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the Second Time Around
Ron Fimrite
January 09, 1989
Among the sorriest figures in contemporary society is the old athlete adrift in a world outside sports he can neither cope with nor fully comprehend. In another time, the ex-jock might be found recounting past glories in some neighborhood tavern, possibly his own, an all-but-forgotten relic revived from time to time by nostalgic stories in the newspapers.
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January 09, 1989

The Second Time Around

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Love is on a bus headed back downtown to his office at Nordstrom's. "I feel so good about myself now," he says. "Susan's given me a lot of confidence. I'd been to therapists before, but nothing seemed to work. It's so good to be able to talk after you've had all these words bundled up inside of you for 40 years."

The bus drops him off a block from the store. "When I retired, I was just another ex-jock who needed a job," he says, hurrying down Seattle's bustling Fifth Avenue. "Even though I had a degree in food and nutrition, my speech kept me from getting a good job."

He presses the elevator button. "Jim Dickinson, my boss here at Nordstrom's, said he didn't mind that. He said he wanted to see first of all if I really wanted to work. Then, he said, we'll do something about the speech problem. It was the first time anybody had ever expressed any interest in me as a person, and that gave me extra motivation. I knew they were pulling for me."

Love is in the kitchen of the store's busy little cafe. "I started right here. As a busboy four years ago. I was 42 years old. I could see people laughing at me. That hurt. What kept me going was that I had faith in myself. I went from busboy to dishwasher to sandwich-maker to working the cash register. Then Jim told me I'd proved myself, but he couldn't promote me unless we did something about my speech. He said the company would pay for a therapist. I found Susan, and we started in May of 1986. Within a month, I could tell a difference. I got my promotion a year and a half ago."

Love is wearing a dark gray pin-striped suit. Before the students arrive, he rehearses, standing before the empty chairs, smiling and gesturing, mumbling the words. It will be his fifth speech since he achieved fluency.

Love stands before this small assemblage of restless young people, a towering black man smiling heroically.

"Life after sports was really tough. It was doubly tough for me, because I am a stutterer...." He has captured his audience, and though he stumbles a few times, he handles the rough spots and finishes strongly.

He assesses his performance as he returns to his car. "Well, it wasn't perfect," he says, working his way into the front seat, "but, before, I could never have gotten up in front of a group like that. And now I look forward to it." He starts the engine. "Life after sports? I guess I'd have to say it's really great."

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