The First Time I Met Norm

As many of you know, Norm McEwen died unexpectedly last fall. This year the “Talking About Stuttering” team at the Stuttering Treatment Clinic in Ottawa is fundraising in the 2015 Ottawa Race Weekend in memory of Norm.

I will always remember the first time I met Norm. Not an auspicious encounter for what later became a very close friendship. In 1997 Norm was attending a Canadian Association of People Who Stutter conference in Vancouver along with several other individuals from Ottawa including my future wife, Tania Kamienski.

I was living in West Vancouver at the time, in fact, two blocks from the hotel where the conference was taking place. Tania and I had gotten together the fall before in Ottawa and this was the first time she was visiting me in Vancouver.

Being a romantic, I wanted to impress Tania by greeting her at the hotel with a huge bouquet of flowers. I went to the reception desk. There was no Tania Kamienski registered. Tania had assured me she was attending the conference.  Had she lied? Was she laying me astray?

Fretting around the lobby, I heard a familiar sound. The sound of someone stuttering. I must be in the right place. The person speaking was, as I later learned, Norm McEwen. Being a very perceptive individual, I concluded he must be attending the conference and perhaps knew Tania.

I went up to Norm and asked him, “Do you know Tania Kamienski? Is she here?”

Norm is a big man. And okay, I am somewhat short. He looked me up and down with a menacing glare. “Yes, but why are you asking?” he drilled. I could tell he was sizing me up as if questioning “who are you and what do you want with “our” Tania.” “Our Tania!” Not the first of many inquisitions I endured from Tania’s friends when they learned she and I were engaged.

“I am a friend of Tania’s” I said forcefully, without stuttering I might add. “From Ottawa. Can you give her these flowers?”

“Why?” Norm replied brusquely. I didn’t feel like explaining that this was part of my courting ritual and the sad after effect of studying the romantics in English literature for far too many years.

I thrust the flowers in Norm’s arms and mumbled, “Thanks” and practically ran out the hotel door fearing the hammer of Thor was about to fall on my head.

Later at the hotel Tania did get the flowers from me, through Norm, although what explanation she gave her over protective knight as to our relationship I have no idea.

When I moved to Ottawa the following year, married Tania and met Norm we became close friends. We shared many years together as members of the Ottawa Association of People Who Stutter and through our fundraising efforts during the Ottawa Race Weekend. But also just as good friends.

I treasure many fond memories of Norm but none so much as the first time I met him in Vancouver and the image of  him, a giant of a man,  holding this huge bouquet of flowers with a  startled look on his face as if to ask “who the hell was that?”

That, dear Norm, was a soon to become a close friend and one who will never forget you.

David Burton

We would like to hear your memories of Norm McEwen. Did you take speech therapy with him? Perhaps you  also knew Marie Poulos? Were you involved in CAPS or the CSA at the same time he was? Let us know!

Published by David Burton

I first took speech therapy some 30 years ago in Ottawa and recently completed a semi-intensive course at the Ottawa Stuttering Treatment Clinic. I am an active member of OAPWS and appreciate the support and sharing of common experiences.

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