Communication

What's in a word? For a person with limited communication capabilities, more than you can imagine…
My big sister is developmentally challenged, and although she is an avid and accomplished reader, free expression - outward communication - has always been a source of stress for her. Still, Annie loves engaging in conversation and loves small talk. She has worked hard to compensate; her courage and tenacity have served her well. I remember sometime in the 1970's seeing my mother record a catalog of words on notebook paper and entitling it, "Annie's Dictionary". That dictionary remained in a small, purse-sized, loose-leaf notebook in mom's handbag until about 2005 when I became the keeper of the dictionary.

"Annie's Dictionary" contains words of my sister's creation that not only compensate for communication gaps she has perceived but also beautiful sound creations that we feel have always fit and enhanced the conversations or situations they describe. As kids we used to beg my mom to bring it out at the dinner table so we could review all its words with Annie - we loved to hear her define these gems; we'd all encourage her and we'd laugh together when she would recount the moment she created a particular word surrounding an event. For example, it was in the garage/basement of our family summer home where the "Shaeks, Shacks, Shirks, Foo-atches, and Firtches lived: even though they protected the house for us, we knew that we would never want to encounter them! When our stepmother was pregnant, our unborn sibling - and all unborn relatives that followed - would be known as "Gzorp". To be known as a Bammer, or Be-ammer, or Baakwell, well… you knew you needed to find favor again! While driving, we learned that the Didt was the only way to make the car move while the Spank-You allowed it to stop. As an expert bubble-blower, Annie identified the triple-bubbles she would blow as Crailers… and there were some words that were sounds without a particular meaning, but they always added pizazz and depth to a conversation: Glank-glornk, Daern't-daern't, Issa-does-does are just a few. Finally, I loved going down the windy and hilly road that let small glints of sunlight through its dense canopy of scrub oak - in part because it took us to relative's houses and to play tennis, but mostly because it was dubbed "the Fruanit-nit Road", and it just sounded right to me.

I am honored to act as the keeper of this treasure, and awed by the creative soul that imagined these expressive terms, in spite of challenges that most of us might assume would squelch any chance of the artistry my sister has shared with us… in her words and on her terms.
Mary O'Meara
Watertown, CT 2011

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