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Christopher and Dana Reeve Blog: Grateful for Parents as Caregivers, November 9, 2018

No matter how old we grow, our parents are still our parents, and they never stop wanting to take care of us even when we are 43 and 48 and have children of our own. We are lucky every day because both sets of our children’s grandparents, our own moms, and dads, chose to retire many miles north of where they might have otherwise. My parents bought a condo in our neighborhood about a decade ago, and Geoff’s parents built their retirement home in 2000 after retiring. They say they would not have retired up here had Geoff not fallen in love with the North Country while in college at Southern NH University. His roommate had been from the White Mountains so they traveled north together to work weekends many times and summers waiting tables in the restaurant his family owned.

I also believe Geoff’s spinal cord injury played a role in where they chose to spend their non-working years. Retiring and moving to North Carolina for the weather or Michigan near family probably didn’t feel right when their son was adjusting to life in his wheelchair with a spinal cord injury. They may not have built their home with the same depth of accessibility had Geoff not been paralyzed at 25 years old. Their doorways are wide; rooms are spacious; basement is gigantic for doubling as our adaptive sports equipment storage facility.

My parents always knew that they would retire near me because I had always asked them to. Of course, my dad doesn’t like the long winters so they do spend two months in Florida. But for the rest of the year, they live up here, about a third of a mile down the street from us or two cul de sacs away– so close that sometimes my dad calls to tell me it looks like my woodfire has gone out because he doesn’t see any smoke. My dad is Tony, aka Pop Pop, and he is instrumental in putting in my screen door each spring and replacing it with the storm door each fall among many other tasks. My parents felt an urgency to move closer when we were finally pregnant with our son. Polly, aka Gram to our children and Mom to me, drove 130 miles a day round trip for years when Pop retired, but she still worked per diem at her old job. However, they felt they needed to be close by. For example, my mother took other people’s daughters, including our own yesterday to see the Nutcracker movie to facilitate my chance to see a Sunday matinee of A Star is Born with three of my girlfriends. Finishing up a nine-day stint as a solo parent while Geoff traveled out west for his work in PSIA, those two hours spent at a great movie were amazing. We laughed. We cried.

Geoff’s dad Phil, aka Grandpa, has accomplished many of the team hiking experiences including Lafayette (5249’) which put them on the cover ofThe New York Times with Northeast Passage and Galehead (4026’) taking turns pulling alongside men and women half his age. Geoff’s parents are constantly helping me to load or unload my car of items related to our life together. All of the bikes go in their basement in the fall on the same day Phil helps me to put the ski rack on my roof and load it with our collection of skis. His mom, Grandma Joyce, is Geoff’s “go to” whenever he needs a strap sewn back together for a piece of equipment or lap belts made for his wheelchair or mono ski. She has also made leather lap protectors for other wheelchair users when they notice how awesome Geoff’s are at keeping snow off his lap. She keeps all of this random, durable fabric by her sewing machine in the basement ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Beyond my 8th grade jams and hair scrunchies made during Home Economics, an occasional pillow or the ONE baby quilt 15 years ago, sewing is not a strength. We are grateful for every minute of time spent with them even though much of it is spent helping us to accomplish tasks we need assistance with.

I know our dads are gearing up for the “Annual Thanksgiving Tree Cutting and Dragging Out of the Woods With Heather” because those giant trees are the ones Geoff likes best. Simply, we couldn’t live our best lives without them living theirs in ours too, and we remain forever grateful.

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, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter. 

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