Review: Upwelling

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Upwelling: Poems

By Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2016.

 

The poems and essay in this collection cover a wide range of topics. In “Line by Line,” the author reflects on the process of writing poetry. In “The Marriage Pot,” she compares an ordinary pan to her relationship with her husband. In “Verona,” she takes us through the labyrinth of emotions she feels when meeting her guide dog for the first time. Other topics include death, eroticism, and a disturbing dream.

I could relate to the material in this book. It was all straightforward, down to earth, surprising, and heartwarming. I met Ann through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. In the dedication at the beginning of the book, she acknowledges our organization, calling us the “Blue Grass Pals” which is actually the name of our email list server.

Ann isn’t the only one who writes poetry based on her life experiences. The poems at the end of each chapter in My Ideal Partner were inspired by my six years of caring for my late husband Bill after two strokes paralyzed his left side. I think you’ll find it just as much of a good read as Ann’s book.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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A Losing Battle (A Poem)

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I just found out that today is World Alzheimer’s Day. This inspired me to post a poem I wrote years ago that appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Click on the title to hear me read it.

***

A Losing Battle

 

My get up and go

just got up and went.

I’m feeling so down.

My whole life’s been spent.

 

I sit in my chair

day in and day out.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I shout.

 

I don’t know one soul

from the next, don’t you see?

I can only smile

when they talk to me.

 

I need help each day,

am unsure what to do.

Everything’s jumbled.

Everything’s new.

 

Although I can walk,

I don’t know where to go.

Nothing’s familiar.

There’s nothing I know.

 

Sometimes it’s hopeless.

I see no light

at the end of the tunnel,

no daybreak in sight.

 

It’s just as well

there’s no forthcoming dawn–

for my get up and go’s

gotten up and gone.

***

I’m so thankful that my late husband Bill never had Alzheimer’s. His mind was clear until almost the very end. To read more of our story, please check out my new memoir. I can just imagine how awful it would be to care for a loved one who didn’t know who I was.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Losing Bill, a Poem

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LOSING BILL

 

 

The Nurse

 

He’d only been living here a month,

although he came frequently for respite care

while his wife went to writers conferences.

He loved bragging about her,

the author of two books,

When his decline made caring for him difficult,

he moved here to stay.

 

After that, he went downhill,

lost strength in his good arm

needed help eating,

developed bed sores so painful

he couldn’t sit up for long.

One day, he quit eating,

was given oxygen.

His wife signed end-of-life papers.

Four days later when I came to work, he was gone.

 

The Husband

 

For six years,

I couldn’t use my left arm or leg.

My wife did everything,

wiped me when I pooped,

dressed me, got me out of bed,

helped me with my computer,

prepared meals, did laundry and other chores.

Other women would have walked away-

she didn’t, despite limited vision.

For six years, I was happy until

 

I didn’t feel like eating.

It became harder and harder for my wife to lift me

so I reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home.

She visited me every day.

We went out once or twice.

Although I wanted to be involved,

it was too hard, too painful.

 

I wanted to be in a better place.

I knew it would be a shock for her

so I held on as long as I could.

When she finally gave me permission, I went.

 

The Wife

 

The nurse’s call woke me at 6 a.m.

I thought, this is it, I’m a widow.

I knew it was coming.

In a way, it was a relief,

but that didn’t take away the emptiness.

At his bedside in the nursing home,

I kissed his cold face,

positioned my cheek in front of his still mouth,

expecting a response—none came.

I buried my face in his soft hair,

caressed his cold chest,

told him I loved him,

took his belongings,

my life changed forever.

 

The Wife, Four Years Later

 

His suitcase from the nursing home sits in the closet, still packed.

His computer and other belongings gather dust

in the nook off the kitchen that was his for years.

Whether I find someone new,

there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Life and love go on.

(((

I wrote the above poem during a workshop this past weekend given by University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. Click this link to hear me read it. Please check out my new memoir to read more of our story.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Now What?

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Recently, I stepped out of the shower and was drying myself when I discovered something on my left breast. It felt like the moles on other parts of my skin the dermatologist said were nothing to worry about. I told myself I was making a mountain out of a mole, but the fact that it was on my left breast was worrisome.

I hurriedly dressed, called the women’s clinic, and was able to get an appointment for later that morning. When I called the paratransit service to arrange a ride, the dispatcher said, “We’ll get you there, but you’ll have to be patient getting home.” As I put my cell phone in my pocket, I thought that if I wasn’t diagnosed with breast cancer, I would have all the time in the world. I then realized that the nurse-practitioner at the clinic wouldn’t be able to tell if the spot was cancer by looking at it. A biopsy would need to be scheduled, and that would mean waiting and wondering.

I threw myself into my work, eating half a bagel and banana at my desk while checking email. I usually did this every morning to save time. I then started work on an upcoming blog post. Fifteen minutes before my scheduled pick-up time, I was ready. The bus was late.

It was about ten minutes before my scheduled appointment, and the driver said, “I’ve got a couple people to pick up before I can get you there. Sorry.”

Oh great, I thought, and I removed my cell phone from my pocket. “Just tell them it’s our fault. We had a scheduling problem.”

The scheduling problem was my fault. When I called the clinic earlier, there was another opening for the following day, but I didn’t want to wait that long. The paratransit service usually preferred to book rides at least a day in advance, but I’d convinced the dispatcher it was urgent.

When I called the clinic a second time from the bus and explained the situation, the young woman who answered the phone said, “When do you think you’ll be here?”

“I don’t know,” I answered in exasperation. “I’ll be there when I can. Just tell the nurse-practitioner I’m coming.”

As the bus bumped along, I thought my life was going great until now. My new memoir was out, and a couple of promotion events were scheduled. Why did this have to happen now?

I remembered the time when my late husband Bill suffered his first stroke. We’d been married for three months and were happy, then boom! Was this thing on my breast another bomb about to drop? Why?

I alternated between these thoughts and telling myself I was making a mountain out of a mole. I thought of my editor, Leonore Dvorkin, who fought her own battle with breast cancer years earlier and lived to write a memoir about it. While she was recovering from surgery, her husband David took care of her. I no longer had a husband. If I needed a lump or the whole breast removed, I would have to depend on the kindness of friends. My brother would probably want to fly in from Florida, but with a wife and five kids and working two jobs to make ends meet, he couldn’t afford it.

When we finally arrived at the medical complex housing the women’s clinic, I was surprised when my talking watch told me it was ten-forty-five, the actual time of the appointment. My white cane swinging in front of me, I dashed to the elevator and found the Braille-labeled button for the second floor.

“It’s probably nothing,” I told Tracy, the nurse-practitioner moments later. “It could just be a mole, but I thought I should have it checked out.”

“Absolutely,” she said. I placed my index finger on the spot, and she examined it. “It looks like just a clogged pore.”

“You mean it’s nothing to worry about?”

“Not at all,” she answered. “It should clear up soon, but if it gets bigger and starts hurting, let us know.”

After putting my shirt back on and before leaving the exam room, I called the paratransit service to request a ride home, prepared to be patient. As I left the clinic and made my way down the deserted hall toward the elevator, I was relieved and elated. “Yes, I don’t have breast cancer. Life can go on,” I said, thankful no one was there to hear me.

On the ground floor, I stood just inside the entrance. To my surprise, a bus pulled up a few minutes later. This was my lucky day.

Perhaps I over-react in such situations, but it’s only because I would hate to depend on others for care if I needed it. Bill wanted to be able to take care of me, but after his strokes, that was impossible. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Wedding Song

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Eleven years ago today, a Saturday, Bill and I stood under an arch framed with flowers in my grandmother’s back yard and said our vows, not knowing that tragedy would strike in three short months. The following poem was written for our wedding by Rose Hill, a dear friend and Wyoming’s poet laureate from 2015-2016.

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Wedding Song for Abbie and Bill

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

The band’s tuned up, the table spread.

The day of days is finally here.

Abbie and Bill are wed today.

 

From far and wide your friends are come

to offer gifts; advise the groom;

to eat and toast and kiss the bride,

to celebrate these solemn vows.

 

Beneath the gaiety and fun are prayers,

half-formed, heartfelt and deep,

that your love grows each passing year,

that you respect and cherish one another,

 

And as your love grows deeper, stronger,

your home becomes a peaceful haven,

a fort against the world’s demands

where you find joy together.

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

We celebrate your love and marriage

and many anniversaries until

Abbie and Bill are wed fifty years today.

 

Rose Hill

***

Of course it’s not our fiftieth anniversary, and we’ll never make it that far, but we had seven mostly happy years together, and that’s cause for celebration. To read our story, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Visit my Facebook page.

 

 

Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

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Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson

by Mitch Albom

Copyright 1997

 

Years after graduating from college, sports writer Mitch Albom reconnected with Morrie, his former psychology professor, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He describes how he and Morrie spent the last few months of the old man’s life together. His visits were considered his last class with the professor. The only course requirements were to adjust the old man’s pillows from time to time and do other personal care tasks. Graduation was the professor’s funeral, and the final paper was this memoir. The author also describes his life during and after college and gives some biographical information about Morrie.

This book was featured not too long ago on BookDaily. I found it depressing, but what could I have expected from a book about a young man learning lessons about life and death from a dying one? In a way, Morrie reminded me of Bill, although Bill wasn’t terminally ill. Morrie always talked about his death. The only time Bill even touched on the subject of his demise was when he planned his own funeral.

Morrie said something that struck me as interesting. When you depend on others for everything, even wiping your bottom, it’s like being a baby again. You enjoy being cared for the way your mother took care of you in your infancy.

Bill often laughed when I cleaned him up after a bowel movement or inserted a suppository. At first, I thought he was embarrassed, but now I realize he was enjoying the physical attention. That was why he often asked me to scratch his back or perform other physical ministrations he couldn’t do himself. He was craving the attention his mother gave him because it provided comfort. Realizing that probably wouldn’t have made dropping everything and performing these tasks any easier. To learn more about his experiences in being a baby again and my caregiving adventures, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Visit My Facebook Page.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner September 2016

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August has been a busy month with the promotion of my new book. I’ve been sending press releases to reporters and announcements to family and friends. On August 30th, I was interviewed on a local radio station’s public affairs program. On September 24th, I’ll be signing copies of my new book at Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery. I’m working with Cameron Duff, director of the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library to host an event to commemorate National Indie Author Day on October 8th. By this time next month, I should have more details about that so stay tuned.

I’ve also been busy singing, as usual. Earlier this month, I played my guitar and sang at the Sheridan Senior Center’s adult day care program. My group, Just Harmony, performed for a service at the United Methodist Church on August 28th. On August 31st, I played my guitar and sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge on the 9th and Westview on the 27th.

Believe it or not, I took time out to have some fun. I went with Rose Hill and Christine Valentine, two writer friends, to Prayer Lodge near Busby, Montana, where we enjoyed a delicious potluck supper and listened to some great live music. This was actually an informal jam session so I brought my guitar and played and sang a few songs.

A week later, Christine and I attended a bluegrass and burgers event at the local senior center which was a lot of fun. A couple of weeks later, Rose and I attended a lecture at the Brinton Museum on the history of cowboy music. Dave Munsick, the same singer/songwriter who sang for our wedding over ten years ago, played his guitar and sang some old cowboy songs during the lecture, and that was very interesting.

My brother’s in-laws from Florida came to town one day. They’d been traveling across the country for several weeks, occasionally on motorcycles, and they took me out to dinner at Frackleton’s. The food was delicious, and I had a great time visiting with them.

Well, that’s about it for now. I hope you all have a great month, and I’ll have more news in October. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Also, I have a new Facebook page which I hope to eventually link to this blog.

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.