(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
After the first weeks of practices, the head coach asked Beth to swim with the college team twice a week (up from once a week), plus two practices one-on-one with the assistant coach. With lane space an issue during team practices, Beth learned to stay to one side in the lane, shared with a teammate who passed her often.
In Blodgett's public locker room, Beth removed her seat cushion and backpack before showering in her wheelchair (and soaking the wheel bearings) after every practice. I offered to buy a plastic shower chair for the locker room. Instead, she decided to ask the coach for one, but put it off.
Always reluctant to ask for anything special.
When the wheel bearings needed to be replaced, the wheels stopped moving freely, catching and sticking. I drove her wheelchair regularly to a repair shop in the next town to the west, Belmont, where they replaced the expensive bearings. The challenges for Beth of removing a wet swimsuit, showering, and dressing in her chair very slowly became slightly easier. At first, when she had class soon after practice, she wore sweatpants instead of her usual jeans.
One weekday evening, Beth joined the Harvard team on an excursion to a Boston club to support two teammates in a burrito-eating contest. She heard a joke with an element of truth:
The main reason to swim on a college team? To eat anything they wanted! ;-)
The T stop closest to the club had no elevator, meaning Beth stayed on the subway and rode past it to the next stop, then backtracked several blocks. Two swimmers walked the extra distance with her. At the club, Harvard football players carried her up a flight of steps. The two girls in the contest ended up in second place at the end of a late evening. On the way back, Beth joined the group at the closest, inaccessible T stop and the football players carried her on the steps.
Stretched thin, Beth joined the other swimmers only hours later for an early morning practice, commiserating over their exhaustion and sharing plans for naps.
Next: My strange new Cambridge life . . .
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