Celebrating Milestones Like 50th Birthdays During COVID
My dashing and daring husband turns 50 at the end of October. He could have cared less when the AARP package arrived in the mail literally at the end of September. While turning 50 for many feels like one is “over the hump,” practically ready for the nursing home, Geoff is happily celebrating. He does more from a chair sitting down at 50 than many young people in their 20s and 30s do standing up. Besides the fact that he now officially has been sitting down longer than he was standing in the years before his spinal cord injury while snowmobiling at age 25.
Before COVID closed our universe, we imagined trying to take a trip to Germany to experience the REAL Oktoberfest with his sister and brother in law who recently moved to Frankfurt. We have outfits, and everything as Geoff loves all fashion and accessories (like lederhosen and beer steins) related to Oktoberfest. When we realized we would not be able to travel to Europe, I had hoped we would be able to have a big party at least to celebrate his five decades of life. We are surrounded by such good friends and family that a party seemed very doable. However, we are not ready for 50-100 people inside our house due to COVID concerns, especially as we have friends who are more comfortable than we are about traveling to other places. Weather in October in our mountains can be 70 and sunny or 30 and snowing. We have yet to eat inside a restaurant and likely won’t until there is a vaccine. It just doesn’t seem like a risk worth taking these days, especially with compromised immunity.
The last six or seven months have been hard on him, harder than he lets those close to him even realize. Not being able to work, not being able to run his non-profit, not being able to help those to get back into life through sport-- all of this has weighed heavily on him. He knows better days are ahead. He eagerly awaits the opening of Loon Mountain’s ski season in whatever form that follows, as this will allow him to return to work. That is worth celebrating. To be someone who wants to work, to want to earn a living, to be available, but also to be shut down because of COVID has been very frustrating for both him and me. But we both agree, the upside, the bright side, the silver lining, whatever cliche one wishes to call our extra time together, the extra time he has had at home with our children has been the best gift for turning 50.
One day we will make it to Germany and drink beer out of real steins and toast to Oktoberfest. One day we will celebrate with a big party. One day, maybe when our finances recover from unemployment, we might afford another kind of downhill bike for Geoff, one with an electronic assist, so he can better keep up with our crazy kiddos. One day, maybe. But here’s the nugget of gold about turning 50, if there is one lesson Geoff has taught the world in these last 25 years sitting down, it’s that there is no waiting for what comes next; there is just living each day as best we can. And he does. And he shows the rest of us how to do this as well.
So, in honor of turning 50, we are keeping it small; we gave him a little beverage refrigerator for the garage. It’s no Oktoberfest, but it will keep his favorite beers cold and be accessible to him, and whoever else happens to be working on some piece of equipment in the garage no matter the season. Recently, he showed our kids how to wax their own skis on cardboard in the garage as they were tackling a ski jump made from wood and PVC pipes at a friend’s house. He also showed up with a giant two-person tricycle with an e-assist in the back of our handicapped accessible van that someone was giving away. I yelled at him, annoyed, about it being the size of a Mini Cooper and taking up the entire driveway. He just smiled and said, “Won’t it be fun to ride together? You can do all the pedaling, and I can just steer.” Happy 50th birthday, Geoffrey Alan Krill. We love you. Thank you for reminding us all how to make each day count, no matter our perspective.
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 10 and 9. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.