Published first at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog on June 9, 2017 https://www.christopherreeve.org/blog/life-after-paralysis/celebrating-ten-years-of-marriage-matters
This black and white memory was captured just after our wedding in front of the church ten years ago by our friend and photographer Ken Watson. Sitting in the front seat of that light green 1965 Imperial, we could not imagine being any more loved or in love than in that moment. Three hundred of our dearest friends and family packed the First Congregational Church; our dads, each a strong singer individually, together serenaded the throng in their tuxedos; the high school chorus where I’m an English teacher learned “Grow Old Along With Me”; our friends gave readings; Geoff and I exchanged vows, and our people cheered us on, both sides of the pews thrilled for our happiness.
Despite a cold June day, many black flies, and a little rain, our actual wedding and reception felt absolutely perfect. Our siblings and best friends gave funny, heartfelt toasts, and the Clermont family catered our dinner which exceeded every expectation. The Wicked Smart Horn Band played all afternoon into the evening as we watched a red sun fill the horizon surrounding our mountains of my in law’s backyard.
However, even then there was compromise. For example, I wanted to be outside in the woods or a beautiful field, but the church was important to my husband. He also cared deeply about classical old music played specifically on the church organ. I made him narrow his nine choices down to three as this was a wedding and not a Baroque period concert. He cared about the flowers too; he wanted edelweiss, tiny mountain flowers, on his lapel. I cared about sunflowers and gerbera daisies, so we made them all work together, just like marriage.
Driving away from our marriage ceremony in a convertible was fitting. Geoff has loved classic cars and convertibles since birth; I also was driven home from the hospital 42 years ago in my parents’ 1967 Chevy convertible, which is now held together with only duck tape and my father’s hope. Geoff and I shared our very first kiss in the front seat of his 1973 Chevy Caprice convertible. Clearly, a first kiss in a convertible is easier when one’s wheelchair is not getting in the way.
We had gone blueberry picking the day before, and I thought I would be sweet and whip up some blueberry muffins to take with us on our adventure. However, I forgot to take the muffins out of the car when we arrived, leaving them to bake again in the hot sun all day. When we returned, I loaded his wheelchair into the trunk, and jumped into the front seat Dukes of Hazard style. Geoff promptly put his arm 1950’s style around me to slide me over to the middle spot next to him on the bench seat. A very smooth move, one he might have struggled with from his wheelchair. He dropped me off at my apartment, and we shared our first kiss, parked perfectly under a shady tree. Only then did I realize I had been sitting on the blueberry muffins which now polka-dotted my butt with blueberry juice. He smiled, and in those moments, I was pretty sure I would marry him one day.
Ten years later, our marriage remains full of love. However, these ten years have certainly not been easy, certainly not filled with only music and edelweiss. I’m not as patient a helper to Geoff as I was before we had children. Now I sometimes feel like everyone in my house wants or needs something from me all the time. Geoff makes everything seem easy all of the time even when it is hard—and then I remember this is just one of the reasons I love him so much.
Recently, we were asked to speak together by our local Rotary at their big district conference held this year in our community. This year’s theme: the Sustainability of Volunteer Organizations. We met with the organizers and began planning our presentation, each with our own opinions and style of preparing. I wanted to start with an outline on my laptop. He wanted to start on actual paper, which I could not find anywhere in our house so we used paper plates. I’m used to speaking to groups about my book; he is well seasoned at entertaining people professionally either for PSIA, or school groups and even businesses. Yet, never, have we been asked to speak together at a venue for such a large crowd. But we are excited about this next step on our speaking resume; I have a feeling this will go well, especially because we collaborated, taking a little bit of our own strengths, finding balance and compromise to create a foundation for something new—kind of like marriage itself.
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.