Not the Man I Married

This may be the title of a new book of poems I’m planning to put together. When I sent the final proof of How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver to the publisher, a fellow writer offered to take a look at it, hoping that a second pair of eyes would give it a fresh perspective. After reading my manuscript, she suggested that the first part containing poems about me and Bill would work as a separate book. This was back in November of 2011. Since then, I’ve been mulling this idea over, and I think it might have some merit.

It’ll be my summer project. Like I did with my other books, I’ll try to find a traditional publisher first. A lot of publishers accept poetry manuscripts with a minimum of forty to fifty pages, and I only have at least thirty-five poems about me and Bill so I may have to write some more. I’ve already written two or three more since the publication of my second book. Eventually, Bill will say, “Honey, why don’t you just go ahead and self-publish it? It’ll be your Christmas present.”

Now, here’s another poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. This one reflects the changes that have come about as a result of Bill’s stroke, which not only affected the left side of his body but also his speech. He can no longer sing, and his speaking voice is different. When he called me on a Saturday night soon after he had the stroke, I almost hung up on him because I thought he was a drunk in a bar calling a wrong number. When he calls someone on the phone he hasn’t talked to in a while, I have to remind him to tell that person who he is because his voice may not be recognized. He is also unable to cook, clean, do laundry, play cards, and engage in other activities as he used to do. Despite the adaptive equipment we have in our home to help me care for him, our lives aren’t the same as they were before the stroke. He’s not the man I married, but I still love him, hence the title of the new book.

Dependent

I know what to do–

I don’t know what to do.

The wheelchair, vertical bars, gait belt

offer assistance but can’t bring him back.

He’s not the man I married–

he’s still the man I love.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

If You Ask Me,

Betty White’s book by that title is pretty good, especially if you get a recording of her reading it. I downloaded such a recording from audible.com and had some good laughs. I also couldn’t help laughing when I saw her on television as the scatter-brained Rose on The Golden Girls. She was also in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I was a little young when that was running. My mother watched that as religiously as I watched The Golden Girls.

Betty White was born on January 17th,1922 in Oak Park Illinois. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a traveling salesman and engineer. Her family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression. She attended Horace Mann and Beverly Hills High School. Hoping to be a writer, she became more interested in acting after writing and playing the lead role in a graduation play at Horace Mann.

Her television career began in 1939 when she and a former high school classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel. She also worked in radio and movies. Best known for her roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, she performed in a variety of television shows including Life with Elizabeth, Date with the Angels, The Betty White Show, The Golden Palace, Hot in Cleveland, and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. Since Rue McClanahan’s death in 2010, she is the only living golden girl. She won seven Emmy awards and received twenty Emmy nominations. She was the first woman to receive an Emmy award for game show hosting for Just Men and is the only person to have an Emmy award in all female comedic performing categories. In May 2010, she was the oldest person to guest host Saturday Night Live and won a Primetime Emmy Award for this. As of 2012 at the age of ninety, she is the oldest Emmy nominee.

In If You Ask Me, Betty combines her ideas on such topics as friendship, technology, and aging with anecdotes from her childhood, career, and work with animals. She talks about developing a friendship with a guerilla, meeting two whales, and adopting a dog rejected by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I can relate when she says how frustrating it is not to recognize a face, especially when the face belongs to a celebrity she meets at a party and thinks she should know. Being visually impaired, I have the same problem but don’t run into any celebrities at parties. Anyway, I recommend this book to anyone needing some good laughs.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Leaf Disposal

We usually get rid of leaves in the fall, but with Mother’s Day around the corner, I would like to share a poem about something my mother and I did together. In the fall of 1988, I was living with my mother in Sheridan, Wyoming, while looking for work after completing a six-month internship at a nursing home in Fargo,North Dakota, and becoming a registered music therapist. One day, Mother and I were in the front yard raking leaves when she got a sudden urge to relive her childhood memory of burning them. According to the poem from How toBuild a BetterMousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, this could have been a disaster but wasn’t.

Leaf Disposal

We gathered them into bags, placed them curbside. Mother said, “We used to burn the leaves. It was the smell of fall. Let’s burn a few now.”

It had been a dry year. Forest fires raged around us. I couldn’t remember the last time it rained. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” I said.

“Stop being such a chicken. Help me gather leaves into a pile.” With a sick feeling in my stomach, I did as I was told.

She struck a match–nothing happened. The wind came up. Leaves drifted away, as if they knew of their fate. She tried again with no results. After several more tries, she gave up, to my relief. We got rid of the leaves in the usual way.

The End

My mother passed away from cancer on December 15th, 1999, but the memories still remain. What about you? Please feel free to tell me about something you did with your mother by leaving a comment below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Coming Home

During the last few years of my mother’s life, she lived in Story, a small town about twenty miles south of Sheridan, Wyoming, nestled at the foot of the Big Horn mountains. She and my father were divorced but still good friends. At the time, I was single, living in an apartment in Sheridan, working as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteering at other facilities in the community that served senior citizens. Dad, Grandma, and I often drove to Story with Maud, Dad’s Irish setter, to visit Mother. Sometimes, she fixed us a meal, and at other times, we ate at a nearby restaurant. At Christmas after my brother’s first child was born, he and his family came from their home in Los Alamos, New Mexico. We spent the night in Story and had a traditional family Christmas complete with Santa’s usual nocturnal visit.

To get to Mother’s house, we drove to Story on a main highway. We then turned onto a dirt road that wound through the woods for about a mile. At the dirt road, Dad stopped and let Maud out so she could run alongside the car for the rest of the trip. This is described in more detail in the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Coming Home

The car turns onto the dirt road and stops.

The rear left passenger door opens.

Out jumps an Irish setter.

The door slams shut.

The car moves down the road at a moderate pace.

The dog runs alongside the car,

her red, floppy ears and mane blowing in the breeze,

the multi-colored kerchief around her neck visible in the sunlight.

She hesitates, sniffs something along the side of the road.

The car stops–Dad calls, “Come on, Maud.”

Maud turns toward the car–we’re off.

About a mile down the road,

the car turns into the driveway of a log cabin–

Mother hurries out to meet us.

Maud rushes up to her, tail wagging in frantic anticipation.

She strokes the dog’s shaggy neck–

Maud gives her a sloppy kiss.

She runs in joyous circles around the car,

as we alight and items are removed from the trunk.

It’s so good to be home!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver