From a Husband’s Perspective

When Bill came home after his first stroke, I talked to him about writing a memoir about our experience. We could take turns writing alternate chapters from our points of view. He said, “I don’t know.”

Since he only had the use of his right hand, I suggested he could dictate his chapters either into a recorder or to me directly, and I could write them down. I even joked that we could both sit at his computer. I could press the keys on the left side, and he could press the keys on the right side, kind of like playing “Chopsticks” on the piano. He said, “I’d rather play ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano with you.”

I gave up on the idea of a book written by both of us, but now that he’s gone, I’m thinking of writing a memoir about my six years of caring for him. In the meantime, I’ve written three poems from what I hoped was Bill’s perspective. I could only imagine what he was thinking. These poems were published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste one below.

 

 

From a Husband’s Perspective

 

 

She works hard

to care for me, the house.

She cooks, cleans, does laundry,

fetches, carries,

does everything I’m unable to do.

She writes short stories, novels, essays.

She’ll be a best selling author one day.

I couldn’t do without her.

 

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

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Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and for what am I thankful? Although I lost my husband Bill almost a month ago, I still have plenty for which to give thanks. For one thing, I still have a roof over my head. I didn’t lose my home to Huricane Sandy, not that I would have since I don’t live in any of the affected areas, but according to a news report I heard yesterday, there are still some parts of New Jersey that are without power, running water, and other amenities. I’m thankful to have everything I need here.

Bill could have suffered from cancer, dementia, or some other disorder. He could have left me for another woman, but he stayed with me for seven years, ever faithful, through good times and bad, and he remained, for the most part, healthy. For this I am truly thankful.

I’m also thankful for family with whom I’ll be spending the holiday. My cousin from California, who got married last year on our wedding anniversary, will be here with her husband, and we’ll gather for dinner tomorrow at my uncle and aunt’s home here in Sheridan, Wyoming. I hope those of you reading this have a fun-filled and memorable holiday with your families.

Now, please click on the link below to hear me sing an old standard that is usually sung at this time of year. If you must go over the river and through the woods, I wish you a safe journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Over The River and Through the Woods

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

I Shouldn’t Be Doing This

Doing what? Reviewing a book by a comedian I never really watched on television. Why? I don’t know. When I ran across I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This: and Other Things that Strike Me as Funny, I thought it might be a worthwhile read.

This is a memoir that only Bob Newhart could have written. Not necessarily in chronological order, he talks about his life growing up in Chicago and his experiences in stand-up comedy, television, and movies. He provides a few of his stand-up routines and explains how he put together  his various comedy albums. He shares his opinions on psychology, religion, death, and other topics. I would tell you that Bob Newhart did a great job reading this book, but I downloaded the recording from the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download site, and the narrator here does a pretty good job. I won’t be surprised, though, if Audible has a recording of Newhart reading the book.

According to Wikipedia, Bob Newhart was born on September 5, 1929 in Oak Park, Illinois. He became prominent in the 1960’s when his comedy album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, became a best-seller and moved to #1 on the Billboard popular music charts. It’s still the twentieth best-selling comedy album in history. His follow-up album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, was also a huge success, and both records held the #1 and #2 positions on the Billboard charts simultaneously.

He later starred in two long-running and prize-winning television situation comedies: first as psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970’s, then as innkeeper Dick Loudon on Newhart in the 1980’s. He was also in a third short-lived television situation comedy, Bob, in the 1990’s.

He appeared in such movies as Catch-22 and Elf. He was the voice of Bernard in the Walt Disney films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. One of his most recent roles was in The Librarian. In 2011, he made a cameo in the movie Horrible Bosses.

In the 1970’s, my mother watched Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore back to back on television every week, but for some reason, I never took an interest in him. However, I got several good laughs out of I shouldn’t Even Be Doing This: and Other Things That Strike Me As Funny. It was a great source of comic relief after reading a downer like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

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

He’s Not Here

Some of you are probably wondering how I’m doing. Two weeks ago today, Bill passed away. A week ago yesterday, we buried him. I’m okay, but there are times when without warning, I’ll lose it. For example, last night during my singing group practice, I belched while we were singing a song, and everyone laughed, and the next thing I knew, tears were rolling down my cheeks, I guess because Bill would have found it funny, too. Wouldn’t you know it? That was the time I forgot to grab Kleenex before leaving the house.

The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver expresses what it’s like now that Bill isn’t here. You will also find a link to a YouTube video containing a song I would have loved to record me singing as a tribute to Bill, but I can’t do that at this time.

 

When You’re Not Here

 

I listen to your music,

hear longing in the words,

 sit in your chair

surrounded by the warmth,

 eat your favorite food,

know your pleasure in the taste,

 drink your beverage of choice.

My thirst isn’t quenched.

I imagine your body next to mine.

You’re not here.

 

Wind Beneath My Wings

 

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

An Unlikely Pilgrimage

Harold lives in Kingsbridge, England. He’s in his mid-sixties, recently retired, and not happily married to his wife Maureen. One day, he receives a letter from a former co-worker he hasn’t seen in years, Queenie, who’s in a hospice six hundred miles away at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, also in England, dying of cancer, writing to say goodbye. He answers her letter, walks to the mailbox with it, but then decides to trek the six hundred miles to the hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, thinking that will save her. Thus begins The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Harold sets off immediately without proper shoes, a cell phone, map, or other necessary equipment, and along the way, he meets a cast of interesting characters, gains media attention, and attracts followers who also want to save Queenie. During the course of Harold’s walk, we learn about his life growing up with a mother who left when he was a boy and a father who kicked him out when he turned sixteen and his relationship with Queenie and Maureen. Close to the end, a shocking secret is revealed about Harold’s son. I downloaded this book from Audible, and the British narrator, Jim Broadbent, does an excellent job, making characters come alive and giving each of them his/her own voice. I also like the way the author tells the story from both Harold’s and Maureen’s points of view.

According to Rachel Joyce’s Website, she has written a variety of plays for BBC radio and television. In 2007, she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is her first novel, and she’s working on a second one, Perfect. She lives in Gloucestershire, England, with her husband and four children.

As I started reading this book, I wondered for a fleeting moment if I walked the one mile from my home to Sheridan Manor when Bill’s health was declining, would that have saved him? It’s highly unlikely, just as it wasn’t likely that Harold walking six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed would have saved Queenie, but hope springs eternal, right? I don’t know why I chose to read this book at this time, but I’m glad I did because it gave me a new perspective on life and death.

 

 

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