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Nothing in Tiffin, Ohio prepared us for the challenges of living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On a sunny fall morning, I drove through the main gate of Harvard Yard and joined the line of vehicles waiting to unload in front of the freshman dorms. The one and only time we drove our car on the wide concrete walkways of the picturesque Yard. I parked by Thayer dorm and unearthed a wheelchair from the hatchback.
Beth carried what she could on her lap, holding a pile in place with her chin as she wheeled into the building.
In her second floor suite, a paper on a bookshelf listed previous occupants since 1886, including Brooke Ellison, the young woman pictured on the ‘Quadriplegia at Harvard: A+’ billboards. She graduated from Harvard in 2000, the same year as our car accident. Tall windows overlooked a wide courtyard with lovely old trees.
I left Beth at the dorm while I moved the car. While she picked one of the two bedrooms and started to unpack, I eventually found a parking place several blocks away. Her roommate Rakhi would arrive the next day and they would share a common room and a bathroom. I offered to stay with Beth the first night, even though I knew her answer would be no.
I supported her independence, but I also struggled with letting go.
I accepted the uncertainty of whatever my new role would be with Beth, but the thought of living in a strange place on my own and finding new jobs overwhelmed me.
That evening, it was time for me to move into my new living situation for the next eight months. My head pounded, beating in unison with my heart. What should I expect with the apartment and the person I’d share it with? I had never been on my own before, except for one year in a dorm at OSU.
Cambridge looked like a foreign city compared to Tiffin. With no GPS, I followed a printed map. The unfamiliar surroundings stoked my anxiety. I missed a turn and circled back on unusually narrow one-way streets, former horse and buggy paths. I focused on avoiding poorly parked cars, heavy traffic, assertive walkers, and too many bikes.
I wished for a fraction of Beth’s courage.
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