The woman in the yellow feathered boa is my great-aunt, Ann. She’s ready to toss rice at my wedding.
When I turn to this photo in my album, I hear her voice, all the words over all the years.
Stories: About her girlhood, her adventures with her twin sister, my grandma.
Explanations: Of the bells in her bell collection…
Her Danish Christmas plates…
The dolls she brought me from her travels.
And advice, lots of it: ”You can lose your looks and you can lose your money, but you can’t lose your education.”
Two years after my wedding, my Aunt Ann, frozen from Parkinson’s Disease, went silent.
The grand lady, who once entertained and guided us with her words, never spoke.
A sad ending to a vigorous life.
Here comes the story of another Ann, Annie Glenn, the wife of astronaut John Glenn.
This story has a happier ending.
Annie, like her father, stuttered as a child. She and John, hometown sweethearts, married in 1943.
Frequent moves as a military wife proved challenging for someone with a communication disorder.
Then John Glenn soared into outer space. As the wife of a national hero, Annie was called on for interviews and public speaking opportunities. More challenges.
In 1973, she enrolled in a program at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia.
When John heard Annie speak for the first time without stuttering, he dropped to his knees in prayer. Read more about her speech therapy in this article titled “John Glenn’s True Hero.”
Listen to Annie speak in this video:
In 1983, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) awarded Annie Glenn their first national award for “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.” The Annie Glenn Award, established in 1987, is now given each year to an individual who achieves distinction despite a communication disorder.
Both vibrant women with insighful and witty words to share.
If my aunt were alive today, help would be available for her. Here’s one article addressing communication and Parkinson’s Disease.
Don’t let a communication disorder silence those you love, young or old (or yourself). Help awaits!
I happily wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by
BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf ASHA.org and received payment
for my participation. All opinions stated within are my own.