Loving and Learning Along the Journey

This February I’m still on a “Self-Care for the Caregiver” kick. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation tells me that my life experiences as a caregiver might offer a profound opportunity to share with others - that my words may “resonate” with others facing daily living challenges as people, parents perhaps, in this one day at a time kind of universe. But sometimes, we don’t realize how far we’ve come until we look back. So, take a moment to take a look back at your own worlds, maybe back to when you were first challenged by mobility - or when your life collided with mobility challenges for another human.

Heather Krill and Family skiing

Think about those early days for your family. When my husband Geoff was first paralyzed back in 1995 (hard to believe almost 30 years ago now), he was not part of my life. When we started a family, he had already been tackling mobility challenges for over a decade. When I see this photo of our little family on the ski slope at Loon Mountain, my first thoughts are: So cute, the kids, their tiny skis, and their stuffed animals. In this photo our daughter is not quite 2, and our son is 3. In fact, they are both still in diapers.

However, after those first few initial thoughts at the memory, my mind immediately slips into: Oh my word - there was so much to carry. The diaper bag, the little skis, the little helmets, the little mittens. How did we ever make it from the house to the car to the mountain carrying all those little things including their little bodies? Then there was the walk from the parking lot to the snow. For our family, we strapped our toddlers into a double Bob stroller until they could release themselves. It must have taken hours, and with the crying, it was probably terrible most of the time (the kids, I mean, but I’m sure I cried too at times). But here’s the thing, much like childbirth, I remember less about the pain of the memory and more about the joy in the moment of us all on snow at the same time, marking the memory with this milestone photo.

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Geoff wasn’t sure he would be able to be a dad. I wasn’t sure I could be a mom and handle so much of the physical part of parenting by myself. But looking back, we’ve both done it. We have raised our children together to reach those teenage years. While there is still a lot of parenting and managing of emotions, activities, schoolwork, friendships, etc, we are still here, taking care of one another and our family. None of it is easy; but if we don’t look in the rearview once in a while for perspective, we can’t pat ourselves on the back.

I spent a lot of hours on the magic carpet when our kids were learning to ski. My professional skier husband did not “philosophically believe” in those skier harnesses many people use when their kids are little for speed control. He was not the one teaching them to ski, but I had to respect his knowledge and experience in the sport. “They need to feel it for themselves,” he would tell me or it will take them much longer to learn. He was right, and I think now every time I watch them ski down a race course, “They feel it for themselves alright.” They learned to slide, to turn, and to stop on the little slope with us first before a long line of fabulous coaches. Now, they can tackle those big mountains (just like us) everywhere they travel next.

Look back and remember the journey. Those little mountains are as important as the big ones.

About the Author - Heather Krill

Heather Krill is a writer- wife- teacher- mom, living in northern New Hampshire with her husband Geoff, a paraplegic adventure athlete, and two tweenagers, a son and daughter aged 13 and 12. A high school teacher and coach for 26 years, Heather has been a blogging contributor for six years.

Heather Krill

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.