(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
My initial expectations about Beth’s spinal cord injury proved wrong, in spite of my work experience with disabilities. At a Toledo Raptors fundraiser at the zoo, I spoke with a lovely friend with multiple sclerosis. As we chatted, I remembered our first meeting a few months after the car accident.
Then, I judged everyone by their disability, certain that quadriplegia won the ‘worst disability’ contest.
I thought that nothing could be as awful as a complete, or nearly complete, spinal cord injury in the neck. I stubbornly clung to that misconception, weighing one disability against another. Through the first years, my view gradually shifted until I compared my earlier notion to a blind person judging a swimsuit contest. Everyone’s lives shared the essence of an iceberg, not just quads. What we couldn’t see under the surface always mattered.
One person’s heaven could be another’s hell—with or without a disability.
Beth volunteered for WaterWorks in Toledo for the second year in a row, helping children with a disability learn how to swim. At one session, she talked to a group of preschool children before getting in the water with them, not surprised by blunt questions.
A little boy asked, “How do you sleep in your wheelchair?” He didn’t look convinced by her answer.
In early April, Beth blew out eighteen candles on a chocolate cake. Around our kitchen table, Ellen and Lizzy sang happy birthday with John, Maria, and me. I wondered what Beth wished for.
Always skeptical of quad-friendly gadgets, she unwrapped a small present from me, a curved plastic tool, and rolled her eyes as only a teenager could. When I explained what it was, she agreed that opening a soda can with the curved tool would be better than using her teeth. Even so, she chose a different solution.
Practice more—and more—until her hands could do the trick.
Next: Spring Cleaning on Steroids (at the group home) and Senioritis!
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