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Beth asked to go to the YMCA about once a week. She wanted to be in the pool without needing me or anyone nearby. With hands that could not cup the water, she practiced treading water with impaired arm muscles. She struggled to achieve a floating position on her back after treading water in the center of the pool. I stayed close, rescuing her many a time.
Eventually, Beth learned how to tread water for about five seconds and get to a floating position on her back by herself from anywhere in the small pool. I left my swimsuit at home and sat on the deck bleachers, watching slow, unhurried laps, with her arms waving gently under the surface of the water.
No rush, no race. Just the joy of moving freely in the water.
I drove to Columbus for an event that had been marked on our calendar for months: the first Ohio Wheelchair Games since her accident. Our new Toledo friends had invited Beth to participate with the Raptors, who were staying two nights in a hotel, but she had declined in a rare display of caution. Instead, she asked to visit Ben in Columbus that weekend so we could watch some of the competition.
With frequent accessibility problems of one kind or another, we witnessed an impressive exception at the brand new Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State. Beth had no trouble wheeling in the stadium stands during the track events of the Wheelchair Games. Lower than usual inclines allowed for independent wheeling. With other ramps, I walked right next to her and held the closest handle on the back of her chair, helping discreetly while she also pushed the big wheels.
From the stands, we cheered loudly for our friends. They raced on the new track in specially made racing chairs built low and long. A friend offered to let Beth use his racing chair. I smiled when I heard her say that she would compete at the next games, a year ahead, in the track events.
Beth didn’t consider the events in the pool, since she couldn’t actually swim—yet.
I had same day surgery to repair my dislocated thumb. A cast with pins put my left arm out of commission for weeks. I had waited for summer break when John and Maria would be more available to help. Ben had a research job at the Air Force base in Dayton, but he came home for the opening weekend of Tiffin’s summer musical to watch both of his sisters onstage at the beautiful Ritz Theatre. He knew some of the cast from his roles in earlier plays.
“Auditions for the show required all performers to act, sing, and dance, but we were going to wave the dance for Beth,” the director said. “She informed us that she wanted to take part in all of the audition, including the dance, and with her wheelchair and use of arm movements it was obvious that she was going to fit right in with our concept of the show.”
All three of my kids earned 100-hour volunteer pins from the Ritz for painting sets and singing in shows from a young age. Beth’s first time onstage at 12 years of age, she played the barrister of the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. A fitting role for our little lawyer, the nickname she earned as a toddler by pleasantly talking her way in or out of most anything with a smile. We had no way of knowing that she really would become an attorney.
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