Now that the holidays have passed, we roll along through the depths of winter–through the early, dark nights, the inches of snow, sometimes mixed with ice and rain, sometimes with frustration or despair. Winter is the hardest season due to Mother Nature’s deep regard for cold and snow, along with Geoff’s career as a professional skier. However, by the time he gets home at day’s end after transferring from mono-ski to wheelchair, pushing across the parking lot, transferring into car and out of car, warming himself by our woodstove, eating dinner with the family, and transferring from his chair to the couch, he is about as useful as a potato sack filled with other sacks.
He sleeps like a bear in winter, dosing from the time our kids go down around 7:30 until I go to bed when he transfers again to his chair and then into our bed. Lights out– only to do it all again the next morning. His fatigue is physical, and I worry he does not rest enough as that is when colds arrive or urinary tract infections or full-blown kidney infections, like the one last year. Trying to be preventative, he lets his body sleep when he needs it. However, this week got the better of us all, each one coming down with a cold. When everyone is sick, our tiny house turns into an obstacle course of crap on the floor, which was the cause of Geoff’s morning transfer from bed to wheelchair ending badly. So, on top of not sleeping well because we’ve all been coughing, the 20 inches of snow that fell in our region over the course of three days, he also fell out of his wheelchair, injuring a rib or muscle or something below the level where he can feel. Those 20 inches of snow (spread out over 3 days) won’t shovel themselves each day nor do they seem to care that I have a bad cold.
Just recently, before illness and snow and wheelchair falls swept through the house, we had a 27- year-old para friend spend two nights on our couch as she was learning to mono-ski at our home mountain. My kids watched her in awe as she transferred from her chair to the couch to the floor to stretch her body and back to the couch again, light as a feather and strong as any athlete they’ve ever known. “Mom, did you see how easy it was for her to move her body? Daddy can’t move his body like that. Could he ever?” And I explain that Geoff’s 6’2” frame includes really long legs that are harder to move around and stretch. Those same legs trip him up from time to time as well when there is a spasm that sends him crashing out of his wheelchair. “And why is so hard for Daddy to sneeze or cough?” I have them place their own hands on their bellies and cough so they can feel their abdominal muscles contract. I explain how when you don’t have abs like Dad, coughing can’t be productive, and sneezes sound more like tiny puffs of air.
Oh, and some debris off a dump truck blew off and landed on my Thule roof rack, thankfully not our windshield, exploding the rack and sending skis all over the highway, thankfully not causing additional accidents. What this means for us, which would be kind of hilarious if we weren’t sick or sore from falling out of wheelchairs and shoveling, is that fitting our family, the service dog, and the wheelchair in the car with our skis now inside the car is a small miracle.
Snow is the means by which Geoff makes his career, but snow is also a little like the family member who visits for an extended amount of time and you love him, but he brings his own level of complication. Yet because winter runs straight through April generally here in the White Mountains, I’m going to imagine us one day on an African Safari, warm and captivated by a new kind of adventure. Imagine us, our family, on the Serengeti. Imagine us transferring from jeep to chair to jeep again. There have been other wheel-chairing families before ours who have done this already, so we will seek them out to learn their stories. But, like a lot of able-bodied people, Geoff needs to make the time now to care for his body or trips like my dream to safari in Africa will be without him, which would make the trip exponentially incomplete.
Heather Ehrman 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 9 and 7. Please check out her novel “True North”, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.