Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on June 14, 2021
First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog…
Recently, while home recovering from a breast reduction, I became a part-time lettuce farmer. As the usual caregiver in our family with full mobility, the struggle to water our garden one small container at a time became a metaphor for patience and a physical reminder of what Geoff deals with always with his spinal cord injury. But while I was home, I poured many cups of water into our porch containers, growing lettuce.
Make no mistake, the lettuce is still growing, but I’m not taking care quite so diligently since returning to work as a high school English teacher. Our daughter had been allowed to return to school ten days following her positive COVID test, so she drove in with my husband, who covered my teaching duties as a regular spring substitute. She became so practiced at lifting Geoff’s wheelchair in the back of his car that, after two weeks, her nearly ten-year-old tiny biceps are stronger than ever.
But even those muscles could not have prevented Geoff from wheeling over a tack in the school parking lot, thereby landing him with a super flat tire. Our son had to be quarantined for 20 days because he never tested positive. He is 11, so you can only imagine how that went for us all. Also, we had a small flood when an O ring gave out inside our main water pipe that leads to our furnace. And, oh, our microwave died because someone may or may not have run it without food inside, accidentally blowing up the glass dish and rendering the “microwaves” powerless.
But this is just regular life. While the world is dealing with far more challenges than our family, my patience was tested more so than usual, except for farming lettuce because my mobility was impaired. The day Geoff returned with a flat wheelchair tire, I initially thought, it’s probably easier to grab his spare pair of tires up in the garage and pump those up than try to patch the broken tube. But then our kids could not easily locate the spare pair. I went upstairs slowly and could not reach them because I am not supposed to lift my arms above my head. I sent the kids down for the grabbers, which was another ten-minute delay because no one seems to be able to locate anything in our house besides me. Finally, we pulled the tires down; our son pumped them up, and Geoff could transfer from car to chair. When he found the patch kit to fix the tube, the glue was all dried up. Typical for May this year.
Also typical for May at our children’s school is the three-week puberty unit our fifth-grade son has eagerly anticipated for two years. We were giving a family friend a ride home two years ago when he got into the car, clearly jazzed, and announced, “I’ve got the puberty letter to bring home.” When pressed for more information, Evan’s younger brother, in first grade at the time, along with my two, giggled uncontrollably. The puberty letter basically states this is what we are covering, and if you don’t want your kid learning about it at school, please let us know. Now, our kids are well-versed in puberty conversations and sex education, thanks to so much time spent at home with us during COVID and their never-ending interrogations.
But due to his quarantine, the poor kid was going to miss out on the first two weeks’ worth of the puberty unit. Devastating. His teacher sent me the lesson plans along with some videos. “Mom, you know I could teach this class, probably,” he shared confidently as we sat together to watch the ever anticipated puberty video number 1.
“Do you want to watch this together?” he asks, and of course, my mother’s heart tells him there is nothing I would enjoy more, besides watering my lettuce, than watching puberty video number one together.
“Of course, and then we have to make a list of questions to send to your teacher.”
“What? Mom, I told you I know I know everything.”
“Well, then why don’t you remind me again how to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease?”
“Easy one, Mom! I’ll just use a catheter.” I know he means condom, but this is spoken like the true son of a parent with a spinal cord injury. I am a porch lettuce farmer, and we can do anything.
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.