Where Is Spring?

Last week was the first day of the season, but now we’re back to winter. When my husband was alive, he looked forward to spring because he enjoyed sitting outside. The more the sun shone, the better. Having grown up in southern Colorado and lived in California for years, he wasn’t used to Wyoming’s brutal winters.

The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates this concept. This poetic form is called a haibun. It combines two or more paragraphs of prose with one haiku.

 

SPRING’S HOPELESSNESS

 

Spring comes wet with little sun. Hope is dashed by the wind that buffets the house, rattles wind chimes, rain that drums on the roof. Without enough warmth, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs won’t grow.

He loves the sun, can’t get enough. It’s one of his few pleasures since he can no longer walk or use his left arm or care for himself. After a brutal winter with endless snow, frigid temperatures, he longs to enjoy the sun’s healing warmth.

wishes for the sun

fall on the deaf ears of God

wait for warmth to come

 

Aren’t you sick of winter? Don’t you long for spring?

 

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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Reliving

Last week, I read an interesting story in The New Yorker, “The Relive Box” by T. Coraghessan Boyle. This is a fantasy tale about a father and his teen-aged daughter who use a machine to relive their past. They can pick a year, date, and time and watch themselves in their memories on a screen. They can freeze, fast forward, and rewind images as if they were watching a video.

This got me to thinking about what moment in time I would like to relive if I could. That moment would be during my wedding to my late husband Bill on September 10th, 2005. The event took place in Grandma’s back yard, adjacent to a busy street, but as I stood at the altar with Bill, I didn’t hear the traffic, although cars continued to rush by as if seventy people weren’t gathered there to witness a life-changing event. As we held hands and said our vows, neither of us had any idea that Bill would suffer a stroke four months later that would paralyze his left side and that I would care for him at home for six years before his death.

The following poem illustrates this moment. It will appear in my collection, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

Life Change

On a sunny day, a strong breeze

lifts hems of dresses.

Balloons, tree branches sway.

Framed by an arch of pink and purple flowers,

as traffic rushes by,

we stand before those we love,

look deep into each other’s eyes,

say, “I do.”

If you could relive any moment in your life, what moment would that be?

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

What If…

Thanks to Writing Life Stories for inspiring this. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you did something different in life, gone to a different college, married a different spouse? When I was a senior in high school in 1980, one of the many representatives from the various colleges who visited the counseling center was a nun from St. Mary’s College. My family wasn’t Catholic, but I knew people who were and found some of their religious practices fascinating so I took an interest in this particular institution of higher learning.

My parents teased me, saying I wanted to be a nun. Another relative told me that there was a federal penitentiary in Levenworth, and I could bake cookies for the inmates. I liked the idea that St. Mary’s College was only for girls because I didn’t have much luck with boys and figured I could do without them. For some reason however, I decided to stay here in Wyoming and go to Sheridan College for the first two years of my education after high school.

What if I had gone to St. Mary’s College in Levenworth, Kansas? After studying Greek, Latin, and other subjects they required, would I have decided to take up the monastic life after all? Instead of playing my guitar and singing for elderly nursing home residents as I did for fifteen years, would I be providing spiritual guidance to residents at the Levenworth prison? Like Sister Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking, would I be working with death row inmates, playing my guitar and singing as they breathed their last after being injected with lethal drugs? As a nun, I wouldn’t have met and married my late husband Bill, would I?

In 1984 while Bill was living in Glendale, California, I visited Los Angeles with my family in order to attend my uncle’s wedding. Bill later told me that I wasn’t too far from where he lived. What if our paths crossed then instead of twenty years later? With the nineteen-year age difference, would he have found me as attractive back then as he did in 2004? Would we have married after meeting in 1984 and had twenty good years before he suffered the strokes that paralyzed his left side?

At first, I didn’t consider a career in writing. My mother did most of my writing assignments for me when I was in high school and during the first two years of my college education. I could have easily typed my own papers, but when I did that, after proofreading them, she immediately rewrote them. When I asked why she didn’t like the way I wrote them, she said, “What if I have ideas.”

What if I had stood up to her, said, “Mother, this is my paper. What if I like the way I wrote it, and when I go to college, what if I major in English and get and MFA in creative writing.” If I actually followed through, would I now be a best-selling author? Would I have met and married Bill?

One thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a singer. What if instead of going to college and becoming a registered music therapist, I left home and somehow found my way to New York or Los Angeles? Would I now be a superstar with dozens of CDs on the best-seller list, traveling all over the country with a myriad of buses and trucks carrying people and equipment? Instead of playing the piano and singing for elderly nursing home residents, would I be singing with a band in crowded amphitheaters? Would I have met and married Bill or would he have been just another fan waiting in line for me to autograph his CDs?

It’s hard to say what the future would have held in store for us if we’d done things differently but fun to speculate, don’t you think?

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

Queen of the Mountain

Do you have a recliner or a favorite armchair? Don’t you just love sinking into it at the end of a long, hard day with a book, newspaper, or TV remote control and a cup of coffee or other beverage?

My late husband Bill loved his recliner. Because of his paralysis due to his strokes, it was necessary to purchase one that could lift him almost to a standing position so I could more easily transfer him to his wheelchair. One day after I got him settled, he said, “I’m the king of the mountain.”

This inspired the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. The original title was “King of the Mountain,” but that didn’t seem to fit so I changed it.

RECUMBENT

With his good hand, he presses a button.

The chair reclines.

Familiar objects are within reach,

telephone, radio, drink,

cassette player, bag of nuts, TV remote control.

As I cover him with poncho and blanket,

his sightless eyes gaze at me with love.

He smiles, content.

I still have Bill’s recliner. I’m sure there are others who need such a chair more than I do, especially since I don’t even use the lift feature. There may come a day, though, when I’ll need it so I guess I’ll keep it. In the meantime, I’m now the queen of the mountain. What familiar objects comfort you?

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