Dr. Van

by Gerald and Maxine Johnson

All of us were lost souls who were wandering through the morass of life
without a clue as to how to live with our stuttering.

Stuttering was life to us and it always kept us offguard
as we tried for the brass ring that would give us another ride.

Try as we might we could not find the truth
that we were seeking. How does one get better without really trying?

And there Dr. Van was hidden away at some obscure
university in some city made famous in song
tucked in an office that had seen better days.

Dr. Van looked us over with bemused expression
that spoke of his amazement that one such as we
had suffered the same fate as he.

1 am sure Dr. Van wanted to Slap his thigh and utter
and feel a modicum of compassion for our turmoil.

Dr. Van was one of us end he understood our plight
better than we--we were nothing more
than an open book to him.

Dr. Van knew that too much of him might not be good for us
even though we wanted to absorb him into us.

Dr. Van's face belied his professional distance as he
attempted to put our troubles into his professional bank
of knowledge.

Our help came from within our puny behavioral system
that Dr. Van wanted to make strong and healthy
even though we didn't know it.

Dr. Van touched us by word and deed
and an unflinching faith in the ever changing human landscape.

He was a tough old bird who was always "old" to us
and always tough as he tried to impart the
wisdom of the ages to fledgling persons who
needed so much.

Dr. Van admonished us to work for ourselves
and if we didn't care to do that much then we should go from
the toot of his chair to make room for someone else.

Dr. Van took only the most challenged so he could be challenged
in return for his talent since he never sought nor
took anything of material value from any of us.

Dr. Van was the richest person we have ever known
since he was always his own person who never sought gratification
but always received it even though he never asked for it.

Dr. Van evoked loyalty from those of us who knew him
and we tried to emulate the honesty and dedication he had always
demonstrated to us.

Dr. Van's therapy was infectious to those who wanted to take it
and even if we didn't get the whole message we were never the same
person as the one Dr. Van saw crawl through his office door.

We learned the hard way--one stutter, one word, one sentence,
one situation, one person at a time. Was this how it was supposed to be?

No magic, no potion, no machine, no drill, nothing in our ear or attached to
our throat, no nothing but ourselves to confront life
with skills that made self-analysis at first painful, but as time
went by we got better because we discovered who we were.
Who we were was not the person we soon became
through our emergent self and the learning to control
rather than to be controlled.

To hell with the world. You can only control one person
and that person is always reflected in the mirror
as clear as glass can reflect the multifaceted
person who is oneself.

Dr. Van took us all and all of us without qualification or hesitancy
since he cared for the human condition called stuttering
and its impact upon those who needed him the most.

We now can reveal how much we loved Dr. Van
because in life he would hear none of that kind of talk
because he felt the same way about us and what
would be gained by telling each other of our love?

Love is too self-serving and Dr. Van didn't want to ever
feel dependent upon another person, except those who became
family who he loved more than life itself.

Dr. Van had a wit that was unparalleled and spirited
and he shared many a story with us with a twinkle in his eye.
No matter if you didn't get it because all that mattered
was the telling or doing the "dance of the wild cucumber."

Dr. Van and his pipe and match stick were inseparable
partners except for that time of year when he wanted to prove
to himself that he didn't need those partners--his will was strong.

Knowing Dr. Van allowed us to know his lovely wife Catharine
who was as tender and dear as any woman could ever be. Catharine knew
kids and helped many a parent through some tough times when
their child stuttered.

Even though Dr. Van might think that a few tears might not be appropriate,
we know that he just might get a kick out of our unshameful, spontaneous
bit of feeling sorry for ourselves on our loss.

Death does not take Dr. & Mrs. Van away from us
since they remain our companions as we trek
through life as better persons because of them.

Thanks--we love you.

added with permission, October 9, 1998