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John drove Beth to and from high school swim practices on the evenings I worked at the group home. Ohio's winter weather froze the streets--and wheelchair wheels. Beth insisted on wearing her favorite red flip-flops to practice. They stayed in place with an elastic strap I sewed on. She plowed her manual chair through light snow.
Responding to questions about her footwear, she replied with a smile that she couldn’t feel her feet. If pressed, Beth also mentioned the very short distance from the YMCA entrance to the car and from the car garage to the house. Going anywhere else in icy conditions, she wore shoes or boots. With no socks. Despite several different kinds I bought for her to try.
Beth survived her healthy teenage stubborn streak, without frostbite, by limiting her time outdoors in the winter.
December blurred with my added responsibilities at the group home. We passed the state inspection with flying colors, only because I put in volunteer hours. The four men planned with me to host a Christmas party for their family and friends. It was a big deal for them, a first for the group home. Beth visited ahead of time to help us make cookies for the event. It made me happy to see how much the residents loved the well-attended party.
I bought college choir CDs from Ben's and Maria’s holiday concerts and played them continuously in the car. At the Christmas party in Toledo for the spinal cord injury group, a mom thanked Beth for encouraging her young son to start swimming lessons. His scoliosis stopped progressing, avoiding major surgery. The doctor credited swimming for his stronger back muscles.
At the first home meet of the season for the high school team, Beth swam the 100 butterfly in under four minutes. Her time qualified for a US Paralympics S3 American Record. However, it didn’t count because the meet had not been sanctioned ahead of time with USA Swimming.
“Beth just keeps improving with every meet,” Peggy said. ”It's awesome to watch her strokes and racing ability move forward.”
A picture in the Tiffin newspaper showed teammates at the end of the lane cheering Beth on as she turned at the wall. Lizzy and Ellen shouted from the bleachers.
“It's fun climbing out of the pool and hearing people clapping for you,” Beth said. “It gives you a little boost of confidence.”
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