September Wedding Dress

My wedding dress was mauve in color. Reaching to my ankles, it had long sleeves and a low neckline. My sister-in-law Kathleen bought it for me for my birthday.

In June of 2005, after my late husband Bill proposed to me, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, and I in Sheridan, Wyoming. Bill planned to move to Sheridan and marry me.

Meanwhile, I was visiting him in Fowler, where he’d planned a barbecue. Many of our family members and friends were invited, including my brother Andy and his family, who lived in New Mexico at the time.

Since hotel accommodations in Fowler were limited, Andy and his family stayed in Pueblo, about twenty-five miles west of Fowler. Kathleen and I went to a mall, where she helped me pick out the dress, a slip, bra, and shoes to match.

On the day of the wedding, September 10th, 2005, which was held in my grandmother’s back yard here in Sheridan, I paced the upstairs hall between the bathroom and my aunt’s old bedroom, thinking Kathleen had the dress with her at the motel where they were staying. Through the open bathroom window, I could hear guests arriving and music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion. As the time grew closer, I wondered if I’d be parading down the aisle in my underwear.

At almost the last minute, Andy and Kathleen arrived with the children. It was then that I discovered that the dress had been lying on my aunt’s bed all that time. Because of my limited vision, I hadn’t spotted it.

Later, as Dad escorted me down the aisle to the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon, I didn’t see Bill, either. Earlier, he’d planned to go with friends to The Mint Bar. Was he still there, or had he developed cold feet after having too many drinks? Of course he was totally blind, so he couldn’t have jumped in his car and hit the interstate in the direction of Colorado, but still… Then, there he was, in his green suit and the sunglasses he always wore, and I had no more worries.

My wedding dress still hangs in my closet. In January of 2006, three months after Bill and I were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side.  I cared for him at home until he passed in October of 2012. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about a specific article of clothing you remember. What did it look like? Where did you get it? Who do you associate with it? Can you remember some sort of conflict that happened, either while you were wearing the garment or that had something to do with it? Where is this article of clothing today?

If you have a blog, you can tell your story there and link to it here. If not, please share your story in the comment field. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

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Thursday Book Feature: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanathi

Copyright 2016.

 

During the last year of his neurosurgical residency, Dr. Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In this memoir, he shares his experiences in an attempt to help others. The book has a prolog, two parts, and an epilog.

In the prolog, Dr. Kalanathi shares how he and his wife Lucy learned of his diagnosis. In the first part, he talks about his life growing up in a small Arizona town, his interest in neuroscience, how he studied abroad before returning to the states and attending medical school at Yale.

In the second part, he shares his experiences as a neurosurgical resident at a San Francisco hospital, leading up to his diagnosis. He discusses his treatment and how he and Lucy conceived a child, despite his illness. He explains how he returned to his residency after treatment and completed it before he took a turn for the worst. He died before he could finish writing this book, so Lucy ties up loose ends in the epilog.

One thing I found disconcerting was the lack of dates. We know that Dr. Kalanathi died in March of 2015 and that he was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, but that’s it. I think it’s a good idea to insert dates throughout a memoir to orient the reader, and I do this in My Ideal Partner.

When Breath Becomes Air reminded me of when my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1999. It was never known where the cancer originated. After six months of chemotherapy, she was given a good prognosis, but a couple of weeks later, she was gone. Dr. Kalanathi’s oncologist was reluctant at first to give him a prognosis. I can see why, I guess.

I liked Lucy’s description of her husband’s death in the epilog. He died in a hospital room, surrounded by his family, even his infant daughter. I felt guilty because my own husband died alone. Of course he wasn’t alert for the last few days of his life, and Dr. Kalanathi was, most of the time. Lucy’s concluding paragraphs emphasize something I’ve always believed. When you lose someone you love, you grieve, but where there’s love, even in death, life goes on.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Jim, the Mischievous King

After reading the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I was inspired to write my own canine tale. I doubt Chicken Soup for the Soul will publish any more dog books, since they already have two on the market, so I’ll post my dog story here.

***

In the spring of 1977 when I was a freshman in high school, and my younger brother Andy was in fourth grade, our family decided to get a dog. We were living in Sheridan, Wyoming. Before Andy was born, when we lived in Tucson, Arizona, we had a pooch that died as a result of Valley Fever, common in that part of the country. Despite the fact that we had two cats, my parents were now ready for another dog, and Andy and I liked the idea.

Mother found an advertisement in the newspaper announcing Irish setter puppies for sale. She called the woman who placed the ad and arranged for us to visit her and see the puppies.

The little dogs were in a box, and all except one were scratching and whining. The silent pooch sat in a corner, aloof. Mother said, “Oh, let’s see this little guy.”

She lifted him out of the box, and despite my limited vision, I could tell he had the sweetest face. He was red with floppy ears, which I immediately stroked and scratched, and he didn’t seem to mind.

“Let’s take him,” I said. The rest of the family agreed, and a week later, he was ours.

We debated what to call him. Dad, liking all things Irish, suggested Shem, the Irish name for Jim. Andy liked the name Clancy. Mother and I didn’t have a preference. We settled on Shem Shenanigan Clancy Leroy. Leroy was my grandfather’s name, and in Irish, it means king.

When we brought Clancy home, he was full of mischief and ruled his kingdom. When he wasn’t napping, he was running and playing with Andy inside the house and out, chewing on anything he could find, and antagonizing the cats. He eventually came to an understanding with our feline companions. Although they were never friends, they were civil toward one another.

In the summer, Mother enrolled Clancy in an obedience class for puppies. For Clancy, this was play time. At home alone, Mother was able to teach him to come, sit, and stay, but around the other dogs in the class, it was as if she hadn’t even tried to train him.

Andy tried training him with the girl next door, but that didn’t work, either. I suppose we could have hired a trainer like some of the authors in the Chicken Soup book did for their unruly dogs, but in the 1970’s, that wasn’t something to be considered.

Andy hoped that he and Clancy would be like Timmy and Lassie, but Clancy eventually became Dad’s dog, accompanying our father everywhere, even to the shop where he sold and serviced coin-operated machines. Clancy enjoyed riding in the back of Dad’s pick-up or in the station wagon with his head stuck out the window, eating air. This was before seat belt laws were enacted.

If Dad couldn’t take Clancy, he’d say, “not you.” With sad eyes, the dog would watch, as his master strode out the door. In Dad’s absence, Clancy would often follow Mother around, thinking she was responsible for Dad’s disappearance and that if he stayed by her side, she would magically make Dad appear.

Since the high school I attended wasn’t far from our home, Dad and Clancy often walked me there, through a park and up a hill. This was in the days before leash laws became more stringent, and Clancy ran free through the park, playing in a nearby creek while we walked. During the winter months, Dad drove me to school. At the top of the hill, where there wasn’t much traffic, he stopped and opened the rear passenger door, and Clancy jumped out and ran alongside the car the rest of the way.

Like any dog, Clancy enjoyed rolling in fish heads, cow pies, and anything else that stank. Andy tried hosing him off, but naturally, because the water was too cold, Clancy didn’t like that at all. Dad gave him a shower, which was a disaster, with water everywhere in the bathroom and Mother pissed. In those days, there was no such thing as a do-it-yourself dog wash, which is similar to a car wash and mentioned in the Chicken Soup book.

Despite his antics, Clancy was a lovable addition to our family for eleven years. He died suddenly in the summer of 1988, one of the hottest on record. By that time, my parents were separated, and Dad lived in a house halfway across town. I’d just completed a music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, and was staying with Mother in our family home. Andy had graduated from high school two years earlier and was off somewhere for the summer.

One hot night, Dad let Clancy out so he could do his business, and the dog wandered off. He was found dead the next day by the creek near Grandma’s house. Here’s what I think happened.

Since Dad didn’t have air conditioning, Clancy was hot and wanted to get somewhere cooler. In gest, Dad always called him a dummy, but that dog had some smarts. For years, he’d been driven, along with the rest of the family, to Grandma’s house, which was air conditioned. He knew it was cooler, and he knew how to get there.

Unfortunately, Grandma was hard of hearing by that time. Upstairs in her bedroom, perhaps with the television on full blast, she didn’t hear Clancy scratching at either the front or back doors. When he couldn’t get into Grandma’s house, Clancy knew the next coolest place was the creek, so he went there. He no doubt passed as a result of heat stroke.

Dad said Clancy could have lived longer. Several years later after he moved to another house and acquired a second Irish setter, he bought a window air conditioner. That’s another story.

***

Why don’t you tell me about a pet you had when you were growing up? If you have a blog, you can post your story there and a link to it in the comment field here. If not, you can just share your memories. I look forward to hearing from you.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Sunday Best: 75th Birthday Party

A week ago today, I attended my uncle’s 75th birthday party in Colorado Springs. I made the eight-hour drive down the day before with Aunt Junior and Uncle Roger, who live here in Sheridan, Wyoming. We stayed with Uncle Tony, the birthday boy and a retired lawyer, and Aunt Kitty, who live in a beautiful home in a neighborhood controlled by a homeowner’s association with a clubhouse across the street where the party was held.

The weather on the day of the party was perfect, only in the 80’s, though a bit breezy. It clouded up in the afternoon, but nothing came of it. Most of us sat outside, enjoying barbecued chicken and pork with potato salad and coleslaw and other sides. For dessert, there was a chocolate cake. I met many of Uncle Tony’s friends and colleagues, and his daughters, my cousins, all came from Denver with their families. We all had a wonderful time.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this past week? Please tell me about it in the comment field. I hope something good happens to you this coming week.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: The Dog Really did That?

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That?: 101 Stories of Miracles, Mischief, and Magical Moments

Edited by Amy Newmark

Copyright 2017

 

This collection of true stories focuses on rescued dogs but includes many different tales about pooches. In “Geometry Dog,” a teacher explains how her canine friend helped her students learn arithmetic. “Jazmine’s Journey” is the story of how one rescued dog, abandoned in Wyoming’s Red Desert, traveled to her forever home in Canada with the help of strangers. ⠠⠔ “Brains Versus Brawn, the author shares her experiences raising basset hounds.

Most of the stories are written by women, but some have male authors. Some are funny, others touching. The stories begin with quotes, mostly about dogs, by celebrities and others. Proceeds from sales of this book go toward animal rescue.

In the foreword, Dr Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane, encourages readers to adopt shelter dogs but points out the responsibility involved in caring for a pet, a responsibility I’m still not ready to undertake. I like dogs, and although it’s been almost five years since the death of my late husband, who suffered two strokes and whom I took care of during the last six years of his life, I still don’t want to care for another living thing.

That said, this book can still be enjoyed, even if you don’t want to adopt a dog. Many of the stories made me laugh, and some moved me almost to tears. This book would make a great gift for any dog lover, and you’ll support a worthy cause by purchasing it.

***

     Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Poetry that Influenced Me

In a recent post, I mentioned a correspondence course I was taking from the Hadley Institute. I’m now pleased to announce that I’ve passed the course with an A Plus. For our last assignment, I was instructed to pick three poems, write about them, then compose a poem in the style of one of the poems I picked.

My three chosen poems are: “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” by Francesco Marciuliano, “The Lanyard by Billie Collins, and “In Praise of Joe” by Marge Piercy. “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” comes from I Could Chew on This, a collection of poems that tell stories from a dog’s point of view. This poem provides a humorous look at what can happen when a dog is left at home, reminding me so much of the Irish setter we had when I was a teen-ager. Marciuliano tells this story in one stanza with many short lines.

In “The Lanyard,” Billie Collins tells his story in a different way. Using several stanzas with many short lines, he shares a memory of creating a lanyard for his mother when he was a boy at summer camp. He starts in the present. Apparently bored, he’s thumbing through a dictionary when he finds the word lanyard, and that gets him to reminiscing. You can click below to hear the author read this poem.

 

Marge Piercy uses many stanzas containing several short lines, but in this case, she’s not telling a story. She’s describing the many ways she drinks coffee and extolling its virtues. It inspired me to write a poem about Dr. Pepper, which appears in my own collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Now here’s a poem I wrote in the style of “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” and other poems in Francesco Marciuliano’s collection. It was also inspired by a visit to my brother in Florida, who has two dogs, and by something I see every day while walking. You can click below to hear me read it.

 

Four Ways a Dog Looks at Life

 

1.

 

I’m too outspoken

so must wear a special collar

during the day while no one’s home.

When I alert the empty house,

it vibrates against my throat,

feels weird, sometimes uncomfortable,

causing me to whine

when I speak my mind.

Life is “ruff.”

2.

 

“Turkey muffin, turkey muffin,”

you squeak, as my leash clicks into place.

What’s a turkey muffin, anyway?

It doesn’t sound nearly as appealing

as that rotten fish head in the alley.

Now that’s what I want.

 

3.

 

Oh, you’re hungry?

You don’t live here,

so you don’t know where anything is.

You don’t see very well, huh?

Well, how about some potato chips?

I know where they are,

in the pantry. Open this door.

They’re right here on the floor.

Now here’s one for you, five for me,

one for you, ten for me,

one for you, twenty for me,

one for you, forty for me.

Oh, the bag’s empty.

Just throw it away.

They’ll think you ate all the chips. Ha ha.

 

4.

 

What’s that on the other side of the fence?

A white stick it is,

rolling along the pavement.

A human pushes it.

I want to chase it.

I bark and bark and bark,

leap in the air many times,

try to fly over the fence.

I’m ignored.

Human and stick walk and roll away.

***

Have any poems ever influenced you? Please tell me about them in the comment field. I leave you now with the hope that someday, you can read a pile of perfect poems.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Thursday Book Feature: Notes from a Small Island

Notes from a Small Island

by Bill Bryson

Copyright 1995

 

Journalist Bill Bryson, author of A Walk in the Woods and other travel books, grew up in Iowa, then moved to England, where he married and started a family. Later, his family moved back to the U.;S. so his children could be exposed to American culture. Before doing so, he took one last trip through England and parts of Scotland, sometimes on foot but mostly using public transportation. A couple of times, he rented a car.

Notes from a Small Island describes this journey, starting at Dover and ending near Inverness. Bryson describes each town he visited, giving some history and sharing memories of earlier visits. With humor, he reflects on the idiosyncrasies’ of the English bus and train system and of the English people in general. He emphasizes his love for England.

I found this book not only informative but also amusing. Bryson’s descriptions of English people reminded me of Garrison Keillor’S comic depictions of people in Minnesota. His account of a shopping trip with his wife, while taking a break from his travels, reminded me of James Thurber’s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mittee, in which the protagonist daydreams to escape his demanding wife. Bryson’s descriptions of times when his guidebook misled him reminded me of a trip with my father to Mexico years ago when we had the same problem.

Why waste time, money, and effort on a trip to England when you can read this book instead? Of course things may have changed since Bryson made the original journey, but it’s still a good read.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.