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Beth added the song Jump by Van Halen to her music mix at Peggy’s suggestion. At local USA Swimming summer meets, many swimmers wore ear buds and held iPods as they waited to compete. Beth was the only one in a wheelchair—with the perk of a lap to carry the iPod on top of her towel and goggles—but not the only teenager with a disability. In my support role as the Adapted Chairperson of the Ohio Swimming Board of Directors, I talked to other swimmers with visual challenges and limb differences. The teenagers with a disability at those USA Swimming meets had no competition, with no one else in their classification in attendance. They swam in full heats with able-bodied peers who always touched the ending wall before them. Each of them, my daughter included, raced the clock.
At a meet in Canton, Ohio, I cheered as Beth reset three American Records and added a brand-new one in the 200 Individual Medley.
During a SAK practice at the outdoor pool, dark clouds brewed. I waited at the pool, knowing that the approaching storm would trigger Beth’s tornado anxiety. At the first distant rumblings, she asked to get out of the water. She couldn’t get out and into her wheelchair by herself. Peggy stuck to her club policy and kept the practice running until the siren blared, indicating lightning in the vicinity. That was the only time Beth was not happy with her coach. A time she remembered and teased Peggy about later.
Beth wheeled through rain to the car as lightning streaked the sky.
We couldn’t get home fast enough. Her trauma abated after she immediately checked the computer to confirm the absence of tornadoes in Tiffin. An Ohio girl, tornadoes didn’t trigger anxiety for me, but other things bothered me. I worried about my job, about the residents at the group home I managed and what might happen next. At home, Beth’s transition to college dominated my thoughts. And living in a strange city by myself in the fall.
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