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In late April, Beth and I flew to Michigan for the Second Annual Disability Open. Her goal was to officially get back on the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team, since she had temporarily lost that status by declining her spot for the Greece Paralympics.
“I heard stories from the other swimmers,” Beth said, “but I don’t have any regrets. I knew I’d have more chances.”
She happily reunited with Coach Ewald and other friends on the pool deck. Her fan club watched. My parents, John, Ben, and his girlfriend traveled from Ohio to join me in the upper stands. (Maria had to work that weekend.) Everyone in our family showed an interest in Beth’s swimming, but Ben shared the understanding of intricate details of classification, competitors, rankings, and records with Beth and me. I fervently hoped Beth regained National Team status, but not to be pushy or to brag.
I simply wanted what she wanted, whatever was important to her.
Wearing a Harvard swim cap, Beth swam the 50 butterfly in record time, but was disqualified. International Paralympic rules required air space between the elbow and the water for the butterfly, which she could do, but not every stroke. After the 100 freestyle, she touched the wall just tenths of a second under the needed qualifying time for the National Team. And reset her American Record. Beth beamed when she saw the time on the scoreboard, then waved at us in the stands while we hooted and hollered. Despite the chilly spring day, the post-meet tradition of ice cream carried on at a Dairy Queen, ending with long goodbye hugs with Peggy and the rest of Beth’s fan club.
I wished John could return to Massachusetts with me, but he had to teach until the end of the school year in our Ohio hometown.
Back in Cambridge, Beth signed up for the housing lottery with two friends. No personal care assistant. All of the freshmen living in Harvard Yard moved the next school year to one of the upperclass houses. The lottery worked a little differently for Beth since the only accessible options were in the Quad, the housing farthest from the main part of the campus. She would live in a dorm with multiple elevators. Newer elevators. Her dorm suite would have an accessible bathroom. A dining hall in the dorm added another advantage.
I would be no longer needed in Massachusetts when Beth started her second year of college. I was proud of her and I fully appreciated her rare accomplishment of independence as a quad—but not the 700-mile separation approaching in the fall.
Next: Beth’s First Overseas Trip!
A mom with a story
to share about injuries that never heal and fortunate accidents. About guilt, disability, perspectives, and unexpected adventure.