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Beth arrived home to the realities of an inaccessible world. She wasn’t strong enough to wheel herself up the low incline of our new ramp and expended colossal effort to open the refrigerator. Her livable space shrunk without the second floor and basement.
I hated our small bathroom and our new shower chair. Nothing was easy. I desperately wanted to make things better and suggested moving to a more accessible home. She insisted that we stay put, and I resolved to try harder.
Three days later, Beth’s African Gray baby arrived to stay. The parrot stood nearly a foot high with striking gray and white shading. She named him Timber since he could not perch well, sometimes falling from a hand to a lap (tim-berrrr!), and because she had a crush on Justin Timberlake from N’Sync.
A typical fourteen year old in many ways, my youngest wanted to look her best for the start of school. A dentist put a cap on her chipped front tooth from the accident. Beth asked for a haircut and her first highlights. When we went shopping with Maria, a lady asked about her sister’s wheelchair.
“Some people assume I’m not intelligent because I am in a wheelchair,” Beth said. “They talk loud and slow when they first see me. When I do normal things such as moving around or crossing a threshold, some people will tell me ‘good job!’ like it is the most amazing thing.”
Beth's friend Elizabeth (and Elizabeth’s mom) surprised her with an extraordinary gift, an elegant silver and gold ring with a small diamond, engraved with the word HOPE. Her five closest friends wore identical rings. The friends planned to pay for the rings until the Osterman Jewelers in our small Ohio town, Tiffin, donated them instead.
When I dropped off a paper to the high school principal that explained quadriplegia, he offered me a part-time position in a program for at risk students. There wasn’t any other job I could do and be available to Beth, so I accepted.
I hurried away, suddenly winded with a tightening chest, thudding heart, throbbing head, and dizzying view. Why did I say yes? I had none of Beth’s courage. How much would she need me? How many school days would she miss? My responsibility had doubled, tripled, without the safety net of rehab nurses. Anything could happen and I worried about everything.
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