When he died, in December 2016, Marine combat pilot, war hero, astronaut and US Senator, Col John Glenn had been married 68 years, to his childhood sweetheart, Annie, whom he credited for being the very reason for his success in life.
The story of John and Annie Glenn is the very well spring of inspiration.
John first met Annie when they were neighbors and their moms would put the two five-year olds together in a large basket swing in the backyard and they would spend the afternoons giggling and screaming.
As Annie grew, she was found to have a severe stutter in her speech, so bad that she couldn’t even utter certain words without going into a long stutter. That led her to be shunned and bullied in school – until John took charge of her ‘security’ and she was never bothered again. Glenn remained true to Annie through seven decades and sometime during this very long honeymoon, Annie was able to conquer her stutter through therapy and perseverance.
In 1982, a reporter for The globe asked Glen, who was then considering running for the 1984 US Presidential elections, whether marrying someone with such a severe stutter ever made him reconsider his presidential bid.
“That never really made any difference,” he replied,” we grew up together with her stutter and I knew the person she was and I loved the person she was and that was that.”
John Glenn passed on in December 2016. It is okay to have never ever met a man like John Glenn but still feel a sense of loss – at another little bit of good, chipped away and lost inside the maelstrom of survival. Annie is still alive, now 100. It must be hard living alone. I hope the world for you, Annie.
There must be so many ways to show your love for each other. Little simple ways, like this one I read about the Glenns somewhere…..
John and Annie liked to play a secret game between themselves. Whenever, as a combat pilot in the fifties, Glenn went on a mission, he would turn at the front door of their little cottage at the air base and give Annie a quick peck on the cheek and say with faux curtness,” I’m going down to the corner store for some gum. You want any? Yours is pineapple, isn’t it?”
“No, silly,” Annie would smile,”Jill Travers at middle school liked pineapple. Mine is orange. And don’t be too long. There’s shepherd’s pie for dinner….”
The same conversation played out on a clear blue morning on Feb 20, 1962, when Glenn stood at the door of the astronauts’ bus and she touched the visor of his helmet. Only this time she strained to hold back her tears as she watched him board the Mercury-Atlas rocket that stood steaming a mile away, ready to fly him into the unknown.
Update : Annie Glenn passed away on 19 May, 2020, her death caused by complications from the Covid-19 virus infection. She was 100.
A Pakistani-Canadian colleague had just returned after a month in Karachi, settling his father’s affairs after his funeral. He was the only offspring and his mother had preceded her husband of 60 years the previous spring. We were at the lunch table at work, when I said to him, “Your father, what kind of a father was he?”
He thought for a moment and said,” I never got to know him actually. He was always busy running his restaurant chain, while my mother brought me up. One thing I do remember though and it was when I was in college. Late evenings, I would be upstairs in my room, books and notes spread around me, trying to cram as much as I could, for a test. When Abbu arrived home, it would be late and my mother would be asleep in bed in their ground-floor bedroom, the first door to the right from the front door.”
Here, my colleague’s eyes got misty as he carried on, “At the sound of the front door opening, I would go over to the landing, in time to see him stoop to remove his shoes and tip-toe over to the bedroom door which was always left ajar so there would be some circulation in the steamy heat. He would stand still and look in and stare at my mother’s still form for a long while and then he would turn to me and ask in a whisper, “Has she eaten?”
It is hard to put in words the transcendental emotion, the sublime feel of couples who have been married 40,50,60 years. Almost all long-married folks agree that it is tough making marriages work, but that in the end they choose to stay together because of an almost indescribable connection that has been formed over the years by myriads of little things that they feel about each other. It is also the little words they say to each other that matter.