(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
In late April, Beth and I flew to Michigan for the Second Annual Disability Open. Her goal was to officially get back on the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team, since she had temporarily lost that status by declining her spot for the Greece Paralympics.
“I heard stories from the other swimmers,” Beth said, “but I don’t have any regrets. I knew I’d have more chances.”
She happily reunited with Coach Ewald and other friends on the pool deck. Her fan club watched. My parents, John, Ben, and his girlfriend traveled from Ohio to join me in the upper stands. (Maria had to work that weekend.) Everyone in our family showed an interest in Beth’s swimming, but Ben shared the understanding of intricate details of classification, competitors, rankings, and records with Beth and me. I fervently hoped Beth regained National Team status, but not to be pushy or to brag.
I simply wanted what she wanted, whatever was important to her.
Wearing a Harvard swim cap, Beth swam the 50 butterfly in record time, but was disqualified. International Paralympic rules required air space between the elbow and the water for the butterfly, which she could do, but not every stroke. After the 100 freestyle, she touched the wall just tenths of a second under the needed qualifying time for the National Team. And reset her American Record. Beth beamed when she saw the time on the scoreboard, then waved at us in the stands while we hooted and hollered. Despite the chilly spring day, the post-meet tradition of ice cream carried on at a Dairy Queen, ending with long goodbye hugs with Peggy and the rest of Beth’s fan club.
I wished John could return to Massachusetts with me, but he had to teach until the end of the school year in our Ohio hometown.
Back in Cambridge, Beth signed up for the housing lottery with two friends. No personal care assistant. All of the freshmen living in Harvard Yard moved the next school year to one of the upperclass houses. The lottery worked a little differently for Beth since the only accessible options were in the Quad, the housing farthest from the main part of the campus. She would live in a dorm with multiple elevators. Newer elevators. Her dorm suite would have an accessible bathroom. A dining hall in the dorm added another advantage.
I would be no longer needed in Massachusetts when Beth started her second year of college. I was proud of her and I fully appreciated her rare accomplishment of independence as a quad—but not the 700-mile separation approaching in the fall.
Next: Beth’s First Overseas Trip!
6/13/2018 09:36:47 pm
Welcome to my blog, Nicola! I add a story segment once a week. The segments are chronological and share parts of my upcoming memoir. Lots of adventure ahead!
You guys are going all over the place! So proud of Beth for going out there and showing the world what she's made of. Congratulations to her on her accomplishments :). I really respect Beth for everything she has achieved ♥
6/14/2018 08:36:27 pm
Thanks, Nancy! Our travels have only just begun!
6/14/2018 08:28:51 am
Enlightening to read the ups and downs facing those with physical disabilities. What a trooper Beth is!
6/14/2018 08:39:03 pm
It's a whole different world with a wheelchair, but Beth didn't let that slow her down. Thanks, Micki!
6/14/2018 08:44:43 pm
The one old elevator in Beth's freshman dorm was unreliable sometimes. Thankfully, the newer upperclass dorm had more than one elevator. Her dorm rooms had good accessible features, but some of the hotels she stayed in when traveling did not. It's amazing how people can adapt when they have to!
6/14/2018 10:28:36 am
Looking forward to reading each installment. Beth's story has so many dimensions and layers. Congrats on her accomplishments AND on your fantastic writing and being an amazing parent. Family makes all the difference. Inclusive policies and universal design for living allow everyone to flourish in society. Thanks for shining a spotlight on what the difference means. Have a terrific weekend.
6/14/2018 08:54:23 pm
Thanks, Esther! I agree with you. I think readers find different aspects in our story that resonate for them. Access is a major issue that can be an obstacle to someone trying to live their best life. I hope we see more changes as problems with access get more publicity!
6/15/2018 06:39:05 pm
Such a shame that she got disqualified, it's so tough! Amazing that she doesn't let disability stand in her way though and went out to give it all she's got x
6/17/2018 03:14:56 pm
6/18/2018 07:49:43 am
She is such a force of nature and that is something so beautiful!
6/21/2018 10:15:09 pm
A force of nature. Yes, she is! Thanks for commenting.
Whew, I'm glad Beth was able to overcome what must have been a disappointment about the breaststroke disqualification and go on to reset her American record. Go Beth! Also, I'm always amazed at how you "reset" your life, moving to Cambridge, leaving the family in Ohio. This could never have been easy for any of you. Though I know how hard it is separate, to move away from Beth at this juncture, I think you probably needed to reunite with the rest of your family, too. Sadly, we can not be every place at once.
6/23/2018 08:40:45 pm
Yes, the moving and changes were a challenge for me. I wished I could be in two places at once at that time. It reminds me of Elizabeth Berg’s quote, “There is love in holding and there is love in letting go.” <3
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