Shoulders have been on my mind a lot lately, and by shoulders, I mean both the body part attaching the arm to the torso and the sides of roadways where people might walk or cycle. We vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard, an annual pilgrimage to spend time with my brother, his wife, and daughters. Easily the busiest tourist week “on the island,” we risked our lives to ride our bicycles given the narrow shoulder and VERY important people passing us at dangerous speeds to avoid the oncoming traffic filled also with VERY important people.
But before vacation, Geoff met with his doctor about his shoulders as they had been bothering him, one more than the other. An avid hand cyclist, he rides frequently for recreation throughout the spring, summer, and fall with able-bodied and disabled friends alike, in addition to cycling with Eastern Adaptive Sports. However, for years, I’ve worried, from a good place in my heart– because I want him to be able to use those shoulders and arms forever– that he has been riding his bike too much; that those hills he likes to tackle, also situated among the White Mountains, are going to destroy his tendons or debilitate him in some way; that perhaps he stick to the 20-30 mile rides and leave the 50-100 ones for others needing to conquer athletic greatness. What Geoff reads into that is that I mean he is too old for those kinds of big rides.
It’s not what I mean at all. As a wife who is grateful for the strength he carries between those shoulders, on those shoulders, and beneath those shoulders, I just don’t want him to be too hard on them. Good shoulders are everything. When they aren’t wide enough on the sides of the roads, we run the risk of hitting dangerous gravel, causing crashes of epic proportions. Signs like “Share the Road” are reminders for people to give space- to pass carefully those folks “sharing the road” with vehicles and drivers. But riding behind Geoff in his handcycle that day on our way to the much safer bike path, where we would meet up with the rest of the family who had driven there in a truck with bikes, I held my breath every time a car passed us. Do they see him there? Do they see the orange flag waving in the wind? Do they see his flashing safety light? Do they see the oncoming car beyond the crest of the next hill, who won’t have much of a shoulder at all to give space if the timing isn’t just right?
We made it to the bike path without injury. We safely road with our parents in their seventies, my brother and his wife, and our respective four children ages ten and under, a remarkable 15-mile loop. My niece Hazel, 6, and a new rider with about 1 complete mile under the belt to that point wanted to ride right up front with Geoff and our daughter Greta, who is 7. She finished the entire two-hour ride without incident; however, when we pulled back into the parking lot, she took a 90-degree turn too quickly and ended up sliding across some pavement, earning those skinned knees, a new kind of honor badge. She refused band-aids because she wanted others to see the blood and know how tough she was.
Geoff’s doctor reported his shoulders were in fantastic shape, with no signs of arthritis or other inflammation; in fact, they were “the shoulders of a 25-year-old and he should keep doing whatever he is doing to keep them working so smoothly.” Interesting, I thought. Shoulders of a 25-year-old on an almost 48-year-old man who has pushed around in his wheelchair for almost half his life at this point. “I’m sorry, honey, I was wrong.” These are hard words for me to utter when I’m certain I knew more about Geoff’s body than he did. Our kids are fond of saying because they’ve heard Geoff say it so many times, “Well, Daddy can’t feel half his body, so I’m sure he is fine.”
He started physical therapy to assist in a range of motion problem which prompted the doctor’s visit initially. I’m proud of him for choosing preventative care; I’m proud of me for admitting my “wrongness.” I’m proud of my family for riding 15 miles together, despite the fear of oncoming, unseen challenges– both for our experienced riders on the narrow shoulders of Martha’s Vineyard, and the rest of the family on busy bike paths.
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.Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.