Just when I wonder, “What should I write about this week?”, an experience challenges me, or a conversation happens, or in this case, a photo slips from a pile of papers. This was taken a few years ago at my Aunt Sue and Uncle Karl’s house in Maine. My Uncle Karl is a resourceful man having built many homes and camps over the years, and he ALWAYS impresses our children. It was important to him on this particular visit that Geoff be able to check out some of the cooler parts of their property which overlooks Mt. Katahdin in the distance.
So, he rigged up a pallet on his front-end loader for the entire family complete with a lawn chair for me. We are big fans up the thumbs up even when we are a little scared. Our children were in awe of the 45-minute front loader ride that took us down deep into the forest and back again. For the longest time, they believed Aunt Sue and Uncle Karl also drove that front-end loader to the grocery store and to restaurants because, “Why wouldn’t you drive that INSTEAD of your car?” The answer was obvious to them.
Recently, I was asked by a marketing person in an interview about the research surrounding spinal cord injury and how much of it do we read and pursue as a family. Of course, we are curious and excited by all forms of SCI technology, but we do not actively seek it out. Geoff is asked this question a lot, so I’m not normally one to answer it. However, I found myself answering the same way he does. Would he love to walk again one day? Sure, who wouldn’t? However, his quality of life is such that seeking alternative “treatment” won’t change anything. His is not one of those situations that if he had just “tried harder” during rehabilitation or physical therapy that would have changed the finality of a complete spinal cord injury. He does not begrudge or judge others the chance to improve their quality of life by participating in a variety of different trials and testing that brings them hope.“I have hope every day already,” he says regularly, “because we’ve built a good life surrounded by good people and experiences.”
He does not currently have pain related issues due to his SCI. He does have a shoulder injury appointment slated for later in August. I won’t be the one to say, “I told you so– too much cycling this summer has probably inflamed a lot of your elbow and shoulder ligaments.” I would never say that because it won’t change anything. However, his quality of life is excellent. When someone perfects the magic to walk again, he is fully on board. Until then, he is all good. When someone perfects the magic to walk again, he tells me he is going to hike the Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Maine. In reply, I smile and tell him how much his family will miss him.
How do we measure the quality of a life? In days spent doing work, we love as teachers? Adaptive sports coordinators? Fishing with our kids? Cycling in and around mountains? Playing with friends and family out of doors? One way we don’t measure the quality of our life is by waiting around for Geoff’s spinal cord injury to be reversed or erased or eliminated or fixed. We are good. We have hope each day to live the best day we can with what we have. Our children don’t know any other way, even if they wish they could eat ice cream every day.
Our good friend and mentor from the adaptive sports community, Al Freeman, just passed this week. Al was an optimist; he would tell you that the quality of a life is measured in the days spent with those you love; by good runs skied on the hill; by miles cycled or hiked with friends; by lives changed through the power of sport; by moments spent in the sunshine with his wife Ellen, children and grandchildren. We all measure differently, and there aren’t enough front loaders in the world to show how much we add up.
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 8 and 7, service dog Emerson, turtle Shell-y, and a variety of fish.Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, @heatherkrill1 on Twitter, and, most recently added in the New Year, her Youtube channel “Writing from the Front.”