Make Room For The Stuttering

Three Telephone Calls

Posted on: April 28, 2011

In early March, I had the opportunity to visit Milwaukee and talk about stuttering, something I rather enjoy doing. I stayed with Barb and her husband Chuck, and was treated like a rock-star. Barb is the NSA chapter leader in Milwaukee, and she had coordinated a workshop that was held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

There were about 100 people in attendance, including professional SLPs, students, adults who stutter and several parents of kids who stutter. I “told my story” for a little while and then a 5-person panel talked about their experiences and interacted with the audience. It was a very empowering experience for all involved.

Barb had been relentless about getting media coverage for the event, and a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote up a great piece about the event, which included contact information if people wanted to know more about the NSA. You can see the article here.

About a week after the article appeared, Barb contacted me to let me know she had received a phone call from 83-year-old Jane, who had seen the article and felt inspired to call Barb. She had never talked with anyone about her stuttering, ever. She had always kept it hidden, found ways around it, and thought she had not let it limit her.

But seeing the article triggered feelings for Jane and she was inspired to call Barb and talk openly about her stuttering. She did not want to publicly”come out of the closet” or attend a meeting – she just wanted to share her feelings with someone. She did agree that it would be OK for Barb to call her again, and that it would be nice if I called sometime too.

I called her a few days later, and Jane was cordial and pleasant, and told me a little bit of her story. She also said she had made a mistake, that it wasn’t good for her to open “Pandora’s box” after all these years, and that the memories were just too painful. She asked that I never call her again.

She also called Barb and left her a similar message. Jane had initially felt it might be OK to “reveal her secret”, but she changed her mind and asked that neither of us contact her again.

Case closed. It is what it is, and you respect a person’s decision. I was just glad that I had called her and heard about this.

A third phone call came. Barb emailed me on Easter Sunday evening to let me know Jane had called her late Easter afternoon to tell her this. On Easter Sunday morning, with her family gathered, Jane chose to tell her family that she has been a life-long stutterer. She wanted no discussion or feedback from her family, she just wanted to be honest and tell them.

Jane called Barb and told her what she had done. Jane said at 83-years old, she wanted to “get her life in order” and part of this included verbally acknowledging to her family that she stuttered. And even after stating she wanted no further contact with Barb, Jane called her.

After reading Barb’s email, I called her, and we talked. Both of us were profoundly moved by this chance encounter with a woman we never met named Jane.

We will probably never hear from Jane again, but we will not soon forget this story.

1 Response to "Three Telephone Calls"

Wow, that’s powerful. I guess after internalizing for that many years, it would take at least half that many again to undo the denial and pain. I wish Jane well.

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