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

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, July 15, 2019: “Beyond Being Helpful, Laughter is Essential”

Every summer, I leave my sweet husband Geoff, a T7-8 complete para, for a few days to visit my brother who lives near the ocean. He will join us later in the week, but first has some work obligations. Before I hit the road with our children, I’m sure that everything he needs is within reach. I put his favorite snacks and essential food items on the most accessible shelves in the refrigerator. I buy paper plates, so he doesn’t have to worry about running and unloading the dishwasher which is just awkward from a wheelchair in our too small kitchen. I leave out coffee filters, coffee and his favorite mugs so he doesn’t risk injury trying to reach any of these items because I’ve stuck them in weird places. It’s not that he can’t go to the grocery store if he needs something; he can. Rather, I just try to make sure he has everything he needs so that when I get to where I’m going I don’t feel guilty about having left him.

Of course, every time I leave, something happens that I could not have prepared him (or me) for, and, generally speaking, as long as he hasn’t hurt himself, I find it hilarious. This time was no different. The series of text messages and photos of the chipmunk who invaded our home when Geoff left the front door open is nothing short of a “Saturday Night Live” Skit. Truth be told, whenever I have the chance to go away for the day or the weekend or for however long, Geoff often can’t find something he needs. It’s really frustrating to be three hours away and not be able to locate something in my house for him because I’m geographically inaccessible. He makes the point that when he lived alone, many moons ago now, as an independent disabled person, he knew where everything was because he put things where it worked for him. Transition 12 years later, and “two loving, accepting kids who don’t care that he is disabled,” suddenly we find ourselves in a free for all. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they just don’t think about it.

Back to Alvin, Simon, or Theodore. The first text happened about seven hours into my departure. “Chipmunk in the house.” Ha, I giggled. We joke about that happening all the time because our kids never close the screen door; however, they make so much noise, no animal would dare enter our house while they are home. The second text came the next day, “Chippy is still here. Taunting me from the house plant.” So, then I’m thinking, great, this chipmunk is stuck in my house wreaking havoc, pooping indoors, chewing holes in things, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. I ask him, “Have you called my parents– or your parents– or any neighbor to help you?????” No response.

Later that night, he writes, “I’m just keeping the door open. No scurrying sounds or anything, but he could sneak out and I wouldn’t see him.”

Next day, “Chipmunk is still here. He ran from under the couch back towards wood stove.” This is the one time when having a service dog is not actually helpful. Alvin could have run over our dog’s body from tail to nose and back again, had a dance party on his belly, and Emerson would not have lifted his head from sleep. Pretty much unphased by anything, he isn’t encouraging the chipmunk’s departure with loud barking or rapid movements.

Next text: “He is just sitting on the floor staring at me.” Great, yet I laugh.

His next message is accompanied by the photograph seen here. “He’s on your picture frame. Tiny guy.” The messages are making me chuckle, but they are also driving me crazy. I want to scream, “Ask someone to help you get him out of our house!!” Mostly because I don’t want to return home to a nesting chipmunk. He does eventually call our friend and neighbor Ken who comes over and attempts to move the plant plot outside that “Alvin was playing in.” A later message, “The chipmunk attacked Ken on the shoulder.”

Attacked Ken? On the shoulder? Now, I’m laughing so hard the tears are coming down my cheeks. Clearly, Ken is not injured or hospitalized, but the image of Alvin jumping from my house plant to Ken’s shoulder “in attack mode” is akin to any good Chevy Chase squirrel scene in Christmas Vacation or John Candy and Dan Akroyd with the bats in the iconic Great Outdoors. Bottom line: Alvin needed to get the hell out of my house before I returned home.

The moral to the story is that all the preparation in the world can’t keep a chipmunk out of one’s house when one is playing at the beach with one’s children and one’s husband is at home and left the screen door open. Insert giggles, laughter, chuckles, etc.

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 8. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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