Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on August 30, 2020# COVID-19
As a high school English teacher, I’ve always been fortunate to have summers off to spend with our children, who are nine and ten. However, this summer, there has been the added local tension and anxiety of COVID-19 and a husband with a spinal cord injury missing his professional and personal purpose. Eastern Adaptive Sports, like many adaptive sports programs nationally, did not operate this summer; therefore, Geoff has been trying to keep busy at home to stay safe, of course, and keep his engineering problem-solving mind engaged. The alternative to this unemployment is he considers himself to be a bit of a property manager here at home in terms of the children and me and our collective home projects. When the kids and I are left to our own devices, we are good at “doing summer in NH.” We spend our days playing in rivers with just a few friends, appreciating natural water slides on hot days and places to explore when the sun stays behind the clouds.
The downside this summer to a lot of time at home is that Geoff feels like he is burning out our children on asking for help with summer projects he can’t do independently. For example, if Geoff is in the garage and yells for one or both kids to come to help him, they, lately, have taken to running away. Now, if he yelled with urgency or pain in his voice, they would, of course, run to help him. But they know this: “I need your help to do a project” tone of voice– the one that even in just calling their names really tells them, “Hey kids, I need your help, and your mom is mowing the lawn so let’s get it done together; I also need your legs, or your arms, or your hands, etc.”
The “running away from Dad” years ended when our son was six and finally understood the term consequence. Our daughter never really ran away from him, except for one time when she was three and sent to her room for hitting her brother with the vacuum cleaner. Moments later, we looked out the kitchen window, and she was streaking, naked, with a smile from ear to ear on her face. But that was just one time. Anyway, the running away had ended and, this summer, thanks to COVID home projects, started up again. As any mobility, impaired parent (or not) knows, having a child run away from you in the middle of a disciplinary moment is at best frustrating.
Normally, Geoff has a Tom Sawyer kind of persuasive personality, which has sucked in many contributing partners in adventures and projects over the years. Kids are tougher, though. They see right through their Dad’s “project demeanor” to what it really means for them, which is what it often means for the rest of us who help Geoff with whatever creative engineering process is up next. We may get greasy, muddy, tired, and that is just in the first five minutes. The irony, though, is that they don’t feel like they should help him just because he is their Dad– or just because he has this spinal cord injury.
Our latest family project is building a clubhouse type cabin from salvaged tree house materials. Long story short, we found a treehouse that fell out of its tree. The tree finally rotted, sending the treehouse sprawling to the ground. However, because of its integrity, very little of the house was destroyed. The man, our friend Danny, who built the house, knew how to make something that would last– he couldn’t count on the tree outlasting the cabin. Our other friend JJ knows about cement. He told me what we needed to buy at Lowe’s, including ten bags of Quikcrete and two 12-inch Sonotubes. He also told me that he would help with the cement, but that he didn’t dig holes. Knowing that we would likely find granite ledge and plenty of tree roots where I wanted to place the cabin, I knew this project would require help beyond the children and me.
Enter Kenny and David, both friends in their 60s who have been roped into Geoff Krill’s ideas for 30 years now, who also on this warm Thursday evening helped me to dig four holes. Four holes may never have been harder to dig as rocks and roots were plentiful. But the cement hardened, and we lowered the salvaged, well-constructed base, and it could not have been more level. A COVID summer project miracle, whose ramp for Geoff will likely be finished right before snowfalls. Of course, if we return to remote teaching and learning this fall, the cabin clubhouse may just become mom’s office.
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 10 and 9. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.