A Secret Sadness

A couple of weeks after Bill suffered his first stroke and was transferred to the nursing home, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party for her little girl. I was feeling especially sad that day, and it was all I could do to hold back tears, as I ate tacos and watched the child open her gifts. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates this.

A Secret Sadness

I fight to keep from crying.
“Push it back, way back,” I tell myself.
Melissa’s eight-year-old cries of delight
mingle with the chatter of her playmates,
the smell of tacos.

Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side.
Will he ever walk again?

I paste a smile on my face, admire Melissa’s presents.
How can I be happy?

I’ll leave you now with a song that also depicts my unhappiness in the first weeks after Bill’s first stroke. This is one of Bill’s favorite songs, and he wants me to sing it at his funeral. I don’t know if I can do that. The link will be available for at least a couple of days.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Where I Came From

As I said in earlier posts, I was born in New York City, and my family moved to Boulder, Colorado, and Tucson, Arizona, before finally settling here in Sheridan, Wyoming. I went away to college and came back. When Bill proposed to me, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, at the time, and I thought he wanted me to move there to be with him, which I might have considered, daunting as it sounded. To my relief, Bill wanted to move here to be with me. The following poem was just published in Sensations Magazine. It details all the places where I’ve lived and illustrates the fact that Sheridan, Wyoming, is where I want to stay.

Where I Came From

I came from the city they say never sleeps,
a town in Colorado I barely recall,
the heat of Arizona that seeps into your bones,
a place where blind children learned the three R’s,
a neighborhood where children rode bikes, played games,
the green grass and trees, rolling hills of Wyoming,
college campuses full of activity,
a summer in Kansas when I was glad to get home,
a North Dakota winter so brutal, so cold,
another town in Colorado where I might have been happy,
a blue Wyoming sky—this is where I’ll stay.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Reta’s Song

Reta was one of the residents at Sheridan Manor I knew for years. When she first came, she preferred to stay in her room, choosing not to attend group activities, although she came to the dining room for meals. She loved to visit with me or anyone else who took the time to stop and talk. As her mental abilities declined, she chose to take her meals in her room, although she still loved to visit.

For some unknown reason, she started singing to herself, as she sat in her room. When she was eventually confined to a wheelchair, aides wheeled her to the lobby and other communal areas where she regaled everyone else with her songs. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates how Reta devoted the last few months of her life to song.

Reta’s Song

She sits in her wheelchair day in and day out,
singing the same song over and over and over again.
The tune is the same.
She makes up different words.
Sometimes, her words make sense.
Often, they have no meaning.
Unaware of what goes on around her,
she just keeps singing that same song
over and over and over again.

There was a time when she didn’t sing,
not even when someone else was singing.
She’d talk your head off for hours.
She didn’t keep singing that same song
over and over and over again.

She has changed.
She no longer talks your head off.
She sings it off.
When spoken to, she responds mostly In song.
The words are different.
The tune is the same.
She just keeps singing that same song
over and over and over again.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Christmas Parody

Here’s a more upbeat look at Christmas. The following poem could be sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls,” but I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll leave you with a link to where you can hear me play and sing another well-known Christmas song. This link will be available for at least a few days. I hope all of you who are reading this have a merry Christmas and prosperous 2012.

Christmas Parody

Tis the season to go crazy,
round and round it all gets hazy,
lots of programs and parties galore!
Hang up the phone and open the door.

Tis the season to spend money
on gourmet coffee and lots of honey,
candy, toys, books, clothes,
wrapping paper, ribbons, bows.

Deck the hall with a four-leaf clover.
Tis the time to be hung over.
Open up the wine and brandy.
Water should be always handy.

Look at the brightly burning fire.
Play the guitar and join the choir.
Don’t be shy. Just let it out.
Tis the time to “twist and shout!”

Oh the days are swiftly flying,
new year coming, old year dying.
Till the ending of this year,
Fill your heart with Christmas cheer.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/christmas%20song.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

A Mournful Night

Since my mother died of cancer on December 15th, 1999, Christmas hasn’t been quite the same. Now, with my family scattered across the country, it’s usually just me, Bill, and Dad for the holiday. Below is a poem that talks about how a particular carol causes a lump in my throat, as I mourn my mother’s passing. Below the poem, you will find a link to a recording of me playing and singing that carol. This link will be available for at least a couple of days.

A Mournful Night

I wash dishes,mouth the words to “O Holy Night.”
As soap washes away skum
from plates, glasses, silverware,
centuries after that holy night,
tears washed away the pain of my mother’s passing,
but the carol still causes a lump in my throat.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/o%20holy%20night.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Christmas Tree

The first of two poems I’ll include today is supposed to look like a Christmas tree. It has nine lines with each line having more syllables than the last. In the second poem, I talk about how the creation of the first poem triggered a memory of a school Christmas craft project that didn’t turn out quite right. Both poems are from my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

On A Summer Evening

Cool
darkness
surrounds me.
Crickets chirp their
evening serenade.
I lie awake, listen
to the night outside the panes.
I finally close my eyes and drift,
lulled by the crickets’ songs, the breezes.

I Admire My Handiwork

The poem contains nine lines,
each with one more syllable than the last.
It looks like a Christmas tree.
I’m transported back to my fifth grade classroom
in a school for children with visual impairments.

I’m pasting pop bottle tops to a piece of red felt
in nine rows, each containing more lids than the last.
But the rows are jagged.
“It’s supposed to look like a Christmas tree,” says Mrs. Jones.
“Don’t you know what a Christmas tree looks like?”

Almost fifty years later,
I stare in amazement at my computer screen
where I’ve managed to form a perfect Christmas tree out of words.

What do you remember about having a Christmas tree in your home? Did Dad go out in the forest to find just the right tree, or did you all pile into the family station wagon and drive to a nearby lot? Did you use homemade or store-bought decorations? Did your tree have a star or angel on top? Who was given the honor of putting that star or angel on top of the tree? Please e-mail me or share your memories below.

Here’s a Christmas medley to get you thinking about that memorable Christmas tree. This link will be available for at least a couple of days.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/christmas%20medley.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

On Top of the House

One day when I was eight, my dad took me up on the roof of our house. This was back in the 60’s when we lived in a house in Tucson Arizona. We had a swamp cooler on the roof, and it always broke down during the summer months. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver talks about that time on the roof, how everything seemed different from up there, and how Dad somehow managed to get the cooler going again.

On Top of The House

The cooler stands silent, inert,
dares Dad to fix it.
At the age of eight, I perch on one of the roof’s slopes,
gaze in wonder at the world below.
Mother calls from far away, yet close.
Where is she?

Dad hunches over the cooler.
“Turn it on,” he calls.
After a pause, it springs to life,
distributing cool air throughout the house’s interior.
It’s time to leave the top of the world.

Did you ever climb on the roof of your house when you were a kid? Tell me about it. Have you ever watched your dad repair something or try and fail to repair something? Please e-mail me or share your comments below.

By the way, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver is now available in print online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the publisher iUniverse. On my Website is a page containing information about the book, a sample poem, and links to where the book can be ordered on the sites I just mentioned.

Now, let’s take our reminiscing in a different direction. The house in Tucson I just mentioned had no chimney so Santa Claus came in through the front door on Christmas Eve. This was in the good old days before people locked their doors. What are your memories of Santa Claus? Here’s a song to get you thinking about it. This link will be available for at least a few days.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/up%20on%20the%20housetop.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net