Saturday, July 23, 2022

Bruno / STAMMA

 Friday was s-l-o-w, very, very slow. Sheba’s recovery required that I monitor her and so I read, comfortably installed on my bed with Bruno. I treasured having nothing to do all day but relax. It was a gorgeous day—bright and sunny and not offensively hot. There’s absolutely no rain at all in the forecast and it’s predicted to get hotter and hotter over the coming week. Sigh.

All I did is linger here and there in the yard, looking at all the damage done by a deer that got into the yard. I’d left a gate open and now I have nude Apple trees, denuded lower branches on the Cherry tree, blossomless Hydrangeas, and a disappeared Horse Chestnut tree. But I did have some time with Bruno. How I love this series!

Late in the afternoon and again in the evening around an outdoor fire, I hung out with Merrill and her friends Carmen and Phil. Merrill is such a treat! I like her very much; she shares Issa with me, and I feel privileged to be welcomed so warmly and sincerely by such fabulous young people. I just wish Leo had been with us; he is working in Vancouver.

Today I must harvest my abundant crop of Raspberries. But I’ll also take in the morning farmers’ market. Sheba got much worse last night. Her foot that was almost healed is badly hurting her. She did not want to get off the bed, but I could see no wound at all. 

The scene: Bruno has just picked up a gay man whom the local gendarmes have held in jail for questioning about a murder. Bruno proved his innocence. The man had been accused of murdering his lover who’d come with him to spend the summer in St. Denis while he artistic directed a summer theatre festival. Bruno takes him home to his home outside St. Denis where he has a home and potagerie, to make him dinner and sleep in his guest room until he recovers from the shock of losing his lover to murder and for being treated as the prime suspect.

“Bruno excused himself and went to the kitchen. First, he heated a pan of sunflower oil for beignets. Then he readied a bowl of spicey salsa, removed from the fridge a pot of Stéphane’s aillou (fresh cheese flavoured with herbs and garlic), spooned it into a bowl and took both bowls out to the garden with some small plates and a pile of paper napkins. Back inside, he dropped the sliced zucchini into the light bater he had made earlier and then eased them into the hot fat. Once, the were brown and crisp, he took the beignets out with a slotted spoon, sprinkled salt onto them and slipped in a fresh batch to fry. He took the first plateful out to his guests and left Pamela to show Valentoux how to hold the hot beignets in a paper napkin and then decide whether to smear it with salsa or aillou.

Then …

“When Bruno returned to his guests, Valentoux had opened a bottle of Clos d’Yvigne, the dry white Bergerac that Fabiola loved. She must have brought it. Knowing Bruno’s fondness for Pomerol, Annette had brought a bottle of Chateau Nenin, which he had decanted at once so they could enjoy it that evening. Pamela had brought a Monbazillac from Clos l’nvège, which would go perfectly with the strawberries, and he’d put it in the fridge to stay cool. Me put the marinated duck into the oven, sliced some ham form the haunch that hung from the main beam in the kitchen and put a plate of ham and his fresh radishes at each setting on this dining room table. He added some unsalted butter to each plate and sliced a round loaf of bread from the Moulin bakery.”

All set in the Dordogne. It never rains. There’s murder, there are dogs and horses. There’s history and often cities I vividly remember from my time in France are mentioned. It’s ideal reading in Summer.

The writing I’m doing for STAMMA is super interesting.

It started with a request to write about the experience of being a late-onset stutterer. An editor at STAMMA contacted me after the speech therapist who leads our STAMMA support group linked him to my video on YouTube. The sentiment of the end of the ‘poem’ is a poignant statement of acceptance within a stutter. 

Stephen, an editor sent me a link. It was a story of another late-onset stutterer. So, I wrote my experience story and sent it to him, and he said that he’d let me know when it was published on the STAMMA website. (STAMMA is my U.K. stuttering association.; my experience with them is email and Zoom.)

Within days I was writing a different story. I wrote something I thought was far more important to say than another personal experience story. I wrote for all late-onset stutterers. I thought Stephen sounded doubtful. I asked him to read both and publish the one he preferred. 

The second article was an appeal to speech therapists be treated as a person and not a problem; to not assume late adolescent and adult stutterers (not children) want to be fixed; to counsel acceptance. And most importantly: to be referred to stuttering associations. 

Stephen liked it and sent me a link to another article written by a speech and language therapist. She speaks passionately about practicing both “medical” and “social” models of therapy.

There's been a lot of talk about the 'social model of disability' recently, with some saying it should replace the 'medical model' for stammering therapy. In this article, speech & language therapist Stephanie Burgess argues that adherence to one over the other is damaging.

While that was going on I shared my article with my B.C. stuttering group, and they liked it. I’d written the article after our last session together. It was the best session I’d ever experienced. That’s why I offered to write a letter to the professional therapists of B.C. 

I wrote to Stephen, and I can’t remember what I said. But he asked me to write an article about what I’m doing. Not the article. About my ‘goal’ to change engage BC speech therapists in both of Ms. Burgess’ two models. 

I expect he’s going to ask for another once we hear from the organizations to whom we write. I’ve become a voice in the stuttering community. 

Yesterday, sitting on my chaise longue, looked out at the fabulous display of huge ace-shaped leaves on my Paulownia tree. And I put the book down and I started thinking about the article and I asked myself: What was I thinking when I offered to write the letter?”

I wrote a letter because we all felt the same way about therapy. Yes, I wrote it to therapists, but I wrote it for us. Not for them. One line in my letter explained that we questioned our “fix us” experience but not our therapists. We wanted a cultural shift in therapy. I never considered consequences. And now here I am. My letter has me put me in a position requiring that I actually send my letter to the organizations. Fuck. I truly did not intend to do that. It was for us.

For one thing, I’m not writing anything until our next group discussion. I’m thinking I might ask if any of them would co-sign the letter with me. And/or that I write on behalf of whatever we are—that is: how we ‘legally’ exist in our relationship to the Canadian Stuttering Association (CSA). It is our group’s parent organization.

I will ask my group what they want me to send my letter to the national speech organizations. I’m not afraid to write the letter, but I’ve become fearful of the ever-increasing consequences of writing the letter. In the community of speech therapists, we/I are/am becoming a voice of the (late adolescent/adult) client. If they choose not to send the letter, it’s up to me if I want to send it on behalf of myself.

I’d rather be the voice of our little group and not feel alone in this accidental adventure. (That’ll be the name of the movie: Accidental (Mis)Adventure. I have new language for both the letter that is sent and the STAMMA article. I want to use the first-person plural when I write about the action to be taken.

Several paragraphs above I quoted Stephanie Burgess in an indented paragraph. Did you read it? Did anything stand out? Here’s the opening sentence of her thoughtful argument on a need for change in speech therapeutic practices: “There's been a lot of talk about the 'social model of disability' recently….” I’d refer she talk about social models of difference—not ‘disability.’ Language is important! You can’t improve the lot of stutterers by calling their condition a disability.

I’m going to teach her some new language. If I can speak for the group, I’ll definitely do that! If I must speak for myself? I may not. Last night I wrote to the convenors of my B.C. stuttering group to get my letter on the agenda for our next meeting and I made it very clear that I hoped the group will let me speak for us all.

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