(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
An unexpected invitation led to an eight-hour flight. U.S. Paralympics Swimming invited Beth to attend the Canadian Open SWAD (Swimmers With A Disability) meet in August with the National Team. My daughter accepted before we looked up the location of Edmonton, Alberta. From Tiffin, the trip would cross almost 2,000 miles. We invited Peggy to join us.
We packed Beth’s brand-new passport and her iPod, with a new playlist for meets.
For her second flight since the accident, we kept her wheelchair until she boarded the plane. I helped her transfer to an aisle chair on the jet bridge, then grabbed her chair cushion and left the chair, tagged and gate-checked with strollers, to lower the probability of damage, at least a bit.
I imagined the wheelchair on top of the luggage pile instead of under it.
We traveled in style when an airline clerk upgraded our economy tickets to first class, our initiation to warm hand towels and extra soda. A welcome distraction for a long flight, with full meals instead of the snacks offered in the cheap seats. I helped Beth shift and raise her legs periodically through the eight hours in the air.
When we landed in Alberta, Beth’s wheelchair had a bent wheel that made it harder to push. Traveling necessitated frequent repairs, especially replacing worn out wheel bearings. They wore out quickly after getting drenched often during locker room showers.
The many countries at the meet created a festive atmosphere. Each team wore national colors and a country’s flag hung near the deck bleachers claimed by a specific country. The stars and stripes hung from the front of the high spectator seats where I watched with other U.S. fans. I understood that Beth didn’t want to be the only one sitting with her mom and wearing a Team USA shirt. Peggy assisted her on deck. I had a deck pass so I could help in the locker room.
An unanticipated perk of the pass allowed me to take pictures on deck during medal presentations.
Still somewhat shy, Beth made more of an effort to meet other teammates while I talked to other parents. They shared news of grants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation to help with the costs of competing. Also, three teenagers on the U.S. team had recently learned they shared the same birthplace in Russia. They had limb differences and had been adopted by U.S. families who lived in different parts of the country. I listened to stories, from cerebral palsy at birth to a young girl’s sudden-onset neuromuscular disorder. She walked home from school one day and collapsed on the floor. Life can change in a moment.
Everyone has a story...
Next: First International Medals!
7/5/2017 07:31:32 pm
Interesting! And in the picture you have included with this one, the person standing next to Beth looks so much like your mother, Cindy! At first I thought it was you, then on looking at it closer, it sure looks like your mother.
7/5/2017 09:04:34 pm
Jill, I've always loved that picture! The woman next to Beth is her awesome coach, Peggy Ewald, though you're right that it could have been my mom in her younger years! My mom and dad loved to travel to meets in Michigan to watch Beth swim. They have been two of her biggest fans!
7/7/2017 03:48:08 pm
Thanks, Amy! Beth led and I followed. The wheelchair didn't hold her back! :-)
7/11/2017 08:54:33 pm
Admire the positivity you both have. Some of these journeys must be daunting at the outset. Not to mention the organisation involved and trying to anticipate potential problems. ..
7/12/2017 05:23:11 pm
Thank you, Helen! Beth was positive from the start. It took me a long time to catch up! Though I always looked forward to our travels! :-)
7/27/2017 02:24:09 pm
This post moved me to tears!
7/29/2017 07:35:37 pm
Hi, Cindy! It's nice to hear how much our story resonates with you. Thanks for letting me know!
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