Accessibility · Adaptive Adventure · Adaptive Parenting (an adventure itself)

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, August 21, 2019: “Summer Recreating and Memory Making”

One aspect of summer, my husband Geoff, a T7-8 level paraplegic, absolutely loves is playing outside, fishing and biking with our children. One thing he hates but accepts, given the amount of time he spends in the sun, is applying sunblock. Like many wheelchair users, any time one applies lotion to one’s hands they then attract every single dirt particle and dog hair within a three-mile radius. Yes, he could use gloves to apply sunblock, but that’s just one extra step. Instead, he has convinced our children to sunblock him, and it’s a hilarious undertaking to hear them together in the kitchen or our bedroom.“No, Dad, I’m going to rub that in, just give me a minute. Close your eyes. Lift your arm. Do you want the spray or the cream on your face? Mom says the cream is better for your face, but spray is easier on legs.”T hey are 8 and 9 years old, and they’ve taken one task off my hands. Thank you, offspring!

But to bike together in the summer is just about the best recreation ever. We can bike to art camp or to ice cream or even to Loon Mountain or Cannon Mountain. We might even see a moose or a black bear along the trail. Geoff uses a handcycle and, if the trail is wide enough, they take turns riding next to their dad, and he schools them in shifting gears– helping them to understand the right the time to switch. I ride “clean up” in the back just in case someone takes a spill or gets frustrated because their sibling may or may not be pedaling at the same pace. We have one who is focused on the road ahead and one who is a bit of a lollygagger, complaining that this ride is too far and he would rather be fishing.

They also are big enough now to help their dad at weekly water-skiing events, loading and unloading the wheelchair accessible barge for Eastern Adaptive Sports. The day they carried their dad’s water ski together from a shed to the boat on a 90 degree day just about caused me to cry right there on the dock. They were being helpful and responsible and part of the volunteer team along with their older friend Olivia. These kids have been watching their parents’ involvement in adaptive sports their entire lives and now they get to participate on a volunteer level. They watch students who have spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy or autism or blindness or Down Syndrome or a multitude of other diagnoses recreate on the water, surrounded by families and volunteers and a “boatload” of life jackets and water skis, rafts, and adaptive tools to fit individual needs. Today, I watched Olivia lead a young man probably twice her age by the hand toa safe spot on the dock to rest in between runs. Pure awesomeness.

And we would be remiss in this “summer blog post” if we did not discuss this year’s annual 4th of July parade followed by the annual adaptive slip n slide. We like family and neighborhood traditions, and the 4th of July is no exception. I’m pretty sure we invented the adaptive slip n slide about seven summers ago, and the kids are almost big enough to “run the rope” down the 75 feet of blue plastic without able-bodied adults. Close by not quite there yet!This year, Geoff claimed it was a little too hot at 90 degrees to bake in his 1973 Chevy Caprice convertible. When he told our children and their friends who join them “annually” for this event, our daughter said, “But, Daddy, I want to be in the parade with you like always.” I reminded him that all too quickly our children will be teenagers and one day won’t want to have anything to do with us on the 4th of July, and he should take the love while he can get it– and I would pack a cooler with wet washcloths and ice waters.He would survive yet another hot parade, and they did.

Summer days ought to be filled with sunshine and sweat and time at the river or lake with friends. Of course, there is always sunblock to apply and bug bites to scratch, but those are a small price to pay for a 4th of July parade, town traditions, and cold water on a hot day. Our dog days of summer are short, but we make the most of them. Come join us!

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

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