Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on February 02, 2022
To read this first on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, click here.
January 29 of each year marks the anniversary of my husband Geoff’s spinal cord injury. While we do not exactly celebrate the day, we do take time to honor, remember, and reflect upon it. Normally, he takes the day to something extraordinary– extra special– the opportunity to remind himself of all that good adventure that remains in his 51 years. There was a time when he went to the Paralympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY to give luging a try for three days and scared himself with “only the good kind of fear” he described over the phone.
There was the year our kids were super tiny, and we went to Stowe, VT, a truly beautiful place, so he could teach a mono-ski clinic for their adaptive program. Watching Geoff work around people with similar mobility issues is, I imagine, a little like watching athletes prior to Covid, gather and recreate in the Olympic Village. How we reached this point does not matter so much as the fact that we are here– together– for the Olympics or Paralympics so let’s celebrate and see what we can learn from one another.
This year, however, our home mountain, Loon, like many places in the ski industry, as well as others, is super short-staffed, so he chose to stay home where he was needed most. We love our home hill, and on the morning of January 29, he was up at 445 in order to assure that he could be at the lift in his mono-ski by 745 for a training session he was leading for his instructors before they were all paired up on lessons. But that’s the hard work and dedication to the ski industry people don’t always see with spinal cord injuries– the often lengthy bathroom routine; the long underwear routine, and extra layers when temps don’t go above 5; then parking and pushing of his wheelchair through the snow to his office, so that three hours later he is riding a lift with his people.
So when I saw Geoff through some trees on another trail doing what he loves most– skiing, talking about skiing, and helping others (regardless of their mobility) be better skiers, my heart swelled with pride. And when he talks about skiing with our kids, who are developing ski racers, having been black diamond skiers for years at this point like their dad, they listen. But working in the ski industry, he doesn’t often get to watch their races or freestyle experiences. So when he was presented with an open Thursday, free from work or clinics, he traveled over to Cranmore with his own dad, Phil, who is 81 years old, to watch our sixth-grader in his first, middle school ski team race. Phil still takes a few runs at Cannon and Bretton Woods from time to time when the conditions are perfect– he doesn’t like the powder or ice anymore at 81, which is understandable.
But how awesome for both Geoff and his dad to be able to watch our boy together tackle ski racing. Not every race venue is a good spot for Geoff to access, but he will be the last person to complain as he continues to be a glass-half-full kind of person. So when I get worked up or frustrated by people who share their sense of entitlement or self-centeredness through complaints on an unofficial mountain social media page, Geoff Krill shrugs his shoulders and tells me not to bother. He tells me these people will never really be able to appreciate, even flawed Covid seasons with staff shortages, that there is really nothing better than sliding on snow, especially with one’s children. Ski lessons are sold out? No big deal- ski with your own kid. Too much traffic? No big deal- just wake up earlier.
So that’s what I want to honor this year– Geoff’s ability to look beyond the complainer, and appreciate all that remains in his 27 years post spinal cord injury. That and we continue to play Frogger with Covid here in northern NH as many of you are in other places, dodging bullets left and right. So, be a bright-sided person and take a little time to watch those Olympic games coming up, and don’t forget the equally impressive athletes to follow during the Paralympic games.
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.