Thursday Book Feature: Reblog–Deliverance from Jericho

I read and reviewed this book several years ago. Recently, the author told me it’s now on Bookshare, an online service that makes books available in accessible formats for those like me with disabilities that prevent or make reading difficult. Since I haven’t had time to read anything new lately, I decided to post a link to this old review. Bruce is one of many children who had negative experiences at government-run schools for the blind in the U.S. and Canada before 1970. I hope you’ll find his story inspirational and thought-provoking.

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Deliverance from Jericho
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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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The Case of the Hidden Water Meter

I recently received a letter that said it was time for me to have a new water meter installed. Our fair city of Sheridan, Wyoming, in its so-called infinite wisdom, has determined that each resident must have a new water meter installed in order to continue receiving service. Fortunately, they’re paying for the installation, but my problem is I don’t know where my old water meter is. I have a visual impairment, and I don’t even know what a water meter looks like.

I’ve made an appointment. Someone is coming tomorrow. Surely that person will want to install the new meter in the same location as the old, but at the moment, I don’t know where that is. I’ve never had to worry about this before. Since no one has come to the door with the intention of reading the meter, I assumed it was outside, but where?

My late husband Bill is probably laughing at me from above. Having bought and rented twenty houses in his day, although he was totally blind, I’m sure he made a point of finding out the location of the water meter and other essential items.

Today, my homemaker from the local senior center is coming for her weekly visit. I can only hope she can find the lost meter. If not, I’ll just have to admit to the person who comes to install the new one that even though I’ve lived in this house for over ten years, I don’t know where the old meter is. It’s either that or sing this song.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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How I Fell in Love with My Ideal Partner

In the winter of 2002, I was single and living here in Sheridan, Wyoming. A couple of months after subscribing, I decided to pose a question on Newsreel, an audio magazine where people with visual impairments could share ideas and music and trade or sell items. Being a writer who attended workshops away from my computer on a regular basis, I wanted to know if there was any way to transfer a document from a braille note-taker to my computer. At the time, most note[takers didn’t use standard word processing formats, so the answers I received weren’t satisfactory.

One of these came from Bill Taylor, who lived in Fowler, Colorado, where he grew up and where he owned a computer store for twenty years. I don’t remember his answer, but I do recall him asking me about my writing. I responded that I wrote fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and that I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home. He then wrote back and said his mother lived in a nursing home. We had a little something in common.

Over the next couple of years, we corresponded, mainly by email but occasionally by phone. He’d downloaded over a hundred songs on his computer, and he sent me some of these on cassettes. I emailed him some of my writing. In the spring of 2003, when I started work on my first novel, We Shall Overcome, I sent him chapters, and he responded with feedback.

In the spring of 2004, on our way to visit my brother and his family in New Mexico, my father and I decided to stop in Fowler to see Bill, although it was a bit out of the way. Bill and I visited for about half an hour, and I discovered that he, like me, was a fan of Dr. Pepper. The following December, we returned, on our way to New Mexico for Christmas, and took Bill out to breakfast. At that time, he suggested we kiss under the mistletoe in his living room, but I thought he was joking.

In January of 2005, I received a braille letter from him in the mail and the shock of my life when I read it. He was asking me to marry him. At first, I thought he wanted me to move to Fowler, an idea I didn’t like, since I’d lived in Sheridan for years and wasn’t about to start from scratch in a new town. However, when I spoke to him on the phone after receiving his letter, he told me he wanted to move to Sheridan. He was tired of his home town, where there wasn’t much to do. Although I still didn’t know if I loved him, this was definitely a game-changer.

A couple of months later, he came to Sheridan to visit and proposed to me officially at a restaurant in the presence of family and friends. Something clicked, and I said yes.

In July, he moved to Sheridan, and I quit my job at the nursing home. In September, we were married. I wish I could say that was the end, and we’re still living happily ever after, thanks to Newsreel, but that was not to be.

In January of 2006, Bill suffered a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair. He spent nine months in the same nursing home where I’d worked, and I brought him home in September of that year. We’d hoped he would be back on his feet some day, but in January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke, not as severe, but bad enough to set him back to the point where he could never walk again. I cared for him at home until he passed in October 2012.

Despite the trials and tribulations of him only having the use of one arm and leg and me being his caregiver, most of our time together was happy, and we both looked forward to the arrival of Newsreel each month, first through the mail on cassette, then via digital download. You can read our complete story in a memoir I published in 2016, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

If I hadn’t met Bill, I probably would still be working forty-hour weeks in the nursing home and may not have published four books. If not for Newsreel, I wouldn’t have met Bill. I hope this audio publication continues for at least another sixty years.

Now it’s your turn. How did you meet your ideal partner? Was it love at first site, or did it take a while? Maybe the song you hear when you click below will inspire you. It’s one I wanted to sing at my wedding but didn’t think I could.

Annie’s Song

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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Things I’ll Never Tell You

Thanks to Ascerblog for inspiring me to post the poem below. It appears in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Please click below to hear me read it.

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Things I’ll Never Tell You

 

 

 

I’ll never  tell
you
you’re stupid

when you forget something or don’t understand.

I’ll never tell you you’re lazy

when you sit at the kitchen table in your
wheelchair

while I fix dinner, clean up.

I’ll never tell you you’re a baby

when I must do most things for you.

I’ll never tell you I don’t understand

why you can’t walk and do more for yourself

when I know the reason.

I’ll never tell you I hate you

or that I was a fool to marry you.

You can’t help being the way you are.

I’ll always love you–although the vow was
never spoken,

I’ll be with you for better or worse.

 

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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: Follow Your Dog

Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust

by Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2017.

The author, blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, shares her experiences with a succession of dogs that influenced her life, focusing on her first guide dog, Verona. She describes her turbulent childhood: her parents’ divorce, her father berating her when she broke or lost her glasses, and how she found a way to escape through nature and books.

She talks about the dogs she and her husband and children had as pets before Verona came along. She explains the process of applying for a dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, about a forty-minute drive from her home in New Rochelle: why she was rejected the first time, how she applied to other schools and was eventually accepted by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and started training in January of 2008.

She then describes the arduous twenty-six day process of learning to work with Verona: her apprehension and excitement on the day she first met her, the full days of walking routes in bitter winter weather, the exhilaration upon graduation. She explains the adjustments her family had to make since Verona wasn’t a pet.

She then describes reactions of others to her dog and how Verona impacted her life until 2015 when she was compelled to retire her. She explains how she returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and obtained Bailey, her second dog, describing how Verona adjusted to Bailey doing the work she once did. She then talks about how Verona became a certified therapy dog. Inserted at strategic points throughout the book are essays, poems, and blog posts, and at the end, a list of resources for those interested in applying for a guide dog.

I met Ann over a year ago through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. I’ve always enjoyed reading her material.

I like dogs but am not interested in getting a guide dog. For one thing, I do really well with a cane, so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have one. For another, they’re a lot of work, as illustrated in the book, whereas with a cane, when you arrive at your destination, you just fold it up, put it somewhere out of the way, and forget about it until you need it again. It’s a matter of personal choice.

Since November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, after reading this book, you might want to think about adopting a retired guide dog. Verona was lucky that Ann and her family were willing and able to keep her after she was retired, but other former guide dogs aren’t as fortunate. In any case, this book would make a great gift for a dog lover or someone with a visual impairment interested in getting a guide dog. It would also be a good educational tool for anyone training in a disability-related field.

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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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Tuesday Book Feature: Love Letters in the Grand

Note: Since Thanksgiving falls on the day I normally review books here, I’m changing things around a bit. I’ll have a special treat for you on Thanksgiving Day, so stay tuned.

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Love Letters in the Grand: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Big City Piano Tuner

By John Justice

Copyright 2017

In this collection of stories, the author, totally blind, relates his experiences tuning pianos in New York City and Philadelphia during the 1960’s and 70’s. Some tales are humorous like “It Won’t Play If You Don’t Pay,” in which he describes his underhanded way of dealing with a customer who refused to pay for his services. Others showcase how unfairly he was treated by some customers, e.g. “Unintended Disaster,” in which he was blamed for breaking a music lamp on a piano top after being told it was clear.

Some stories don’t have much to do with piano tuning like “Star’s Rippingly Good Solution,” in which he explains how his guide dog handled a mugger on a New York City subway. In the title story, he relates how he found a packet of love letters inside a grand piano. At the end, he explains how he met his second wife at a rehabilitation facility for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, and eventually married her and found other employment while still tuning pianos on the side.

Since I play the piano, I was fascinated by his explanation of the inner workings of the instrument, as he related his various experiences. I liked his descriptions of Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center where he was sent to tune pianos. As a registered music therapist, my favorite piece was “Song for Adrienne,” in which his playing of a familiar Christmas carol touched the heart of a young woman in a psychiatric hospital. I loved his quote at the end. “Life is like a piano. It has highs and lows, but when all is said and done, it is an instrument on which we all must play our tunes.”

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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.

Leaving (Fiction)

Sally felt a strange tension at the breakfast table one sunny April morning. Her husband Jack appeared nervous. He usually seemed confident and in control, but today, it was as if he were waiting for the right moment to tell her something, something she didn’t want to hear. Just as she took a bite of her bagel, he looked her in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, honey, but I’m leaving you for another woman.”

She choked on her bagel and wondered why she was bothering to try and remove the obstacle. Maybe it would be for the best if I went right here and now.

Jack, a prominent heart surgeon at a Denver hospital, knew the Heimlich maneuver. In a flash, he was behind her, his arms wrapped around her middle, his fingers on her chest pressing inward and upward. After a few thrusts, the piece of bagel flew out of her mouth and landed on her plate with a soft plop.

“Here honey, drink some orange juice.”

Obedient as usual, she took the glass in her trembling hand and sipped from it. “April Fools, right?” she said.

“No, it’s no joke.”

Sally stared at him, trying to comprehend. “Is it that bitch you recently hired as your receptionist?”

“That’s not a nice thing to say about Martha. She’s been a big help in the office, and I was lucky to find her after Darleen quit at the last minute.”

“And she’s a good looker,” said Sally, her body stiffening. “Don’t think I didn’t notice her that day last week when you forgot your lunch, and I dropped it off on my way to the DAR meeting. I saw her skirt cut just above the knees, her see-through blouse that showed way too much cleavage. She would have been a good catch for any man. Why did it have to be you?” She fought back tears.

Jack knelt by her side and took her hand. “Honey, I don’t know how it happened. I guess I was captivated by the long blonde hair falling down her back.”

Sally ran her free hand through her short dark curls. “I thought you liked my hair,” she said, as tears cascaded down her cheeks.

“I did like your hair before you had it cut short and got that permanent and coloring.”

“I’m fifty-five years old. My hair is turning gray. I wanted to look good for you.”

Jack stroked the top of her head with his free hand. “Honey, you were beautiful the way you were.”

Sally brightened. “Okay, I’ll grow my hair long. I won’t have Rachel at Clips and More curl it, and I’ll ask her if she can restore it to its natural color. Will you stay with me if I do that?”

Jack sighed. “Honey, I’m afraid it’s too late for that. Martha’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant!” Sally jerked her hand away and shoved her chair back from the table. “You’re the same age I am. How could you be so stupid? She must be at least twenty years younger.”

“I don’t know,” said Jack with a sigh, as he hung his head. “but I have to do the right thing.”

“She could get rid of the baby like I had to do with Shirley.”

“That’s not funny. You know as well as I do that our daughter would have been mentally retarded. She wouldn’t have had a happy life. As far as we know, Martha’s baby is healthy. I see no reason why she should have an abortion.”

“You bastard!” said Sally. It was all she could do to keep from striking him. “Do you love Martha?”

“I guess I do.”

“More than you love me,” said Sally, wiping her nose with the sleeve of her bathrobe. Jack sighed again.

“I should have known something like this was going on. You seemed to be spending too much time away from home. I know how dedicated you are to your work, and you don’t like to leave your patients until they’re out of the woods, so I shrugged off my suspicions. Then last week when I saw Martha, I wondered if you two were having an affair. I had no reason to think so.”

She rested her head in her hands. “Last night when Maria Gonzales was rejecting her heart transplant, and you needed to stay with her, I tried to reach you on your cell a couple of hours later, and you didn’t answer. I called the hospital, and the operator said you left an hour earlier.”

Fresh tears fell, and Sally removed a Kleenex from her pocket and wiped her eyes. “I told myself Maria had died, and you and your colleagues were drowning your sorrows at My Buddy’s Place like you do sometimes after you lose a patient. You didn’t come home until two in the morning, but when I smelled booze on your breath, I was reassured. Now, before I can offer my condolences, you drop this… this… bomb.” She blew her nose.

“I called the hospital a little while ago. Maria is doing much better. The anti-rejection medication we gave her last night seems to be working.”

“I sacrificed a lot. It was bad enough I had to give up my job at the flower shop when I married you and be a stay-at-home wife and mother.”

“I thought you wanted to…”

“I loved you, damn it, and I wanted to make you happy, and look where that got me.”

“You had Judy. You were involved in the Garden Club, the DAR, and the Civic Theater Guild. Wasn’t that enough?”

“It was until I had to give up Shirley. You don’t know what it’s like to kill your own baby, a child of your own flesh and blood. You don’t know the emptiness I felt all these years. She was just an embryo to you, but to me, she’s still a human being, and I miss her.” Huge, racking sobs shook her, as she buried her head in her hands a second time.

“Now you’re being dramatic,” said Jack, rising to his feet. “Save it for your next play, why don’t you?”

“Then I had to have my tubes tied,” said Sally through her tears.

Jack paced the floor. “You and I both know that there was a good chance you could have carried another disabled child. We were lucky Judy was normal.”

A car horn sounded outside. “Who the hell’s that?” asked Sally, jerking upright.

“That’s Martha. Since my car’s still in the shop, she offered to give me a ride.” He picked up his coat from a nearby chair and put it on.

“That’s it. You’re going to walk out, just like that.”

“I’ll come back this afternoon and pick up some of my stuff while you’re at your Garden Club meeting,” he said, jingling the car keys in his pocket. “My car ought to be ready by lunchtime.”

Sally felt a sense of desperation, as he turned toward the door. “What about me? What am I going to tell Judy if she ever calls and asks to talk to you? Just like you, she works too hard and can’t get away. She hardly ever calls or e-mails. She didn’t even come home for your fiftieth birthday party.”

“I’ll call Judy tonight when I get settled at Martha’s. You’ll be hearing from our lawyer soon. You can have the house and your car, and I’ll pay you a generous alimony each month.”

He turned back to her, and his face softened. “Maybe you and your friends should think about opening that flower shop. I’m sorry I discouraged you from doing that last year. You’ve always been interested in flowers, and I shouldn’t have insisted you quit your job and be a stay-at-home wife and mother.”

“And you shouldn’t have made me have an abortion and then get my tubes tied. Just get the hell out of my sight!” Sally rose to her feet.

The horn sounded a second time. Jack turned and hurried out the door. Sally stood and gazed out the kitchen’s bay window at Martha’s red BMW, as it idled in the driveway. She watched Jack climb into the passenger seat and the car pull away.

She grabbed several trash bags before heading upstairs. In the master bedroom, she emptied Jack’s closet, shoving his pants, shirts, jackets, and shoes into the bags. She cleared his dresser drawers of briefs, socks, and ties. His toiletries on the dresser and in the adjoining bathroom and books and CDs in the study downstairs met the same fate. She even disposed of his medical school diploma, home insurance records, and other important papers in the bottom drawer of his desk.

She would have taken a hatchet to the computer, stereo, and other items, but that would have been too much work. Besides, the sanitation truck would be there any minute, and she had better things to do.

She needed to make several trips to the dumpster in the alley behind the house. As she was stuffing the last bag into the bin, the truck pulled up. Self-conscious about being seen in her bathrobe, she waved to the crew before hurrying indoors.

She retrieved a notepad and pen from the top drawer of Jack’s desk in the study and went upstairs. The note she left on Jack’s dresser read, “You fucking son of a bitch, you are trash, and so is all your stuff.”

In the bathroom, she ran hot water in the tub. In the bedroom, she removed her bathrobe and hung it on the closet door. She placed her slippers on the floor at her side of the bed. She took off her nightgown, folded it, and placed it in its usual drawer.

In the bathroom, she stepped into the tub. Leaving the water running, she sat back, let the warmth surround her, and thought of Shirley. She hoped she and her daughter could make up for lost time.

With her right hand, she picked up the razor that lay on the side of the tub and held it poised over her left wrist. She hesitated for a moment, then cut deep, ignoring the pain. As the bath water gradually turned red, she closed her eyes.

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The above story appears in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities. It also won second place in a contest sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind.

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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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