(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
The sunshine of a new spring, along with my once-a-week counseling sessions, kept my well of worry from overflowing. Nearly three years post-injury, Beth showed me that her life with quadriplegia could be so much more than I had imagined at first. My anxiety dropped from a scary level to something more manageable. Chronic head pain remained a challenge. My obsession with worst-case scenarios improved from hourly to only some days. Most teenagers felt invulnerable and didn't worry about risks. That group included my youngest, despite her disability.
We lived a few blocks from the high school and Beth liked the idea of wheeling there instead of driving with me. My first thought: NO!
How could it be safe for her to cross alleys and streets in a wheelchair?
Beth wanted to try. On a weekend, I walked next to her on a trek to the high school. The first obstacle involved wheeling over driveway stones to get to the sidewalk in front of our house. Next, the old neighborhood had broken sidewalks and no curb cuts. We tried a narrow alley instead that had bumps and stones and potholes. And almost zero visibility for cars with bushes blocking the view.
When we crossed Tiffin’s Washington Street in between parked cars, drivers approached fast. On the high school grounds, there was no way to avoid either a long incline at the front entrance or a harder slope into the parking lot towards the automatic doors. I continued to drive her to and from school.
The Quiz Bowl team finished a winning season, undefeated in the league. Against my advice, again, Beth joined the high school spring musical, Hello Dolly. She wore a headset to manage the stage crew while Maria shined in the lead role. After a show, I conversed with friends in the lobby without making a quick excuse to leave. The girls stayed out late at cast parties that followed the show's success. John and I dropped our strict curfew rule after the car accident.
A spinal cord injury had changed our perspective, with a new awareness of what really mattered. And what didn't.
Beth wasn’t happy with her ACT score for college, so she studied practice books before taking the test again. Not my idea. The second ACT improved on her first composite score by a surprising four points; she credited her English teacher, Mrs. Kizer, for her high English score. Beth set goals on her own and I supported her unconditionally, but not for bragging rights. More than anything else, I needed her to be okay, to be really okay, as she claimed the night of the accident.
Was it too much to wish the same for myself, for everyone I loved, and for the rest of the world?
Flowers burst into bloom in John's big garden with the ramped walkways. I loved the sunshine. Keeping up with Beth kept me busy and distracted most days, especially when my headache settled at a lower baseline.
Lots of comings and goings. School, after-school activities, volunteering, swim practices, and time with friends. Sometimes I drove while Beth, often tired, dozed in the passenger seat. Overbooking her time shifted from a frequent inclination to an ingrained habit.
She didn’t want to miss out on anything.
Beth’s first swim competition with the forward freestyle!
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