(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
A surprising event highlighted our spring.
On college teams, athletes with any kind of disability were very rare. After her freshman year, Beth hoped to continue as manager of the swim team with the privilege of practicing with members twice a week. Instead, Coach Morawski asked her to be an official member on the roster of the Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving team. The invitation was a gift she hadn’t expected, serendipity in its purest form.
All the more treasured because she would be the first member of the team with a visible disability. The first quadriplegic. The first wheelchair user.
“As a swimmer with a disability going into a Division 1 school,” Beth said, “I didn't know how I would be welcomed because I am not going to be able to score points.”
“We were not sure how it was going to work.” Coach Morawski told a reporter from the NCAA Champions magazine. “Everyone is absolutely impressed by her.”
Elated, Beth added, “I had no idea Harvard would accept someone with a fairly severe physical disability on the team.” Only Beth could refer to quadriplegia as fairly severe!
As tulips bloomed randomly in Harvard Yard, I talked to Beth on the phone about every other day and we met each week for lunch. We’d split a turkey sandwich and two small chocolate desserts at our favorite spot, Finale. After, we stopped at the Brattle Square Florist where I bought a few sunflowers, her favorite flower. She kept them in a vase on her desk.
Rakhi surprised Beth with a small birthday party at Finale with a beautiful chocolate cake.
Soon after, Beth’s best friends from high school visited with one of their moms. Ellen and Lizzy camped out in Beth’s dorm room while the mom stayed with me in my apartment. We all watched Beth practice at Blodgett before exploring Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail to the Holocaust Memorial and headed to the Prudential Center.
We rode the elevator past the expensive Skywalk viewing level and stopped at the Top of the Hub restaurant on the fifty-second floor, to admire the sunset. Glass walls offered a beautiful panoramic view. On a budget, we sat at a table in the bar instead of ordering pricey food at the restaurant. Underage, the three girls drank sodas and we shared a plate of cookies. Lizzy amazed us by pointing out landmarks and neighborhoods in every direction, even though it was her first time in Boston.
Next: Swim Trips to Michigan and England!
6/7/2018 09:31:56 am
Always a pleasure and delight to read about Beth's experiences through her mom's eyes. Looking forward to the next installment. And would love to meet you all while I'm sitting here in Washington DC.
6/7/2018 07:09:22 pm
Thank you, Esther! I’ll let you know the next time I’m in DC to see if it works out to get together.
6/7/2018 07:17:02 pm
Yes, I completely agree with you! It was an unexpected surprise and much appreciated.
6/7/2018 04:52:31 pm
What an amazing story of courage! Thank you.
6/7/2018 07:20:08 pm
Thank you for commenting, Heidi! Beth’s courage continues to amaze me.
6/9/2018 04:07:09 pm
Yes, it was an amazing invitation! Once Beth was a member, her disability wasn’t an issue. She practiced whenever the team practiced, except for staying with one practices a day when the others had two. And competed at every home meet!
6/11/2018 12:47:12 pm
Me, too! Lane space and the number of swimmers is an issue on college swim teams, so it was wonderful to see Beth welcomed as a valuable member of the team at practices and meets, even though she would not earn points at college competitions.
6/13/2018 09:26:10 pm
Welcome, Morgan! Beth’s amazing positivity is the main reason I’m writing. I hope our story helps others. Thanks for commenting!
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