(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
Beth’s excitement grew with speaking engagements in Toledo and Tiffin plus interviews for two newspapers. She started a Road to Athens journal with her top three goals for the Greece Paralympics. “First, swim my best and feel good about races. Second, swim in finals one night. Third, have fun with the U.S. team.”
The newspaper articles about Beth focused on inspiration, a label she disliked.
In her mind, she lived her life the only way she could. In my mind, the word “inspiration” meant different things, some good and some not-so-good. At its best, inspiration motivates in positive ways. At its worst, it insults and exploits. What label would reporters choose if more people with disabilities had a fighting chance, with better support, education, and opportunities?
With the Paralympics approaching in September, school schedules would keep the rest of my family home. I researched expensive overseas flights to Greece, as well as hotels. The last hectic month of high school barreled by.
For prom, Beth wore a blue chiffon dress that fell below her knees. She sat in her wheelchair with the ends of long ribbons tucked under to avoid a tangle in the wheels. Maria styled her sister’s hair into a fancy "do" with small, shiny barrettes. Beth, Ellen, and Lizzy pretended to be ultra-serious models as they posed for silly pictures before the dance.
High school ended in an anti-climactic way, with more important things ahead.
At graduation, Beth wheeled up a ramp to the stage at the stadium and spoke to the crowd as one of four valedictorians in the class of 226 students. Ellen, also a valedictorian, gave a speech about how others change our lives. It reminded me of Beth and the song For Good, my favorite from the musical Wicked.
On a whim, I bought tickets to see Wicked on Broadway later in the summer with my girls, and planned a road trip to New York City. None of us had ever been to The Big Apple. Another first—one that would establish a new favorite destination.
Next: Graduation Celebrations!
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