July 26 2001 - In Royal Oak, Michigan

by Jim Abbott

Our brother in arms
As well as voice
We marvel at you
You stand there before us now
Unable to say a word
And we feel your pain
How long since your last utterance?
Does it seem to you like an eternity?
But still, you press on
We see the look upon your face
We know that look all too well
We see the anguish in your eyes
We know that too well as well

We hadn't seen you in many a day
We wondered what had become of you
We are happy to have you in our midst once again
We hope this time you don't stay away so long

The battle continues
It is a war we know you have repeated many times in the past
We have seen your struggles
And we have, of course, fought many of the same battles ourselves
Though in our own wars
The foe that we fight is not as formidable
Gamely you continue
You vs. the spoken word
The violence intensifies
We gather around you, closer, ever so much closer
As your voice grows ever softer
At times it is barely audible
We raise our ears so that we might hear
For we know you have something of importance to say
For we know that you're not a man prone to public speaking
Yet you stand their, before us now
Those of us whose number is sixteen
All of us, save one, stutterers in our own various degrees
And we feel your pain
And all sixteen of us
We marvel at you
What tenacity, what intestinal fortitude, what strength you possess
Pity there are not more here to bear witness of this
Could I continue to stand there, as you do?
Locked in a seemingly endless struggle,
wrestling with your verbal demons?
No, I don't believe I could
I would run screaming into the night
But then again, I would have never challenged myself in the first place
But there you are
A proud, determined man
No man, nor woman has ever been more so
No scaler of mountains,
no swimmer of seas,
no runner of marathons, no
Olympic athlete;
not ever the gallant Greeks of ancient times,
has ever been more so
If every man or woman,
could face every task,
every second,
of every single day
with the determination we see you now display,
not one thing would be beyond the reach of human kind
No obstacle too great for us then
Such a shame that such grit is spent
on simply saying a complete sentence,
or even but a few words
It is a pity there are not more here
to bear witness to the playing out of this remarkable short story
The greatest writers who have ever graced God's green earth,
on their greatest day,
could never have dreamed of capturing
what it is that we see before us now
Naked emotions, brutal, raw, real
Yes, my friend, we feel your pain
And though you request it not
nor do you perhaps want it
And please believe these words I say,
as we mean no offense,
and we hope none is taken as well
But so extensive is the extent of your stuttering
Such a mighty obstacle you must everyday overcome
just to lead some semblance of a normal life
And of course, nobody knows that better than you,
and any words of solace that anyone could give to you
or any words of inspiration that one could voice
in an effort to encourage you
would no doubt be a insult of most grandiose proportions
But we do offer up our sympathy
For what else can we do
We possess not the ability to help you with these words
For if we did, we would surely have helped ourselves first and foremost
Upon reflection, it is you who should serve as inspiration to us
For as difficult as our days have been,
are now,
and might be in the future,
they compare not to what it is we see you go through
The greatest writers of the earth should write of you in honor,
but I fear even that would not do you justice
We do marvel at you

Finally your words manage to come
Finally you step away from the podium
Finally you resume your seat
Finally you are done
What are you feeling right now, my friend?
Or perhaps nothing at all?
Perhaps your mind is but a blank?
No one does ask;
not because we don't wish to hear you speak anymore,
nor because we are not interested in your answer
We ask not, only because, it would seem to us,
that to put you once again on the spot,
so soon after your great ordeal,
would amount to cruel and unusual punishment
Are we wrong?
Perhaps we should question?
Perhaps you yearn to explain more?
But we don't dare take that chance
For to embarrass you, dear friend, would be so very, very wrong
And that would be something we would never dream of doing
For we hold you in the highest esteem
You who are our brother in arms
As well as voice
And truly we do marvel at you

added with permission of the author
November 30, 2001