(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
The first weeks of school, I walked a tightrope, afraid of a long fall. Always a step behind, my goal was to function without crying in front of anyone. All the while, Beth set unnecessarily high standards for herself. Weak and exhausted, she didn't want anyone to push her wheelchair. She tried to get dressed and attempted zippers, buttons, and shoelaces with uncooperative hands. Her battles were physical. Mine were mental.
Nothing was easy.
Beth continued to surprise us, but not by wanting to go to her first football game in a wheelchair or her first high school dance. At the game, there was no way to access the student section, so she and her friends stayed on the track near the cheerleaders.
She didn't ask to go to any more football games that season.
For the Homecoming dance, John and I dropped Beth off at school with Maria and her friends already inside. Her shoes fell off during the transfer from the car to her chair. I put them back on and adjusted the sleeveless black dress several times, then again. An elastic strap under the dress held her knees together. She refused our help to wheel up the long sidewalk to the main entrance of the school, even though she couldn’t begin to open the heavy glass doors.
From the car, John and I watched Beth’s slow, labored ascent up the long incline, another small action of life turned into a grueling challenge. John expressed amazement at her tenacity and how easily she took the leap of faith that someone would let her in. I worried more about social aspects than physical details. At home, waiting for her phone call, I braced for a negative outcome.
How much vulnerability could she carry, as a new quad and as a new freshman at her first high school dance?
Afterwards, my youngest wheeled to the car with barely-worn shoes on her lap and her three best friends alongside. Bursting with enthusiasm, the beaming girls talked over each other nonstop. They all wore the HOPE rings; Beth never took hers off. I drove her friends home, then I asked Beth if she had danced. Silly question. She loved the new experience of dancing in her wheelchair. I had stressed needlessly. With the crisis of the moment averted, I pushed my pessimism down the road.
When Maria arrived home later that evening, she told me how her sister danced most of the night. Maria and I had shared tears over the shock of the accident, survivor’s guilt, and the cruel limits of a C6-7 injury. The night of the Homecoming dance, after Beth’s pure joy in life, we hugged and cried again.
Helen Malchan- Evans
7/21/2016 08:55:35 am
Beth your articles are very inspiring. This was a tearjerker! I hope by sharing your articles someone will be inspired. Love and blessings to you all❤️🙏
7/22/2016 09:14:17 pm
Thank you, Helen! My blogs about the emotional time after Beth's injury are more intense than the later blogs will be.
7/21/2016 09:45:35 am
Really nice, heartfelt story! Loved reading this!
7/22/2016 09:15:28 pm
I appreciate your support, Jill! Thank you! ❤️
7/21/2016 10:00:51 am
Made me cry! And think about my son! He was very much like Beth. Very determined after his accident, and wanting to do everything with no help. I drove him crazy trying to help. Your goal was also my goal....get through the hours without crying in front of anyone. And take it one minute at a time. You and Beth are both amazing women. Love your blog!
7/22/2016 09:34:48 pm
Margie, thank you for commenting! I think that our experiences with our children's injuries can be difficult to share with others. Especially how we need to help and make things easier, while our kids push themselves to fight challenges that no one should have to face. I drove Beth crazy at times, too. ? And yes, one minute and hour and day at a time!
7/21/2016 10:14:23 am
If I am going to keep reading these posts, about Beth, I am going to have to invest in several more boxes of tissues.
7/22/2016 09:43:40 pm
Chuck, maybe I should add a "tissue warning." ? But seriously, the time after Beth's injury was emotional (obviously). The good news is that the mood of the blog will improve over time.
7/21/2016 11:54:37 am
(((((((((Cindy))))))))) How well I remember Beth's stubbornness when I was her (& Maria's) Ballet teacher. She *always* had a mind of her own! Look how well that tenacity has payed off!! Accidents happen....but Beth was no accident! Despite the accident - & maybe a little *because* of it - Beth has turned into a powerhouse! <3
7/22/2016 09:48:51 pm
Thanks, Lin! I remember Beth in ballet as quiet and shy, but the confidence and determination she gained since then has served her very well!
7/21/2016 09:13:37 pm
As usual, I was so touched by your post. What more can I say than what was already stated by the others before me? Only that the outcome has been as amazing as the story. I always look forward to reading your posts. Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing so that others may learn from your experience and example.
7/22/2016 09:56:12 pm
Thank you, Deb, for being a wonderful friend who I can count on to support me every step of the way! You have encouraged me with my memoir since the beginning, and it's nice to know that you believe it will happen. ❤️
7/22/2016 01:09:17 pm
You are an amazing mother and an amazing storyteller. Thank you for sharing your life with me. Godspeed
7/22/2016 10:08:52 pm
Thanks so much, Randee! I'm grateful to hear that my story reached you. My hope is that it might help others deal with any kind of challenge.
8/8/2016 11:20:54 pm
This is really a moving blog post, I'm crying too, would I be as brave as Beth at age 14? Would I be as brave as you as a mother?
8/9/2016 10:55:18 am
Thank you, Cindy! I just followed Beth's lead, and I'm grateful that she was the brave one! :-)
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