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As 2005 began, Beth and I started the drive back to Massachusetts. John stressed over the snowstorm in our path. I didn’t worry about weather, but I respected it, even more so after I hit an ice patch on the highway through Buffalo and spun full circle across three lanes. I shrieked and steered out of it, suddenly winded. With no cars near us, I stopped for a moment and breathed deeply to counter the tidal wave of feelings that took me back to the earlier accident that injured Beth.
Lucky for us, few cars braved the weather.
Beth studied for finals and swam with the team for three practices a week at Blodgett, her new favorite pool, with two more practices each week with the assistant coach. Beth called me one morning, exhilarated. Coach Morawski asked her to race at a Harvard home meet for the first time. We ordered the team T-shirt for parents for me, with Beth’s name on the back, and celebrated with Finale desserts in the Square. At her dorm, she showed me a new gift with a big smile: the HWSD team’s warm up jacket and pants.
At the early January home meet, I sat in one of the red seats in the section for parents, right above where the team congregated on deck. I proudly wore my shirt, but it wasn’t about me. I was thrilled for Beth. I also met friendly parents, understandably surprised to see me in their section and a girl in a wheelchair warming up on deck with the team. They no doubt would question their daughters after the meet.
A full crowd gathered in the upper stands. Beth joined a procession led by the Harvard team captains, chanting in unison all the way. The young women gathered in a circle to wrap up the cheers before warming up on deck.
I never thought I would see my daughter with a college swim team.
Wearing a coveted Harvard swim cap, Beth wheeled by herself to the far corner of the huge pool and used the chair lift independently to get into the water. She swam under the plastic lane lines easily, no longer a challenge as it was at her first wheelchair games. To begin the 200 free, Beth pushed off the wall with her hands while others dove off the starting blocks. I watched the clock and jotted down the numbers every time she touched the wall. I sat forward in my seat, my excitement growing with each lap. The other girls finished the race and I held my breath as she swam the last lap by herself. I wished John, Maria, and Ben could have been there.
Beth’s first race at Blodgett pool set a new short course S3 Paralympic American Record in the 200 free—and in every official distance along the way, the 50 and 100. Three new records in one race! The announcer shared the news with the crowd, and the young women on the Harvard team cheered the loudest.
And not for the last time.
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