Review: My Ideal Partner

I’m pleased to report that last week, a review of My Ideal Partner was posted on the Wyoming State Library’s website. I’ll paste the text below, but you can read the review here.

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

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Denver, Colo.: DLD Books, 2016

My Ideal Partner is the true story of one woman’s love, struggles, heartache, personal growth, and loss. Newlywed Abbie’s happily-ever-after was shattered when her husband Bill suffered two debilitating strokes, leaving him unable to care for himself. In the course of three months, Abbie went from being a single, independent, visually-challenged adult to being a bride, a newlywed, and ultimately caregiver to her husband. In sharing her hardships, Abbie sheds light on many of the challenges caregivers face. Her difficult journey is both unique and yet universal. While this is Abbie’s story, it is also the story of many others who find their lives drastically changed when they become caregivers to the people they love. The subject matter is tough, but Taylor’s writing style is relaxed and conversational, making this a quick read. Perhaps because this was her first serious relationship, her descriptions of her relationship with Bill are told with the innocence of someone much younger. Grab a box of Kleenex! This is a powerful story that takes readers on an emotional journey, and has the power to move them to both tears and laughter.

Lisa Scroggins, Executive Director

Natrona County Library

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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.

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Memoir Offers Insights on Death

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory

By Caitlin Doughty

Copyright 2014.

 

This author, with a degree in medieval history, a star of the online video series, Ask a Mortician, shares the first few years of her experiences working in the death industry. She starts with her first job as a crematory operator in San Francisco, explaining in detail the cremation process and how she was the one to do the actual cremating. She also describes going with another employee to collect bodies and observing the embalming process.

She then talks about how she eventually moved to Los Angeles where she attended a mortician school and became certified. After another job collecting bodies, she gained employment as a funeral director. She also shares her disillusionment with embalming and other techniques used to make a corpse look natural before a viewing. She suggests taking responsibility for what happens to you when you die.

She also talks about her life growing up in Hawaii and how she took an interest in death after seeing a child fall from a second-story balcony of a shopping mall. She touches on the history of death and how other cultures deal with it. In the end, she relates the details of her grandmother’s passing. Her story begins in the morning at the San Francisco crematory and ends at night in a nearby cemetery.

Because of my experiences with death over the years, I was fascinated by some of her stories and horrified by others. Despite the grimness of the subject, I found myself laughing at some of her anecdotes.

When she described shaving a corpse for the first time, I was reminded of the time I saw my late husband Bill’s body at the nursing home before he was taken away. Shaving him was far from my mind, as I stroked his hair and talked to him for the last time.

When Doughty described picking up bodies at hospitals, nursing homes, and people’s homes, I thought of the two people from the funeral home who came to pick up Bill. Soft-spoken, the woman assured me they would take good care of him. When I asked about arrangements, the man said someone would contact me. You can learn more about my experiences with Bill’s death in My Ideal Partner.

When I started reading this book, I was afraid of death, and I still am. I didn’t think Caitlin Doughty could explain what it’s like to die. Nobody really can. Once you find out, there’s no way to tell others.

My brother, a physicist, once said that when you die, you simply don’t exist anymore, but what is that like? When pets die, they are said to have crossed a “rainbow bridge.” Christians believe that when you die, you see Jesus and are reunited with loved ones passed.

I would like to think that when my time comes, I will cross a rainbow bridge and be reunited with Bill, but what if that’s not the case? What if you’re aware of what is happening to you after you die?

What if Bill heard the last loving words I said to him including my promise to see him on the other side someday. What if he knew he was being wrapped in a shroud, strapped to a gurney, transported to the funeral home, and placed in a refrigerator?

Both my parents were cremated. What if they felt the pain of the flames, as their bodies were being burned until there was nothing left but bones?

If you or your family chooses to have a viewing, necessitating an embalming, what if you feel the instruments cutting into the artery on your neck and into your abdomen to drain blood and other internal fluids and infuse chemicals that make you look more natural? Of course lying in a grave for eternity could be boring but certainly better than burning or being stabbed.

I hope I don’t die for a long time, and maybe when I do, someone will know something. In the meantime, this book is a great start to understanding what can happen to your body after you die.

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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.

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Novel Explores Serious Questions

The Shortest Way Home

by Juliette Fay

Copyright 2013

 

Set in a suburb of Boston, this story centers around a family with Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative disorder that becomes prevalent during adulthood. Shawn, a nurse who has worked in developing countries for years, thinks he has dodged the bullet but refuses to be tested.

Feeling burned out, he comes home, hoping to re-group and then return to his work. Years earlier, after Shawn’s mother died of Huntington’s Disease, his father left Shawn and his brother and sister with their aunt and never returned.

Now, Shawn discovers that his aunt is suffering from some sort of dementia not related to Huntington’s, and his eleven-year-old nephew, Kevin, has sensory processing disorder which effects his behavior. Kevin is the son of Shawn’s brother, who died of pneumonia after Shawn went overseas.

Because his sister, a want-to-be actress, is too busy with her job as a waitress at a diner and play rehearsals, Shawn reluctantly cares for his aunt and nephew until someone else can be hired. He finds employment in a bakery run by an old friend and falls in love with Rebecca, a girl he knew in high school, who now works as a massage therapist. Then, his sister announces she’s soon heading for New York, leaving Shawn in the permanent role of caregiver. By this time, he’s conflicted between his love for Rebecca, Kevin, and his aunt and wanting to flee to Haiti, where a doctor, with whom he once worked, has opened a clinic following an earthquake.

Then, his father shows up unexpected, and after meeting his grandson, proposes a trip to Ireland with him and Shawn, to which Shawn reluctantly agrees, despite anger at his father for leaving the family years earlier. The book ends soon after they return.

I like the way this book explores the question of “to know or not to know” if you’ll be afflicted with a serious condition such as Huntington’s Disease later in life. It also focuses on the conflict between family love and loyalty and wanting to pursue one’s own dreams, especially if one’s life may be cut short by a serious illness. I can appreciate how the relationship between Shawn, raised an Irish Catholic, and God changes. There are some serious life lessons to be learned here, so I definitely recommend this book to everyone.

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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.

 

Circus in the Bedroom

Abbie-1

In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

***

UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

***

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.

 

Anthology Depicts Disability Culture

Abbie-1

Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow

Edited by Chris Kuell

Copyright 2016

 

Breath and Shadow is an online magazine featuring poems, stories, and essays by authors with disabilities. Pieces here focus mainly on what it’s like to have a disability and how others treat a person with a disability. This anthology showcases the best work that appeared in the publication over the past twelve years.

It contains dark pieces such as Susan M. Silver’s short story, “I’ll Be Looking at the Moon,” in which the protagonist is dealing with a serious illness. In contrast, there’s Amy Krout-Horn’s essay, “Who Dresses You?” in which she talks about a humorous way she answered this narrow-minded question from a waitress.

Many pieces portray the relationship between a person with a disability and health care professionals such as Lizz Schumer’s essay, “Peace Protest,” in which she talks about convalescing after a fall and wondering if she inherited her grandfather’s brain cancer. Then there’s Chris Kuell’s short story, “The Interview,” in which a blind woman retaliates against a prospective employer who is unwilling to even consider the possibility of hiring her.

I would like to have seen fewer dark pieces. Nevertheless, I think this is a must-read for everyone, especially those in a profession that requires dealing directly with others: waitresses, doctors, nurses, cab drivers, etc. You don’t have to read the whole thing cover to cover. You could read perhaps one or two pieces a day. If you’re one of those narrow-minded persons who take a dim view of what people with disabilities can do, this anthology will force you to think outside the box. If you’re a person with a disability, you’ll read this and realize you’re not the only one. The people in this book, whether real or made-up, will speak to you of their experiences.

***

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.

 

The Man on the Flying Trapeze

Abbie-1

Have you ever been to a circus, watched an aerialist, and wondered how they did it or thought, oh boy, I’m glad I’m not doing that. Well, believe it or not, my late husband Bill, after suffering two strokes that paralyzed his left side, flew through the air three days a week during the six years I cared for him at home. The following excerpt and poem from my new memoir explains how.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced so it could be used. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie, our case worker. “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

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: Until I Say Goodbye

Abbie-1

Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy

 

by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Copyright 2013.

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” The author uses this quote from Dr. Seuss in her bestselling memoir where she details one year of her life after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People with this condition can live for years with a ventilator and other equipment, but this journalist for The Palm Beach Post and mother of three in Florida decided to quit her job, live with joy, and not try to prolong her life.

She talks about how she spent a year traveling with family and friends: to the Yukon to see the northern lights with her best friend, a cruise on the Caribbean with her sister, a trip to Budapest, Hungary, with her husband John to re-live their years together there, a visit to her deceased birth father’s family in Cypress, a trip to New York City with her teen-aged daughter, who tried on wedding dresses for an event her mother would never witness, and other family vacations. She also explains how and why she got permanent make-up and arranged for a hut to be built in the family’s back yard.

She provides plenty of back story about her life growing up with her adoptive parents and how she met and married John and the adventures they had before settling down with their family in Florida. She discusses meeting her birth mother in California and learning about her birth father and how this affected her relationship with her adoptive mother. She describes how she wrote this book on her iPhone, since her hands were too weak to use even an iPad keyboard.

I like the way she ends the book by spelling out her children’s names as if she were typing them on her iPhone and then inserting the quote by Dr. Seuss. In this way, she leaves readers with the impression that a loved one’s death shouldn’t be a sad occasion. According to an Associated Press article, she stayed alive until September of this year. I wish my late husband had lived long enough to read this book. Maybe Susan Spencer-Wendel’s account of how she tapped out her story on her iPhone with one finger might have inspired him to write My Ideal Partner with me.

Several years ago, I suggested we write a book together, detailing his strokes and rehabilitation and my experiences with caregiving. Because this would have been tough for him, only able to type with one hand, I suggested, half in jest, that I tap the keys on the left side of the computer and he tap the ones on the right. In answer, he said, “I’d rather do this on the piano with you.”

“Never mind,” I told myself after he passed. “I’ll write my own book.” And I did.

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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.