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College applications covered our kitchen table before Beth’s senior year of high school began. She questioned the need for help at college her freshman year and wondered if I could live off-campus instead of in the dorm with her. Separate housing for me for any amount of time would add costs on top of her out-of-state tuition, room, and board. High college expenses seemed certain. John and I decided not to hold her back because of finances. We owned the Tiffin house and planned to borrow off it.
My second counselor moved away and the third nudged me forward. After nearly three years of weekly sessions, I had few tears left. I had been spinning in a rut, perseverating on my choices the night of Beth’s injury. As if I had a replay option.
The new psychologist told me the accident could not have happened any other way. She framed it as less of a colossal failure and more of a perfect storm of events. I woke up very early that morning to set up a refreshment stand for the choir contest. John stayed home to study for his National Board test. The night of the accident, the OSU concert ran longer than expected.
The psychologist’s next point hit home: I could not make a good decision (i.e., calling John on the pay phone), because exhaustion impaired my judgment.
That fact somehow flipped a switch for me and allowed a measure of forgiveness. However, no amount of reasoning would be enough, if Beth had been unhappy. I gradually reduced my zoloft to a lower dose. As always, my headache tightrope remained, a precarious and somewhat mysterious balancing act to keep the level manageable.
At home, Beth gathered summer mementos and made colorful collages with a small paper cutter. She used markers to add descriptions and funny comments on each page, approximating the calligraphy style she learned before her injury. She created a tribute to the magical summer in her first scrapbook.
The last page listed 15 notable summer firsts, including her first US Paralympics American Record, her first passport stamp, her first tuna fish and cucumber sandwich, her first concert without a parent, and her first swim practice in the rain.
Beth’s very best ‘first’ of the summer: wheeling around Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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