ramp over a ramp with a hinge, so we could flip it up in the winter -- but there would be no point. If we had a portable ramp then I would need to set it up and take it down every time we positioned ourselves out back. As it is, the point of the ramp would be so he could independently get to the grass from the deck. Let’s just make the ramp permanent we decided! Plus, we have a lot of grandparents around so I’ve often worried about the granite step being a little uneven. This will just be safer for everyone.

Although our backyard lacks privacy, it’s one way we’ve been able to create a community. The main entrance passes by our backyard, which often creates opportunities for people to just “swing by to say hello” without a technologically pre-arranged visit. I’ve been reading so much in Reeve Connect about different kinds of people with spinal cord injuries feeling isolated and lonely -- not just older people -- not just quieter people -- not just people with less mobility or more complicated levels of injury. But we are very lucky to be seen where we live. Our deck in spring, summer, and fall makes us, our family, more visible to the families around us.We were outside just the other day, after making the trip to Home Depot and Lowe’s to find trekking deck material and pressure treated 2x6’s in 8 feet lengths, when Geoff and Greta decided to make tiny stone walls around our tiger lilies which sometimes get zipped by the neighborhood weed whacker.He taught her how to use the pitchfork to feel around the base of the rock and then pitch it forward and backward to create a wedge beneath the stone.“Mom, look at what I’ve dug up,” she beamed covered in dirt and so proud of her rock pile.

This morning while Geoff was waiting for our friend to show up with his tools and ramp construction “know how,” he spent some time moving those rocks from the front yard to the back on his lap, trip after trip after trip, just because it felt good to work on a project out of doors again. To not just go to work, but to also work on our home.

And sometimes when people stop by in the driveway or walk around out back because they see us out there, sometimes we stop working to have an ice tea or a cold beer -- and sometimes I keep right on whatever project I was aiming to accomplish, finish, etc before losing steam. Even straightening the woodpile from the winter felt good, orderly, and with clean edges. So much of life is messy and crooked, so that a perfectly installed ramp (thank you JJ Bujeaud), rock wall (thank you husband), or stable woodpile (man, I’m good) brings tremendous satisfaction. A daily reminder of all that we can do and “just being seen” on our deck with the sweet new ramp is essential to that. #ReeveSeeUs

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.