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My last weeks in Cambridge as a personal care assistant and Harvard Coop employee ended with easy goodbyes. I loaded the car—twice—with Beth’s backup wheelchair, single futon, lift chair, floor lamp, refrigerator and microwave unit, and more. I labeled everything and pushed my limits by moving the items by myself to the basement storage room at the upperclass house (dorm) where she would live in the fall. Everything hurt after.
I scribed for the student with cerebral palsy for the last time as Beth finished her final exams and swam her last practice at Blodgett until September. We watched colorful dragon boats race on the Charles River before I packed the car for the long drive to Ohio. I couldn’t wait to be back home for the summer and planned to appreciate every minute. The upcoming school year, John and I would have an empty nest in Tiffin with Beth at Harvard, Ben in Columbus, and Maria graduating early in December to work in Boston near her sister. I wanted my kids to find their own way in life, but at the same time, I wished they could live with me forever.
Feeling sorry for myself sparked a radical idea: moving to the Boston area if John retired in two years, after 30 years of teaching in Ohio. Maybe.
Summer vacation officially started with an additional five-hour drive to Chicago for the wedding of Rakhi’s brother. The short drive seemed easy after the trek from Boston. I loved our road trips in Beth’s blue car with CDs and sing alongs. At one of the wedding events, I wore a long blue dress with a tunic top to a beautiful ceremony. At the evening garba, Beth danced in a short sequined top that bared her midriff above a matching ankle-length skirt, a gift made in India from Rakhi’s parents. We found out at the garba that a woman with a bare midriff meant she was looking for love.
I never tired of adding to Beth’s contagious laughter.
Back in Tiffin, Beth reunited with her best friends, Ellen and Lizzy, not knowing it would be one of their last summers together. Maria gave Beth a special gift, a beautiful sunflower quilted wall hanging that she sewed for a college class on women’s traditions. Last spring, John attended presentations at Heidelberg when the students spoke about their quilts. I wished I could have heard Maria talk about her sister’s favorite flower and the passion for life they shared. When I lived in Cambridge, I also missed hearing my oldest daughter sing at Heidelberg choir concerts. I wouldn’t miss any more of her solos.
Seneca Aquatic Klub practices filled Beth’s calendar for her fourth swimming summer. Peggy showed us an underwater video from the previous summer with sloppy strokes. A recent one with smoother movements reinforced Beth’s belief that mastering the forward freestyle stroke was doable. Two teammates lifted her in and out of the pool as they had for high school practices. One morning, they carried her out to the diving board—under protest.
Her attempt to enter the water gracefully ended in a belly flop, but she didn’t lose any sleep over her lack of diving skills.
A mom with a story
to share about injuries that never heal and fortunate accidents. About guilt, disability, perspectives, and unexpected adventure.