Bill’s Birthday

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Bill would have been seventy-four years old today. I wrote the following poem four years ago on his birthday while he was in the nursing home almost two weeks before he passed. It appears in my new book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Click on the title to hear me read it.

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BIRTHDAY

Gray hair against white pillow,

lips caress my cheek,

his good arm encircles my shoulder.

The odor of peanut butter

scent of his shampoo comfort me.

Seventy years old today, he says he loves me,

kiss soft against my cheek,

as we hold each other,

for who knows how long.

***

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.

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Glenn Miller Brings Back Memories

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Thanks to Glenda Bealle for inspiring this post. I recently had an opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert. As the seductive strains of “Moonlight Serenade” flowed through the theater, I got goosebumps and was moved almost to tears, wishing my father was still alive and sitting next to me at that moment.

His father played the saxophone in a band before World War II, and Dad was born in 1936 while the band was touring in Pueblo. The family settled here in Sheridan in 1938, and in 1940, Grandpa Johnson started the family’s coin-operated machine business.

Dad once told me that Grandpa fought in the war and lost part of his hearing as a result of constant artillery fire. He may have continued to play the saxophone afterward, but I’m not sure. In any case, Dad grew up appreciating jazz and passed that on to me as evidenced by a poem I posted here a while back.

I’m not sure where my mother was born on December 7th, 1935, and I no longer have her obituary. I do know that she did most of her growing up in Colorado where her father was a school principal in Berthed. She once told me about her birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She and her family were driving to the countryside for a picnic when the news came on the radio. Her father turned the car around and drove back to town. Needless to say, there was no birthday celebration that year.

My late husband Bill was born on October 18th, 1942 in Fowler, Colorado. Growing up on a farm, he wasn’t exposed much to big band music and never appreciated it much except for vocals. In fact, he was fond of saying that since he couldn’t see anything, he fell in love with my singing voice. You can read more of our story in my new memoir. I wish I’d taken time to learn more about my late parents’ and husband’s lives growing up during the Glenn Miller era.

I bought a CD at the concert that night, and now, “Pennsylvania 6-500” fills my home office, as I edit this. Is there a singer, band, or type of music that gives you goose bumps, moves you to tears, and/or brings back memories? Please tell me about 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.

 

Review: Girl in the Dark

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Girl in the Dark: A Memoir of a Life Without Light

By Anna Lyndsey

Copyright 2015

 

In this memoir, the author shares her experiences with severe photo sensitivity. It started in May of 2005. While sitting in front of her computer screen in her London office, her face suddenly felt painfully hot, as if someone were blow-torching it, she says. A fan next to her computer helped but didn’t totally eliminate the problem. Weeks later, she experienced the same thing during a meeting, perhaps as a result of the fluorescent lights in the conference room.

It got to the point where even sunlight caused her pain, and she was forced to quit her job. She asked her boyfriend Pete if she could move in to his home in Hampshire with him, and he agreed. Despite her condition, he proposed to her, and she accepted. They planned a wedding but had to postpone it because she got to the point where she needed to be in darkness most of the time in order to get any relief.

She describes how she made one room of her house completely dark and spent hours on end there, listening to audio books and the radio, venturing out only for meals and sometimes having to eat in the dark room. During the summer months, the room was unbearable, but not being in the room would have been worse.

Over the years, there were times when she was able to take walks outside between dusk and dawn. She describes how she and Pete fashioned a contraption they called a puppy cage, which allowed her to travel without being exposed to light, but because of her severe sensitivity, traveling during the day was difficult. As a result, she rarely saw a doctor and could only consult with a dermatologist about her condition by phone once in a while. She tried homeopathic and other remedies, but nothing worked for long.

She and Pete were finally able to have a wedding during one of her remission periods. This gives the book a somewhat happy ending, but Anna Lyndsey will probably have this condition for the rest of her life.

I like the way she tells her story in present tense so that it reads like fiction. I was with her the whole time, feeling her pain and frustration at being confined in the dark and her joy of spending time outdoors, appreciating nature.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in The New Yorker about this book. The article’s author (I’ll call him Kevin.) consulted dermatology experts in the U.S. not familiar with Anna Lyndsey’s case, who said that sensitivity that severe wasn’t possible. He then questioned the validity of her story, especially since she wrote the book under a pen name and changed people and place names to protect privacy. Intrigued, I wondered if Girl in the Dark was one of those memoirs that would turn out not to be true.

As I read the book, though, it occurred to me that Kevin may not have even picked it up, although he wrote that he had a copy with him when he went to England to interview her. If he read the book, he wouldn’t have even considered asking if he could use his digital recorder during the interview because even the light from that device might have caused her pain for hours.

I can understand why Anna Lyndsey used a pen name and changed people and place names. On the rare occasions she was able to travel during the day before her condition got too bad, she wore a mask and hat to protect her face. This elicited stares and avoidance from others on trains and in other public places. It’s way too bad that people all over the world will not open their minds and hearts to others who are different.

Girl in the Dark was one of those books that helped me put my life in perspective. Caring for my late husband who was paralyzed by two strokes for seven years is nothing compared to spending days and hours on end in the dark or bearing painful consequences otherwise. I’m so thankful each day I can sit at my computer and write and not be affected by the glow from the screen or sunlight streaming through the windows.

***

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.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner October 2016

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As I write this, it’s a beautiful Indian summer day in late September. The sun shines in a cloudless sky. Through my open front door, as I sprawl in my easy chair with my feet up, I hear the occasional car going by, dog barking, and a neighbor’s weed eater. Guitar music flows from my device’s speaker, courtesy of the public radio station in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. It’s 77 degrees, and the only thing that keeps me from writing outdoors is my tablet’s low battery.

By the way, I’m working with a new device, a BrailleNote Touch from Humanware. This is the world’s first Google-certified Braille tablet. I like this a lot better than my iPad. I don’t have to swipe, flick, double tap, or triple click. Although using the touch screen is an option, most functions can be performed with the Braille keyboard and thumb keys.

The down side is that it’s running an older version of Android, but most apps I’ve tried work pretty well, and the word processor is a lot better than other Braille note takers I’ve used. After I finish writing and proofreading this, I’ll upload it to Dropbox so I can access it on my computer, add finishing touches, and schedule it for posting. It’s nice not to be tied to my PC all the time.

Believe it or not, I’ve also been doing other things this month. On September 10th, Range Writers was pleased to have as a guest state poet laureate Eugene Gagliano. He did a wonderful presentation on character development and other aspects of writing. September 10th would have been our 11th wedding anniversary so I thought it only fitting that former poet laureate and dear friend Rose Hill read a poem she wrote for our wedding in memory of my late husband.

On September 17th, I attended a writing workshop in Buffalo, about 30 miles south of here. It was conducted by Lori Howe, University of Wyoming instructor and state humanities council road scholar. She gave us prompts and plenty of time to write and share our work. A poem I wrote during this time was posted here earlier.

On September 29th, I returned to Buffalo for a reception for Eugene Gagliano. Again, he did a great presentation where he talked about his life, read some of his work, and demonstrated some activities he does with children in the classroom. I had a great time.

Of course I’ve been busy singing as well. My group, Just Harmony, is working on Christmas music and already has several performances scheduled in December. On the 9th, I performed at Sugarland Ridge for a fall social. On the 27th, I sang at Westview for their monthly birthday party. I’ll be at Green House on October 4th and at Westview on the 25th. Sugarland Ridge has invited me back in November to do a reading and music in an attempt to promote my new book.

Speaking of which, I did a signing this month at Sheridan Stationery on the 24th and sold books in the lobby of the Sheridan Senior Center on the 27th. On October 8th, I’ll be part of a National Indie Author Day presentation at the library. I still have plenty of copies of My Ideal Partner to sell, and it’s also available online through Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, and other sources.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. Happy fall, everyone. I’ll be back next month with more news.

***

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.

 

Now What?

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Recently, I stepped out of the shower and was drying myself when I discovered something on my left breast. It felt like the moles on other parts of my skin the dermatologist said were nothing to worry about. I told myself I was making a mountain out of a mole, but the fact that it was on my left breast was worrisome.

I hurriedly dressed, called the women’s clinic, and was able to get an appointment for later that morning. When I called the paratransit service to arrange a ride, the dispatcher said, “We’ll get you there, but you’ll have to be patient getting home.” As I put my cell phone in my pocket, I thought that if I wasn’t diagnosed with breast cancer, I would have all the time in the world. I then realized that the nurse-practitioner at the clinic wouldn’t be able to tell if the spot was cancer by looking at it. A biopsy would need to be scheduled, and that would mean waiting and wondering.

I threw myself into my work, eating half a bagel and banana at my desk while checking email. I usually did this every morning to save time. I then started work on an upcoming blog post. Fifteen minutes before my scheduled pick-up time, I was ready. The bus was late.

It was about ten minutes before my scheduled appointment, and the driver said, “I’ve got a couple people to pick up before I can get you there. Sorry.”

Oh great, I thought, and I removed my cell phone from my pocket. “Just tell them it’s our fault. We had a scheduling problem.”

The scheduling problem was my fault. When I called the clinic earlier, there was another opening for the following day, but I didn’t want to wait that long. The paratransit service usually preferred to book rides at least a day in advance, but I’d convinced the dispatcher it was urgent.

When I called the clinic a second time from the bus and explained the situation, the young woman who answered the phone said, “When do you think you’ll be here?”

“I don’t know,” I answered in exasperation. “I’ll be there when I can. Just tell the nurse-practitioner I’m coming.”

As the bus bumped along, I thought my life was going great until now. My new memoir was out, and a couple of promotion events were scheduled. Why did this have to happen now?

I remembered the time when my late husband Bill suffered his first stroke. We’d been married for three months and were happy, then boom! Was this thing on my breast another bomb about to drop? Why?

I alternated between these thoughts and telling myself I was making a mountain out of a mole. I thought of my editor, Leonore Dvorkin, who fought her own battle with breast cancer years earlier and lived to write a memoir about it. While she was recovering from surgery, her husband David took care of her. I no longer had a husband. If I needed a lump or the whole breast removed, I would have to depend on the kindness of friends. My brother would probably want to fly in from Florida, but with a wife and five kids and working two jobs to make ends meet, he couldn’t afford it.

When we finally arrived at the medical complex housing the women’s clinic, I was surprised when my talking watch told me it was ten-forty-five, the actual time of the appointment. My white cane swinging in front of me, I dashed to the elevator and found the Braille-labeled button for the second floor.

“It’s probably nothing,” I told Tracy, the nurse-practitioner moments later. “It could just be a mole, but I thought I should have it checked out.”

“Absolutely,” she said. I placed my index finger on the spot, and she examined it. “It looks like just a clogged pore.”

“You mean it’s nothing to worry about?”

“Not at all,” she answered. “It should clear up soon, but if it gets bigger and starts hurting, let us know.”

After putting my shirt back on and before leaving the exam room, I called the paratransit service to request a ride home, prepared to be patient. As I left the clinic and made my way down the deserted hall toward the elevator, I was relieved and elated. “Yes, I don’t have breast cancer. Life can go on,” I said, thankful no one was there to hear me.

On the ground floor, I stood just inside the entrance. To my surprise, a bus pulled up a few minutes later. This was my lucky day.

Perhaps I over-react in such situations, but it’s only because I would hate to depend on others for care if I needed it. Bill wanted to be able to take care of me, but after his strokes, that was impossible. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

 

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.

 

Wedding Song

abbie wedding

 

 

Our Wedding Picture

Eleven years ago today, a Saturday, Bill and I stood under an arch framed with flowers in my grandmother’s back yard and said our vows, not knowing that tragedy would strike in three short months. The following poem was written for our wedding by Rose Hill, a dear friend and Wyoming’s poet laureate from 2015-2016.

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Wedding Song for Abbie and Bill

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

The band’s tuned up, the table spread.

The day of days is finally here.

Abbie and Bill are wed today.

 

From far and wide your friends are come

to offer gifts; advise the groom;

to eat and toast and kiss the bride,

to celebrate these solemn vows.

 

Beneath the gaiety and fun are prayers,

half-formed, heartfelt and deep,

that your love grows each passing year,

that you respect and cherish one another,

 

And as your love grows deeper, stronger,

your home becomes a peaceful haven,

a fort against the world’s demands

where you find joy together.

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

We celebrate your love and marriage

and many anniversaries until

Abbie and Bill are wed fifty years today.

 

Rose Hill

***

Of course it’s not our fiftieth anniversary, and we’ll never make it that far, but we had seven mostly happy years together, and that’s cause for celebration. To read our story, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

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.

Visit my Facebook page.

 

 

Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

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Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson

by Mitch Albom

Copyright 1997

 

Years after graduating from college, sports writer Mitch Albom reconnected with Morrie, his former psychology professor, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He describes how he and Morrie spent the last few months of the old man’s life together. His visits were considered his last class with the professor. The only course requirements were to adjust the old man’s pillows from time to time and do other personal care tasks. Graduation was the professor’s funeral, and the final paper was this memoir. The author also describes his life during and after college and gives some biographical information about Morrie.

This book was featured not too long ago on BookDaily. I found it depressing, but what could I have expected from a book about a young man learning lessons about life and death from a dying one? In a way, Morrie reminded me of Bill, although Bill wasn’t terminally ill. Morrie always talked about his death. The only time Bill even touched on the subject of his demise was when he planned his own funeral.

Morrie said something that struck me as interesting. When you depend on others for everything, even wiping your bottom, it’s like being a baby again. You enjoy being cared for the way your mother took care of you in your infancy.

Bill often laughed when I cleaned him up after a bowel movement or inserted a suppository. At first, I thought he was embarrassed, but now I realize he was enjoying the physical attention. That was why he often asked me to scratch his back or perform other physical ministrations he couldn’t do himself. He was craving the attention his mother gave him because it provided comfort. Realizing that probably wouldn’t have made dropping everything and performing these tasks any easier. To learn more about his experiences in being a baby again and my caregiving adventures, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

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.

Visit My Facebook Page.