Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on June 18, 2021
First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog…
In letting my parents know about the passing of an old friend, a father and grandfather, my own dad replied, “I’m so sorry to hear this; tis (yes, he meant “tis” and not “This”) the season of our lives,” and it made me sad. Both the passing of friends’ parents– as well as the consideration of my dad viewing death as part of this season now that he has reached the mid-seventies.
My own dad will drop pretty much everything if one of his grandchildren wants to go fishing or play a round of Skip-Bo at the kitchen table. We are lucky to have both him and my father-in-law living close by. When I think back to learning how to drive, over 30 years ago now, I remember him making me learn on a standard so that no matter what situation I found myself in, I would be able to get myself home, not relying on anyone else.
And not usually a calm and patient person, I remember him making me drive through New York City with those awful jersey barriers on the George Washington Bridge in traffic on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, just days before turning 16, in my mother’s Ford Conversion van. While I gripped the steering wheel, convinced I would take off both side-view mirrors at any point and questioned whether any of this was a good idea, my dad could not have been more relaxed in the passenger seat. “If you can drive this, you can drive anywhere,” he stated as if checking off yet another square of independence for his daughter.
So, when I watch my husband with his spinal cord injury with our children, I think about all the advantages and understandings they ultimately will have as part of their childhood DNA, the nurture part instead of the nature part. Recently, he was playing catch with our daughter in the front yard; she wanted to play softball this year, but due to COVID restrictions and lack of overall interest, they combined boys and girls in the age group for baseball. She didn’t want to play baseball, and she did not want to play with the boys. But due to recent surgery, I can’t be the one tossing softballs with her in the front yard, so Geoff has been. At this point, and please don’t tell her, she is NOT good at throwing or catching, so he is really taking his life in his hands with this task. But he does because he would rather be playing outside with his kids than just about anything in the world.
He also spends some time teaching our son how to cook, which does strike me as funny given how very little time Geoff spends in our kitchen despite his culinary arts background. When we were dating or even when married without children (Happy 14th anniversary, honey 6/23/07), he would cook elaborate and delicious meals for me, but now all of that is just a lot of work, he will tell you. Yet, watching him show Carver how to trim the edges of the fiddleheads, chop versus mince garlic, flip an egg, I appreciate the effort at making sure he knows that a kitchen’s place is not just for moms or partners.
In one last funny Fathers Day story, while the kids were both quarantining, Geoff took them for a drive just to give them a change of scenery. They came upon a big pile of cut wood on the side of the road (not a highway, so don’t think he is too crazy). But anyway, he pulled over and had the kids get out and load it into his car. When I returned to school, this giant pile of firewood was stacked by our driveway fire pit. When I asked him where the wood came from, he replied that the kids loaded it into the car. Some of the pieces were gigantic. When I congratulated the kids on their enormous campfire accomplishment, our son shrugged his shoulders and claimed, “It’s just what we sometimes expect when Dad takes us on adventures– we do hard things.”
So on this Fathers’ Day, thank you to anyone who supports our young people. For however many years we are lucky to have them. In a recent argument, Greta pointed out to Geoff that he was wrong because he was born back in the 1900s, and it completely made us laugh. Our kids are damn lucky to have their dad, a Pop-Pop, a Grandpa, and more uncle-friends than they count. And to those dads who are struggling with health or have already moved on to heaven, please know we are grateful for the lessons, laughter, and legacies that remain. Happy Fathers’ Day!
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.