"No Child Left Inside" · Accessibility · Adaptive Adventure · Adaptive Parenting (an adventure itself) · Family life · Growing Up New Hampshire

​Perfectly Imperfect Caregiving

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on November 23, 2021

First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog

Every November I think about doing one of those social media appreciation posts for every day of the month leading up to Thanksgiving. There is a lot to be thankful for, even in a world where educators and flight attendants seem to be taking some unwarranted punches. Inevitably though, I realize the idea is unattainable for me for fear of leaving someone or some event out even before I get started. But November for those of you who don’t know is National Caregivers Month. When we are married or in a committed relationship, we often take turns doing the caregiving during sickness and in health… This can be skewed a bit for those of us also in a relationship also with the world of spinal cord injury. His injury is not just his injury— it’s part of our lives, all of our lives.

But to assume I’m the one to do all the caregiving because the spinal cord injury is part of his body and not mine is preposterous. For example, we were taking the kids’ trampoline down before winter’s snows arrived, and I decided it felt safer walking around the edge of the trampoline instead of standing on a ladder leaning against said trampoline. The older I get the more I hate ladders, usually, because it’s a child “spotting” me on the ladder. In fact, the last time I stood on the ladder, my son asked what exactly spotting was, and I told him it meant that if I fell off the ladder just to call 9-1-1 on my phone. “Not even Dad first?” he asked, and I explained that if I fell at this height at my age and agility, I would need an ambulance more than his dad.

Heather taking the trampoline down

Anyway, Geoff was outside with me, also sort of spotting me on the trampoline, when I watched him bend his body over the ring as seen in the included photo. Now, it’s no secret around these parts that I outweigh my husband, so the likelihood of his body being able to prevent the trampoline from flipping over is really inconceivable. However, the thought was there, and that is what made me smile in the moment. I took his picture, and he took mine, as our perspectives, oftentimes, in our marriage are very different. But the caregiving in that moment was more about the laughter which ensued and less about the physical assistance. Thankfully, no “career-enders,” as Geoff likes to joke, taking down the trampoline. May we be so lucky as we move into Christmas light decorating and gutter cleaning out the season!

Caregiving is tiring, no doubt, but it’s an endurance sport and one where we grow better with age, even if ladders and trampolines are out of the picture. I do have a short, yet incomplete, list of gratitude for this fall, and even if I run the risk of leaving someone out, we are lucky and grateful for everyone who takes a little care in their day to care about ours.

  1. For Matt, Aaron, Costa, and Steve– for moving a stairlift into position in our garage so that Geoff might have some workshop space to tinker on skis and bikes (and to the family who donated it to us–thank you!)
  2. For our local ski community for making sure kids who want to ski have access to safe equipment
  3. For auto mechanics like Jarrett and Jon
  4. For chimney sweeps like Kevin, who also note areas on our roof which need attention before winter
  5. For plumbers like Craig
  6. For careers, we love, understanding colleagues and genuine work friends
  7. For grants and donations for Geoff’s new downhill bicycle
  8. For vaccinations for our 5-11 age group
  9. For our kids having nearby grandparents, cousins and caring aunts and uncles who visit
  10. For the laughter among friends and family, which may be the best caregiving sound ever

While we certainly can’t do everything for everyone all the time, we do what we can and when we can and that, many times, is enough to get them through. This November, we honor the many people who take care of us even when they aren’t sure we are noticing. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

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.

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