Dedication

In a year, I hope to publish my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. A few weeks ago when I went to the local senior center for breakfast, I ran into Lois Bell, the community outreach director who also edits the newsletter and does other activities. A month earlier, she coordinated a fund raiser where people could purchase homemade Valentine hearts in tribute to someone they love. I bought one in honor of Bill. I meant to pick it up sooner after it was displayed in the dining room, but I forgot. On this day, she asked me if I still wanted it, and I said I did.

I hadn’t seen it before, and I was glad I didn’t look at it closely until I got home because when I saw it, tears came to my eyes. It was a red heart made of some sort of laminated paper. Pink flowers were pinned to the top corners. I’d e-mailed Lois our wedding picture which was displayed in the middle of the card. Above and below it were the words, “To Bill, my love, now, always, forever.” I can’t think of a better dedication for my memoir.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

abbiejohnsontaylor:

Do you remember any of these?

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
March 18, 1998

A little house with three bedrooms and one car on the street,
A mower that you had to push to make the grass look neat.

In the kitchen on the wall we only had one phone,
And no need for recording things, someone was always home.

We only had a living room where we would congregate,
Unless it was at mealtime in the kitchen where we ate.

We had no need for family rooms or extra rooms to dine,
When meeting as a family those two rooms would work out fine.

We only had one TV set, and channels maybe two,
But always there was one of them with something worth the view.

For snacks we had potato chips that tasted like a chip,
And if you wanted flavor there was Lipton’s onion dip.

Store-bought snacks were rare because my mother liked to cook,
And…

View original 630 more words

Philomena Re-visited

Note: This was posted a year ago, but I’m re-blogging it to commemorate St. Patric’s Day.

 

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth there and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, you give birth to a healthy baby boy. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, the author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British author, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005)  In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government. To read more about him, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Sixsmith .

The book, Philomena, begins with a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie. Martin Sixsmith then starts by describing the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were virtual prisoners there for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She did the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

Most of the remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in such activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin confronts one of the nuns, and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. I can think of no better way to end this post. Please click below to hear me sing this song. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

 

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/danny%20boy.mp3

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

 

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At Sheridan Manor

Here you lie

after suffering two strokes,

unable to walk.

For six years, I cared for you.

We were happy.

 

Now, after giving up on life,

you’re breathing your last.

Here I sit, holding your hand,

talking to you,

singing your favorite songs,

wishing you’d respond,

tell me you love me,

squeeze my hand.

I shouldn’t be here. To hear me read this poem, click the link below. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/21%20at%20sheridan%20manor.mp3 From That’s Life: New and Selected Poems Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press. Order That’s Life from Amazon. Vote for my new book idea.

Remember When…

abbiejohnsontaylor:

Do any of the items in this poem ring a bell? Please feel free to share your memories below.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

dilbert

Close your eyes and go back… Before the Internet, or the MAC…
Before semi automatics and crack…

Way back. I’m talkin’ ’bout…

Hide and seek at dusk. Sittin’ on the porch, The Good Humor Man, and Red Light, Green Light.

Chocolate milk, Lunch tickets, Penny candy in a brown paper bag.
Playin’ Pinball at the corner store. Hopscotch, butterscotch, doubledutch, Jacks, kickball, dodgeball, Mother May I? Red Rover and Roly Poly.

Double Dog Dares! Hula Hoops and Sunflower Seeds, Mary Janes, Banana Splits, Wax Lips and Mustaches. And running through the sprinklers.

The smells of outdoors… and lickin’ salty lips.
Watchin’ Saturday Morning cartoons like Fat Albert, Road Runner, He-Man, The Three Stooges, and Bugs. Or back further… 
listening to Superman and The Shadow on the radio.

Catchin’ lightening bugs in a jar, Playin’ sling shot.

Remember when around the corner seemed far away… and going downtown seemed like going…

View original 374 more words

Blessed Are the Caregivers

abbiejohnsontaylor:

Being a family caregiver is a job like no other. Unlike nurses, policemen, and factory workers, caregivers don’t go home at the end of the day. Except for times when they can get respite care, they’re always on the job, meeting their loved ones’ needs, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I was a family caregiver for seven years so I should know. I feel blessed to have met and married Bill. Although caring for him wasn’t easy, I couldn’t walk away after he suffered his first stroke. Alice’s poem offers encouragement to others in this position.

Originally posted on alice13wordwalk:

Blessed Are the Caregivers

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

(This poem is dedicated to my dad who was my mother’s caregiver,

as well as to all other caregivers.)

In the midst of the seasons of life,

too often in the months of hard winter

comes an extraordinary season of giving,

of caregiving,

of giving care,

of giving and giving,

the 24/7 kind of giving–

giving until exhaustion overwhelms love,

giving until a weariness overshadows the spirit–

then, finding that the heart has even more to give

because of a belief in duty and love,

because of promises and prayers.

Blessed are these caregivers.

Surely, they will be given uncommon strength

through the touch

of an angel’s

wing.

Blessed are the caregivers,

for they will inherit the gentle grace of God.

Blessed are these caregivers,

and bless those who receive their care and love.

With gratitude to and admiration of all caregivers,

View original 7 more words

formidable

In Belgium, a teen-aged boy

with a rare form of autism

can’t see or smell but sings French songs,

accompanies himself on the piano.

During a radio interview,

his parents say he taught himself.

Cheerful, optimistic, in halting English,

he says he wants to be a singer.

Formidable, his music tears my heart.

From That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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