Winter Travels

Greetings from Jupiter, Florida, where it’s the day before New Year’s Eve. I would have posted here last week, but I picked up a nasty stomach virus late Monday night which kept me in bed for several days. So much for Christmas in the tropics,but such is life. At least I got to open a few presents.

 

I normally post here on Tuesdays, but tomorrow, I’ll be returning home to Sheridan, Wyoming, and there’ll be plenty of unpacking and settling in to do once I get there so I’m deviating from my usual schedule. Since there’s no snow here in Florida, getting to the airport in Fort Lauderdale shouldn’t be a problem, but once I get to Billings, Montana, I can only hope the roads will be clear so my driver can deliver me safely to my door. As I think about this, I look back on a particular winter night from my childhood.

In the 1970’s when I was in high school, my family was driving home to Sheridan, Wyoming, one Thanksgiving after spending the holiday with relatives in Colorado. We had just left Medicine Bow when we ran into a blizzard on Shirley Basin. With nothing for miles around but white, my parents argued over whether to turn around and go back to Medicine Bow or plow ahead. “I don’t think there’ll be a place to stay in Medicine Bow,” said Mother.

“There are people in Medicine Bow,” said Dad. “There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

“All right, why don’t I drive,” said Mother. Without a word, Dad pulled the car to the side of the road, and my parents quickly changed positions. Mother drove slowly and carefully the rest of the way to Casper while Dad found a flask in the glove compartment and emptied its contents in record time.

Years later, this experience was the basis for a short story, “Gloves,” which will be included in a collection I hope to publish next year. The story is on my Website, and I’ll paste it below. It was first published in the 2008 issue of Emerging Voices, a literary magazine produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff. May you all have safe travels this winter.

GLOVES

The snow fell in a wall of white that obscured her view of the road and the darkening sky. “Why didn’t I stay where I was?” she asked herself as she drove at a snail’s pace along the Shirley Basin Road that wound its way from Medicine Bow to Casper, Wyoming.

As the car’s interior grew colder, she fiddled with the heater knob, but nothing happened. “Dammit!  No heat!”

She pulled to the side of the road, ignoring the sliding noise the tires made. She searched for her gloves, but they weren’t in her coat pockets or her purse.  “I must have left them at the convenience store in Medicine Bow.”
After taking several deep breaths and warming her hands in her pockets, she said, “I should go back. There are people in Medicine Bow. There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

The engine whined, and the tires skidded on the ice under the newly fallen snow. In a frantic effort to free herself, she gunned the engine and rocked the car back and forth. The motor continued to whine as the tires slipped deeper into the drift. After a few more minutes of struggling, she switched off the engine and stuffed her cold hands into her pockets.

Close to tears, she said, “Here I am, stuck in a snowstorm on a deserted road with no heater, no gloves, no cell phone, and no food. Who knows how long it’ll be before help arrives?  Why didn’t I at least get something to munch on at the convenience store? What am I to do now?”

The night was silent except for the wind and the sound of snow pelting the car. Shivering, she zipped her winter coat as high as it would go. After tightening the hood around her face, she wriggled her toes inside her boots. With a sigh of resignation, she buried her hands deeper in her coat pockets and settled herself more comfortably.

“It doesn’t matter. What do I have to live for? If God exists, and this is his way of punishing me for running away, so be it. She closed her eyes and let herself drift, though she knew this was dangerous.

The sound of a car engine woke her. She turned and gasped in horror when she recognized the angry face outside her window. “Oh my god, it can’t be! He couldn’t have known where I was going.”

Since she had no relatives in Wyoming, the chance of him finding her were slim, but there he was, standing outside her frosted window, glaring at her. The exhaust rising from his idling car made an eerie specter in the freezing air.

His knuckles rapped against the pane with several sharp thuds. Her panic rising, she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the button to automatically lock all doors. Her heart sank when he removed the spare key from his pocket and unlocked the driver’s door. He yanked her out into the freezing cold, slammed the door, and pinned her against it before delivering a hard blow to her cheek.

“How did you find me?” she asked, holding up her hands to protect herself.

“I followed your tracks,” he said, as he struck her a second time. “I found these on the counter at the Super America in Medicine Bow.” He removed her gloves from his pocket and tossed them into the snow.

“You never did have much common sense,” he said as he hit her a third time, “so I figured you’d be stranded out here somewhere.”

When she bent to retrieve the gloves, he delivered a sharp kick to her backside, sending her sprawling in the snow. As anger rose within her, she bent her knee and kicked as hard as she could. Her effort was rewarded when her foot struck something solid, and he yelped in pain.

She jumped to her feet. Putting on her gloves, she glared at him as he lay writhing in the snow and clutching his crotch. She flung herself on top of him and knocked him flat on his back. With her gloved fists, she pummeled his face.

“Now, you’re getting a taste of your own medicine!” she yelled.

As she continuously struck his face, she wasn’t surprised to smell booze on his breath. She picked up his head and slammed it against the ground a few times, thinking it was odd he didn’t move or try to defend himself. She looked at his inert body in the snow before getting to her feet and removing his wallet from his coat pocket. It was no longer snowing, and a bright moon shone through the clouds. She got into his warm car and drove away, never looking back, only looking forward.

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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Another Perfect Day

Since I’m in the midst of finishing projects and getting ready for my trip to Florida, this is a re-run. I reviewed Richard Paul Evans’ book, A Perfect Day, in February of last year, but I think it’s a good book to read during this holiday season. I hope you enjoy the review and the book.

A Perfect Day

I just finished reading a book by this title by Richard Paul Evans. It was published in 2003 and made into a television movie in 2006. I never saw the movie, but as I read the book’s prolog in which the main character describes a scene outside his hotel room window in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah: a heavy snowfall, a car slip sliding up Main Street, I imagined Susan Boyle singing “Perfect Day,” as credits rolled across the screen. By the way, you can watch a video of Susan Boyle singing this song here.

A Perfect Day is a heartwarming tale of love and forgiveness. After losing his job at a radio station where he’s been working for eight years, Robert decides to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. His first book, also called A Perfect Day, is based on his wife Allyson’s story of the last few months she spent with her father before he died of cancer. The book becomes a best seller, even making the top of the New York Times list, but the life of a best-selling author, the traveling, interviews, book signings, meeting other women, all negatively affect his relationship with Allyson and their little girl Carson.

One day, Robert is approached by a stranger in a Starbucks café in New York City. This stranger appears to know everything about Robert, even some things he never told Allyson. He even knows that Robert’s meeting with his publisher’s sales team later that day has been postponed before Robert receives this information. He gives Robert the impression that he’s an Angel and tells him he only has forty more days to live. At this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the book because this sounded so crazy, but I’m glad I did. After another turn of events, Robert ends up back in the hotel room in Salt Lake City where the story begins, but that’s not where it ends.

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box and other books, each having appeared on the New York Times best seller list. He has sold more than 14 million copies of his books, and they have been translated into more than 25 languages. Several have been international best sellers. Besides A Perfect Day, three other books have been made into television movies. He received numerous awards for his books and his work with abused children. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Keri and their five children. You can read more about him here.

A Perfect Day is available at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. You’ll find links on the author’s site to where the book can be ordered from these locations. It can also be downloaded in a specialized recorded format from the National Library Service’s Braille and audio reading download site. (BARD)

A Perfect Day touched me because it reminded me of losing my husband Bill. In the book, Allyson’s father asks her to come home for just one perfect day with him before he tells her he’s dying of cancer, and that’s what inspires Robert’s story. Bill and I did spend one perfect day together about a month before he died, not knowing we would be parted. He was living in the nursing home by this time, and I took him out to lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant where he ordered his favorite pizza, all meat, and enjoyed most of it. Even then, I didn’t realize he was deteriorating, and I didn’t believe I would lose him until his nurse told me he’d stopped eating, and it was time to think about end of life care. I’ll always cherish the memories of all the perfect days Bill and I had together.

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

Quality of Life

Last night, I ran across an article about an injured Indiana hunter who decided to take himself off life support. Tim and Abbey Bowers were just married in August. They were young and had everything going for them including a baby on the way. Then one day while hunting, Tim fell sixteen feet from a tree and was severely paralyzed. Doctors said he wouldn’t be able to walk, eat, or even breathe on his own, and his life expectancy would be pretty low.

His family requested that he be brought out of a medically induced coma so he could decide what to do about his life. When his sister, a nurse, asked him if he wanted to live like this, he shook his head. He passed away several hours after the breathing tube was removed. You can read Tim’s story here.

For six years, my late husband Bill lived with partial paralysis as a result of two strokes. The only things he could do independently were breathe, eat, and operate his computer, radio, and talking book players. Tim Bowers wouldn’t have been able to do even that.

Some could say that Tim Bowers might have made a more educated decision if he had an opportunity to meet others in his condition, but I doubt it. Although people who are blind, deaf, or suffering from other physical disabilities can still live productive lives, are there others who are severely paralyzed with a short life expectancy who are having or had a good quality of life? I don’t think so.

As for Tim Bowers, I applaud his family for allowing him to make his own decision. I’m sure it was hard for them. It wasn’t easy for me when I finally had to move Bill to a nursing home after caring for him for six years. About a month later, after a downhill battle, he stopped eating. He died three days after that. I could have insisted the staff use whatever drastic measures were available to keep him alive, but I knew he was tired of living with the use of only one arm and leg so I let him go. He and Tim Bowers are both in a better place. I have to believe that. What do you think?

 

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

 

Two of my poems have been published in Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look, and you can view a book trailer here. The book can be ordered from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To learn more about my association with Behind Our Eyes, read today’s post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors. For more information about Behind Our Eyes, click here.

Season’s Greetings 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

What a year this has been, my first year alone in seven years, and you know what? Although I miss Bill and still cry from time to time while listening to Susan Boyle, as I’m doing now, it’s nice being alone again. I can eat when I want what I want, work for hours uninterrupted, sleep through the night without having to get up and empty a urinal umpteen million times. But now, the house is quiet, especially during baseball season without the thwack of ball against bat, the roar of the crowd, and the excited radio announcers’ voices. I miss sitting with him at the dinner table, although I hated getting up frequently to get him more to eat or drink. I miss talking to him and holding him in bed at night, feeling his soft hair against my face, drinking in the scent of his shampoo. My life won’t be the same without him, but I must and will go on.

In February of last year, Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities to which I belong, decided to start publishing its second anthology. As some of you know, our first collection of poems, stories, and essays was published in 2007. The second book is more of the same and was published in August of this year. After publication, several authors complained about mistakes in their work so we decided to have it reprinted. The new edition has just been released and is available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

In March of last year, I spent a week with my brother Andy and his family in Jupiter, Florida. Featured attractions included a boat ride, a walk on the beach, and a visit to a jazz club in West Palm Beach. We also took a picnic lunch to the seaside to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. I would have gone in the water, but the tide was so incredibly high. It was a wonder we didn’t all get washed out to see along with our lunch.

In April, to celebrate National Poetry Day, my third Thursday poets’ group held a reading at the senior center. Several of us read from our work, and a good time was had by all. I also attended a workshop in Casper, Wyoming, about a two-hour drive south of Sheridan. The program was about writing found poetry which involves using material from other sources in your work. It was interesting, but I doubt I’ll do much of that because of the legal issues involved.

In June, I attended a writers’ conference in Laramie, about an eight-hour drive south of here. About five of us writers drove down together, and it was a lot of fun. The conference was informative.

The rest of the summer was pretty uneventful until August. As I said before, Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look was published, and until all the errors were discovered, it was an exciting time. Two of my poems were included, and no mistakes were made there.

At the end of August, a shocking thing happened. My father passed away. He had heart trouble for years so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the authorities found him on the floor in his kitchen after many unsuccessful attempts by me to reach him. He apparently went right away with no evidence of a struggle.

He was cremated, and his service was held at the end of August. Most of our family, scattered across the country, came together. For the first time in a long while, I played the piano and sang with Andy accompanying me on drums. We performed “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” and Dad would have loved it.

After the service, a light lunch was served in the funeral home’s dining room. That night, my aunt Junior and uncle Roger, who live here in town, hosted a barbecue at their house in the country south of town. The next morning, a bunch of us got together for breakfast at Perkins. I told everyone it’s a shame the only time we all get together is when somebody gets married or dies. We need to have a family reunion more often, and maybe this is something I need to initiate.

Now here it is, the first of December, and it’s hard to imagine how quickly the time has flown. In just three short weeks, I’ll be on a plane to Florida where I’ll spend Christmas in the tropics with Andy and his family. I had a wonderful visit with them in March, and I’m looking forward to more good times. I hope you all have an enjoyable holiday season and a prosperous new year to come.

Sincerely,

Abbie

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