I wrote earlier in October about now having been in the stuttering support world for 25 years. A corollary is that November 4 will be the 25th anniversary of my father’s death. It is interesting to me that there is so clear a demarcation point between my relationship with me and my entering this world. How would it have been to bring my nascent feeling of empowerment about my speech into our difficult relationship.
I stuttered from the time I began to speak. My first memory of stuttering is from kindergarten. But my older cousin Danny remembers visiting my family home in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was 3 years old, seeing me struggling to speak, and my father saying, “Come on Jeff, spit it out!” Which is where my documentary film, Spit It Out got its name.
My late mother had stuttered in childhood, and did so until she left home to go do college. When I began to stutter, she did not feel free to bring up her own experiences with my father.
Even then I talked fast; I remember my father telling me exaggeratedly to enunciate, that is, to “eeee – nun – cee – aaate” my words. Needless to say, is advice didn’t help. Nor did the speech therapy I had in school, which helped to only increase my feelings of shames, guilt, and isolation.
On one hand, my parents had to go it on their own. It was a different time in the world. The Internet did not yet exist. There was little support for families, nor were there groups yet like Friends or the NSA.
On the other hand, I am sorry that my mother and I didn’t or couldn’t talk more about stuttering at the time. Decades later, I interviewed my mother for my documentary film, “Spit It Out.” That day was the most we every talked about the topic. But there was more territory to cover than was possible in one day. Among the questions I wish I had asked her was, “What was it like for you the first time you saw me stutter?”
Nowadays at Friends’ Conferences, workshops are held not only for the children and adolescents who are present, but also for their parents and other family members. I wonder what it would have been like for my parents, siblings and I to be at a conference like this?
Friday, October 7, 2016
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