Beth’s times in Montreal qualified for the Parapan American Games in Rio de Janeiro to be held in August. Saving money for the probable trip to China, I decided not to fly to Brazil, especially since Peggy would travel on the U.S. team.
One April morning in pouring rain, Beth met her co-workers from John Kerry’s office in the town of Hopkinton.
The Senator arrived, greeted Beth by name, and led the way to the start of the Boston Marathon wheelchair race, moving cones out of the way for her. John Kerry’s daughter shared her umbrella with Beth. The Boston staff asked her to work in the Senator’s office for another school year. Beth reluctantly declined to open up a little breathing room as a senior.
In Tiffin, John and I mapped out our move from Ohio to the East Coast.
I worked most days at the nursing home while John taught his last months in Ohio. Our furniture cost too much to transport, so we made plans to sell it. John created signs for a big garage sale. We evaluated every item large and small to keep, sell, or donate. I tossed most of the stuff accumulated over 30 years into garage sale boxes. We planned to move in a few carloads.
I had filled three Amish cedar chests with childhood keepsakes, one for each of my kids.
Maria had hers in Massachusetts. John and I drove another to Ben in Columbus. He worked as a supervisor for ADP and planned for graduate school. The chest reminded him of gerbil bedding because of the cedar scent. To simplify his upcoming move to graduate school, Ben gave away the chest to his cousin in Columbus but kept most of the contents.
We kept family treasures.
My Grandma Barnes’ fancy bowl with etchings on clear crystal always held fresh fruit on my kitchen counter. As a child, I sat at her kitchen table near the bowl and a plate of molasses raisin cookies. My grandma put ice cubes in my glass of milk, a habit I thought peculiar. From her kitchen, I had a clear view of a small room with tables full of blooms, a collage of color. I loved the lavenders, creams, pinks, and blues. Some solid, some variegated, some fancy with ruffles. In a clear glass jar, green stems with roots floated in water, a nursery for baby plants. The room full of African violets captivated me, a soft-spoken child who dunked cookies in iced milk.
As 2018 draws to a close, I'd like to thank each one of you, my loyal blog followers, for your lovely support! The amazing story I share in this blog includes even bigger adventures ahead. My memoir, Struggling with Serendipity, will launch on April 9 in bookstores and on Amazon, with pre-orders starting March 9. I would LOVE to talk with you on my spring tour, which will include book events on the East Coast in addition to the Cleveland area, Columbus (Ohio), and Chicago. Last but not least, I'm sending you all of my best wishes for the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year, from my family to yours!
Next Week #OnTheBlog: Treasures!
❤ twitter.com/cindy_kolbe (almost 20,000 followers!)
My efforts to anticipate and avoid problems failed during a Paralympic swim meet in Canada. I met Beth at the Montreal airport. She wasn’t a fan of flying but that didn’t stop her from getting on planes. Beth surprised people by traveling alone with a duffel bag on her lap and a big Harvard Swimming pack on the back of her chair.
I had no rental car reservation. The subway had been recommended, and it worked—if you could climb flights of steps. We decided on taxis instead. On the last morning, we rode through a heavy March snowfall to the swim meet.
One of Beth’s big wheels flattened during prelims, a first in seven years of air-filled tires. After her injury, I worried about many things, but a flat tire had been completely off my radar. Overly optimistic, we hoped a new inner tube in an odd size could be easily found at a local bike shop.
On a Sunday. During a snowstorm.
I left to save the day while Beth rested in our hotel room. I planned to pick her up with an inflated wheel in my hand before the last finals session. I hailed a taxi carrying the flat wheel and a list of bike shops; thankfully, Montreal had several. A friendly driver headed for the nearest one while I called others. Phone recordings said some were open though no one answered.
Beth called me in a panic when I left the third bike shop with the flat tire. She learned it was a big deal to miss a finals race at a championship meet, with paperwork required in advance. Time ticked away, and drivers acted as though they’d never seen snow before. Plows blocked roads and piled snow on parked cars.
Miraculously, the fourth bike shop had the right size inner tube. By the time they fixed the wheel, and I arrived back to the hotel, finals had already begun. The taxi driver waited while I ran up to our room with the wheel and flew back down with Beth who wore her swimsuit under sweats. Peggy called us from the pool. We might make it in time for her first race. A traffic jam tested our patience and dampened the beauty of the white wonderland.
Finally, I paid the driver way too much, and we rushed to the pool deck where Peggy waved frantically. Right next to a starting block, Peggy and I stripped Beth’s coat and sweats off in seconds and literally dropped her in the lane. Another quick moment, and the race began. Her hastily donned goggles came off and floated in the water behind her.
We laughed about it later, but it wasn’t funny at the time. ;-)
In hindsight, we should’ve borrowed a wheelchair from another swimmer for Beth to get to finals with Peggy. Friends on the team with prosthetic legs sometimes traveled with wheelchairs. I bought a set of foam-filled tires the next day--the only kind she’s used since!
Back home in Ohio, I returned to my job on the Alzheimers unit at the Shawhan.
I tried to engage the residents to brighten the moment, the hour, the day. In Lorain on a weekend, John and I sang happy birthday to his sister, Jean, one of the last songs she’d sing when her Alzheimers progressed. Another day, Maria called me on the way to the emergency room at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Beth, suddenly sick with strong nausea, headache, and fever, had asked her sister to take her to the hospital.
I worried about sepsis. The leading causes of death for people with quadriplegia were pneumonia, septicemia (blood poisoning caused by sepsis), and suicide.
The emergency room staff identified an infection and waited for other test results. After a few miserable hours, Maria lost her patience with the staff. An ambulance carried Beth to a Boston hospital, while Maria followed in her car. An attentive doctor understood quadriplegia. He ran more tests. By morning, Beth’s fever dropped, and he ruled out peritonitis and sepsis. The doctor released her with strong antibiotics and instructions to return to the hospital if anything worsened. I was already on Rt. 90 in Pennsylvania en route to Cambridge.
Beth’s severe symptoms lessened by the time I arrived.
I brought her chicken soup from Au Bon Pain and helped as much as I could for a few days. I encouraged her to slow down, though she quickly returned to her full schedule.
Big changes approached.
At home in Tiffin, I divided a lifetime of photographs into four piles, one for each of our kids and one for John and me. I threw away old albums and put the photographs in labeled boxes of memories.
Our ordinary lives had detoured to less traveled roads—with more on the horizon.
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