32 minutes

I remember the first national speech pathology convention I attended. It was sponsored by the American Speech and Hearing Association. I was late arriving at the awards luncheon and found an open seat at a table near the front of the conference room. When I was settled and had a chance to look around I realized I was seated at the dignitary’s table. To my right was the past president of ASHA and next to her was the executive director of the Alexander Graham Bell Association. The current ASHA president was the next person and then there was Nancy McKinley and Carol Westby, two leaders in the field. I realized I had sat where I did not belong and quicky started to gather my things. “No no. Your place is right here,” the woman on the left patted the chair seat to convince me to sit back down. I don’t know who they thought I was, but for a little while, about 32 minutes before they had to get up and address the audience I was right there rubbing elbows with the champions of Speech Patholgy and Audiology.

Charlie and I traveled to Kyoto, Japan last week to attend the World Parkinson’s Congress. There are some well known characters in the Parkinsons Community. In addition to seeing them on YouTube, Facebook, Podcasts and blogs, they are frequently invited to speak at conferences.

[ ] This WPC in Kyoto had its fair share of big names from the Parkinsons community present. One person who caught my attention at the WPC in 2016 was Heather Kennedy. Heather has YOPD, young onset Parkinson’s disease. I met her in the Book Nook at the 2016 WPC in Portland and we had a short disussion about who knows what. But Heather intrigued me enough to watch for her name in the Parkinsons world. To say Heather is a performer is understating her abilities. Educating and advocating about Parkinson’s is her passion. Her intelligence and humor keeps audiences engaged. Throw in a little singing, (maybe Jolene) a bit of dance (videoed at a club or Parkinson’s event) a wink and a shrug and she communicates beyond the need for words.

My fit bit told me I had already put in 6700 steps and I also had met my goal of speaking with four new people that morning. I decided to take a break in a comfy chair. I was just dozing off to sleep when I felt someone near me and a sort of familiar voice saying ” hey, whats up. Are you doing ok?” It was one of those big name people with Parkinsons, it was Heather Kennedy. “I haven’t eaten yet and I have to talk in a little while.” “Lets go find something to eat then” I responded. We were the only ones in the Grill restaurant as our orders were taken. After a debate with the waitress as to if there was grain or dairy (now I knew she suffered with celiac disease) we were alone again. In the next 32 minutes while we waited for and then inhaled our lunches, we exchanged enough personal information that we could say we actually knew each other, well as much as you can know in that short of time. The rapid pace of the questions and answers reminded of the “Speed Dating” game that was so popular about 10 years ago.

My 32 minutes of personal time with Heather Kennedy came swiftly to an end as the clock struck 12 and she was off to her next commitment. I promised to bring her a copy of The Ribbon of Road Ahead so she could know me better, and I promised to remind her on a regular basis that her thoughts are very worthy of being preserved for eternity in a published format.

Time to write, Heather.

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