(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!
Sign up for my Just Keep Swimming Newsletter by typing your email address in the box. Thanks!