The Astronauts’ Wives
John Glenn calls it "one of the most emotional moments of my life."
When Glenn recalled this moment to attendees of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's annual meeting on Nov. 16 in Atlanta, he wasn't reflecting on his long career of public service - as a former U.S. senator, serving the residents of Ohio for 25 years; as a Marine serving the country from 1941-1965 which included stints in World War II and the Korean War; and or as an astronaut, which included a first-of-a-kind orbit around the earth Feb. 20, 1962.
No, what Glenn calls the "one of the most emotional moments" of his life was a phone call he received from his wife, Annie Glenn. Already married more than 30 years, this was one of the first phone conversations he had with his wife.
"She said more words than I have ever heard her say without stuttering," he said.
Until the early 1970s, Annie, now age 92, was an 85% stutterer. She could not express herself, her husband told the audience. She relied on hand notes and called the phone "the invention of the devil." But since she received intensive therapy for her stuttering, Annie has been speaking freely, feeling "like a butterfly who has been let out of a cocoon," and giving back.
This year marked the 25th year for ASHA to recognize someone who embodies Mrs. Glenn's spirit with the Annie Award. The Glenns presented the award to a couple not too much unlike themselves. Like John Glenn, Gabby Giffords has served in Congress. A fellow astronaut, Mark Kelly has been to space. And like Annie Glenn, Giffords' ability to speak is improving every day with the help of speech-language pathologists and support of a loving husband.
Accepting the award, Giffords said, "people with aphasia get better. I am getting better."
"Communication disorders do not rest on solitary souls," Annie Glenn told the audience. "All of the family overcomes it by working together. Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords are working together."
Perhaps with the support of Kelly, Giffords will one day present the Annie Award to a grateful recipient, a moment her husband undoubtedly will call one of the most emotional moments of his life.