Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on October 27, 2021
First published in the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog…
Geoff loves our local Loon Mountain’s Oktoberfest so profoundly that he refers to it as his own high holy holiday. Of course, he jests, but the lederhosen are for real. Up until this year, our children had always worn their lederhosen and dirndl respectively out in public because it was what we did as a family when mid-October arrived. So, really, until this year, there was very little questioning. “Kids, put your lederhosen on,” and without fail, they would. However, I always complained because the fabric itched my skin, and, well, truthfully, it’s always been a little small. This year, wouldn’t you know, but the zipper just wouldn’t work. A tragedy, really, so I wore an authentic German hat along with normal clothes, quite content.
Watching Geoff put on his lederhosen from a wheelchair proves just how inaccessible this style of clothing is for someone sitting down. Yet, he loves every frustrating button. And it’s something I believe the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation blog audience can really appreciate, which is why I’ve chosen to share. Lederhosen is traditionally handmade of tanned deer leather with suspenders. As if regular pants were not hard enough to pull on one’s body when one is paralyzed and lacking abdominal muscles altogether. He does try to do what he can independently, but lederhosen requires an assist– undoubtedly.
There were a few conflicts happening last weekend when we were getting ready to head over to our mountain. One, our children are old enough now to care what they look like going out in public. So, despite Geoff reminding them repeatedly about “how awesome” he looked in his outfit, they were not leaving the property in their traditional German outfits. This never used to be a problem. In the past, they loved dressing up like their parents to revel in whatever this crazy high holy holiday was about that required very different outfits. But at 10 and 11, I wanted to respect this rite of passage in establishing independence from one’s parents. They will one day dress up again, when it becomes cool to be one’s own person and likely draw attention to themselves for different reasons, I assured their disappointed dad.
Plus, our kids were planning to downhill mountain bike this year for the first time during Oktoberfest with friends and NOT hang out with us, their parents, listening to traditional Bavarian music or watching people participate in the annual stein holding competition or keg rolling battles. They had PLANS with their PEOPLE. I was excited for them to do their own thing, safely, of course, and remain on the same property as we were at. This is what parenting is all about ultimately, right, helping our kids to find their own path, and be close by when the safety net is needed.
So, we reached an appropriate compromise. The kids put their outfits on for a few photos, thereby making Dad happy, along with the extended family. They asked us not to put on our social media, which I may or may not have done for faraway relations. But they are not on social media yet, so my secret is maybe safe for only a bit longer. They didn’t ask me not to include any in my Reeve writing, but they don’t read these yet either. One day, I hope they will read them along with my personal blog for the same reason we take pictures, snapshots of moments in their childhood, in our lives together as a nuclear family. Reading my words after I’m gone, or when I’m elderly or forget myself, might help them see the awesomeness that filled most of their childhoods.
Back to the lederhosen… Geoff needed help with the suspenders because there is no good way to lean that far over in one’s wheelchair to button them in the back without risking a tumble out onto the floor. So, when he yelled from our bedroom that he was ready for me to help with the buttons, I found him face down on our bed, looking like someone had shot him from behind. Laughter ensued as I tried to wrestle the leather suspenders over these deer antler bonelike buttons. “Why do you bother?” is my perennial question to him, and stating the obvious, “It just seems like so much work.”
“The best things in life often are.” And again, he is right.
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 11 and 10 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.