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In early December, a long-awaited email changed our course. Beth’s unexpected acceptance to Harvard College launched another shift in the horizon for my family. After reading the email, she lowered herself to the living room floor in her lift chair. Lying on her back, she spread out her arms, closed her eyes, and smiled. Incredulous, I watched my jubilant daughter. What would happen next? She had planned to send out more college applications.
A few days later, Beth told me she didn’t want to apply anywhere else. She said that if she didn’t attend Harvard, she would always wonder what might have been.
John and I decided to make it happen. Tuition would be $27,448 for the 2004-2005 school year. Add room and board plus fees for a total of $39,880. Plus travel costs and my living expenses off-campus. John and I intended to borrow money on our home, though four years of Harvard would cost more than it was worth. Beth applied for more college scholarships. She chose not to broadcast the acceptance beyond her family and best friends.
For the first swim meet of the high school season, the girls on the Tiffin team painted their nails in school colors, blue and gold.
I drove with Beth to the away meet since an accessible bus wasn’t available for the swim team. A flight of steps led down to the pool and parents watched from a higher level. Beth shared the safest way to move her manual wheelchair on stairs with two teammates.
We learned that high school competitions ran like USA Swimming meets, but on a much smaller and less formal scale. Everyone seemed to stare at the girl in the wheelchair, but Beth didn’t let it bother her. In the 100-yard butterfly, she finished third—one of three swimmers in the race.
“I was able to score quite a few points in high school. My coach put me in the harder events that nobody wanted to do, like the butterfly. Since the top three swimmers scored, as long as I finished I would score points.”
After the meet, Beth hurried and left the locker room just after the rest of the team. She found herself alone by the pool, so I bumped her up the steps. Peggy and the team apologized a few minutes later in the lobby, but I completely understood. My youngest made it easy to forget she used a wheelchair.
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