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Christopher and Dana Reeve Blog, December 18, 2018: “Winding Down the Year”

One of my favorite Christmas memories occurred at bedtime when I was reading the Mickey Mouse version of “A Christmas Carol” to our then 3 and 2-year-old children, all tucked in snug and warm in their pajamas. When we got to the page where Tiny Tim was using the little crutch, Carver turned to his sister and said, “Don’t worry, Greta, he can still ski with outriggers.” For those of you unfamiliar with adaptive skiing, someone might use outriggers in place of poles if they need more balance due to muscle weakness or chronic fatigue, or if they are only skiing on one leg, or if they are like Geoff, who sits down to ski because of his level of paralysis. For the longest time, Carver just wanted his own pair of outriggers to ski with, even asking for a pair that year for Christmas.

Anyone with any kind of educational background would recognize that disabled people in Tiny Tim’s era of existence would not have been participating in any kind of adaptive anything, let alone skiing down a mountain using handheld outriggers! Tiny Tim’s world would have been very small and very stressful for both him and his family. Yet, here we are in 2018, where I’d like to believe life is easier when it comes to mobility.

Except when you want to take your family picture out in the yard, which already has deep snow, even in November, making wheelchair passage nearly impossible. However, this was my vision for this year’s Christmas card, and we would make it happen. In the winter, my husband works at Loon Mountain Resort on weekends making days off together rare.Coupled with nighttime falling at about 3:45, I knew we were on very limited time on this particular day where the snow was falling in the biggest, fattest flakes, and Geoff was home when the children and I arrived home from school.It sounded a little like this:

“Quick.Get your snow pants and boots back on.Yes, pee first. Sure, grab a snack. No cheese doodles or chocolate or we will have to brush your teeth again. Uncle Kenny will be here any minute with his camera. No, stop taking clothes off! No cheese doodles! I said put your snow clothes back on. Then I need you guys to pack the snow down from here to there. Use shovels. Pull each other in sleds. Whatever needs to be done, so I can drag Daddy’s wheelchair (with him in it of course).”

Geoff just stayed out of our way with the dog as I ran inside to ditch my work clothes and put my own snow pants, winter coat, etc, all the while very conscious of the day’s waning light. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. I returned to my front yard and find that neither child has done what I’ve asked them, and they are 7 and 8, very capable of the manual labor sometimes required to be in our family. No flat path. No shoveling. No sleds. Instead, though, they are laughing with their dad and throwing snowballs in the air for our dog to catch in the mouth as snow sails slowly down all around them like a real-life snow globe. I pause for one minute to take it in because it’s beautiful– all of it. My family. The snow. The gift of time together. The temporary peace on Earth when snow makes the world quiet. Then we see Uncle Kenny pull up with his fancy camera, and the snow lets up enough for him to take a few shots after we all drag Daddy through the snow because, well, Mom wants this year’s picture to be different.

But here’s the thing, I’ve never thought about our own mortality in the same way I have this year. It’s not that we are feeling old; it’s the opposite really. It’s that our children are just now growing into actual people whom I would like to know as adults. Perhaps the end of another year gives us that insight to reflect on those important moments that matter, the ones filled with hope, the ones of regret, the ones we may miss most of all, and the ones yet to come. Dickens really had something special there with those ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future; and we don’t need to be Scrooge or Tiny Tim to be able to bless us all, everyone.

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.

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