Holiday Greeting 2012

This has definitely been an interesting year. It started with a bang after my poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, was published in December  of last year. In January and February, I held readings and signings in various locations around town. In June, I sold a few books at the Wyoming Writers conference in Casper, and I sold a few more in August at the Wyoming state fair in Douglas.

In April, I attended a poetry workshop in Casper. In May, we received a visit from our friend Louie Padilla in Colorado. Since Bill and Louie went to school together, they spent an enjoyable few days catching up and talking about old times. In June, our friend Rob Jenkins visited from New Mexico. He took Bill around town in his wheelchair, and I believe they hit one or two bars. While here, Rob took a day trip to Custer Battlefield which he enjoyed.

At the end of September as most of you know, Bill and I were forced to make a difficult decision. Because his appetite was decreasing, and he was losing strength, he was becoming harder to lift. We called in a couple of therapists to see if there was anything we could do to make transferring him easier. They told us, in a nutshell, that it was no longer safe for me to care for  him at home.

We hoped Bill could move to a facility called Green House. This is a whole new concept in elder care where residents are housed in cottages of twelve people instead of with over a hundred people in one big building. Each resident has his or her own room and bath, and each cottage has an expansive living and dining area and even a patio. With fewer residents in each cottage, each person can receive more individual attention. Bill would have been happy in his own room with his recliner and computer and all other comforts of home.

However, there was a waiting list, ad we were told it could be six months to a year. For the time being, Bill agreed to move to Sheridan Manor. This was where he stayed on the rare occasions when I had to be out of town or couldn’t care for him for one reason or another. But his health steadily declined, and on October 30th, he left this world for a better place. I guess he couldn’t wait six months to a year to get into Green House.

Perhaps one good thing about Bill’s passing is that I got to see some relatives I hadn’t seen in years. Bill wanted to be buried with his parents and grandfather at the cemetery in his home town of Fowler, Colorado. We made the arrangements several years ago so in the beginning of November, Dad and I made the trip to Colorado. We stayed in Colorado Springs with Dad’s brother Tony. He and my aunt and cousins from Denver plus my uncle from California came with us to Fowler for the graveside service where I performed “Stormy Weather,” one of Bill’s favorite songs which he requested I sing. Many people from Fowler and other nearby locations were there. A few shared their memories of Bill during the service. Afterward, a local church provided lunch for us, and I had an opportunity to visit with a lot of these people and hear more memories. Dad and I also visited my deceased mother’s brother in Denver and his son and his family before returning to Sheridan.

It was nice seeing my relatives again.. Now that Bill is gone, maybe I can do more traveling. I’m already thinking about taking a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother in Jupiter. I hated leaving Bill in the nursing home while I went off and had fun. For the past few years, I only traveled when necessary, to attend writers’ conferences and sell books. Now, perhaps he’s watching me and can experience everything I do vicariously. As I write this, I can imagine him snorting. That was his way of telling me he thought I was being silly. He once said after his first stroke that he had twelve smiles. He also had twelve laughs, and I’ll miss them all.

In case you haven’t read Bill’s obituary or the poem I wrote that was included in his graveside service or would like to read them again, here they are. You can then click on the links below to hear me sing a couple songs: “Stormy Weather” and a song more appropriate for this time of year. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and a year filled with joy and prosperity.

 

 

Bill L. Taylor October 18, 1942-October 30th, 2012

Bill L. Taylor, 70, longtime resident of Fowler, Colorado, passed away on October 30th, 2012 at Sheridan Manor. At his request, he will be buried with his family at the Fowler cemetery, and a graveside service will be held there. Kane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

He was born in Fowler, Colorado, on October 18, 1942 to Marlyn William Taylor and Francis Maxine Smith Taylor. At an early age, he was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis which affected his legs and eyesight.  He attended the School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs, graduating in 1963.  He then attended Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado, and ColoradoStateUniversity in Fort Collins where he received both an A.A. degree in 1968 and in 1969, a B.S. degree in business administration and business data processing.

He then moved to California in 1969.  He was employed by SwimQuip in El Monte as a computer programmer. In 1971, while still working at SwimQuip, he started a company called Tashi which built closed-circuit television systems for the visually impaired. He was later hired by J.B.Lansing in Northridge as systems manager. After being laid off in 1985, he worked with his sister Sandy in South Pasadena, doing transcriptions.

He later returned to Fowler, Colorado, where he opened The Fowler Computer Store which operated for ten years.  He also invested in real estate, managed properties, and served on the city council and chamber of commerce.

On September 10, 2005, he was united in marriage to Abigail L. Johnson, (Abbie) of Sheridan, Wyoming, where they took up residency. He suffered a stroke in January of 2006 and again in January of 2007 but survived both with limited capacity, being paralyzed on one side.  In spite of adversity, he and Abbie lived happily in Sheridan until his death. He enjoyed playing chess and other games, reading, sailing, and listening to sports on the radio. He was a great inspiration to all who knew him.

He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Edwin, who died at age one. He is survived by his wife Abbie, two sisters: Sandy Taylor of South Pasadena, California, and Shirley Thayer of Lady Lake, Florida, and two grandnieces. Memorials can benefit the SheridanSeniorCenter at 211 Smith Street, Sheridan, Wyoming82801 or the Fowler Historical Society at 114 Main Street, Fowler, Colorado, 81039.   

 

Bill’s Hands

 

 

 

Soft, gentle, they caressed me,

once milked cows, fed livestock, gathered eggs,

tapped computer keys in a busy office,

glided back and forth along Braille pages,

placed a ring on my finger, as he said, “I do.”

When one hand no longer worked,

the other was just as reassuring.

Now, they’re both gone

but will be remembered.

 

 

 

Stormy Weather

 Christmas Medley

 

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

Chasing the Green Sun

I just finished reading a book by this title by Marilyn Brandt Smith. I met Marilyn through Behind Our Eyes, a group of disabled writers. We published an anthology of our stories, poems, and essays in 2007, and we produce an online magazine, Magnets and Ladders. Marilyn has been totally blind most of her life, but that hasn’t stopped her from teaching blind children in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer, counseling and teaching blind adults here in the United States, raising a family, working with her husband, and of course writing.

Marilyn was born with glaucoma and lost all her vision as a result of an accident at school when she was thirteen. She grew up in Texas, was educated at the state school for the blind, and received a teaching degree from TexasStateUniversity. After her volunteer work with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, when she couldn’t get a teaching job in the U.S. because of her blindness, she got a Master’s degree in counseling psychology from TexasTechUniversity. She was an administrator, counselor, and teacher of blind adults in WashingtonD.C. and Utah before returning to Texas.

Marilyn’s writing was first published in a poetry anthology while she was in college. She later wrote articles about her work with the Peace Corps and other essays about disability. She also submitted pieces about music and technology to club newsletters. She helped blind college students with research and copy editing.

She moved to Louisville, Kentucky, when she married her husband Roger. They had two children. Jayson was born in Texas and their daughter Carol Ann was adopted from  Korea. Marilyn helped her husband in his piano store and vending facility. For ten years, her family bred and sold boa constrictors. She loves to cook and hopes to publish a book of recipes she contributed to other cookbooks and magazines. She has also written flash fiction. She edited Behind Our Eyes, the anthology we published in 2007, and she and I and others in our group edit Magnets and Ladders.  

Chasing the Green Sun is a collection of stories, poems, and essays written mostly by Marilyn. She collaborated on a few of them with her husband Roger and other authors. The book is divided into twelve sections, each corresponding consecutively with the months of the year. Some of the pieces are seasonal. Others were originally published in Behind Our Eyes and Magnets and Ladders. You’ll wonder what will become of a woman in a hospital on New Year’s Eve after her husband has beaten her. You’ll laugh when a blind man tells a policeman who asks him to move his van, “You don’t want me behind the wheel.” You’ll be moved when Marilyn describes her and her husband’s decision to give up a third adopted child who is sighted because they thought the little girl would be happier in a home with sighted parents. You’ll empathize with Marilyn when you read her poem about being home alone during a snowstorm. Another essay details how Marilyn’s father influenced her life while she was growing up and his reaction to the accident that left her totally blind when she was thirteen. She also writes about her Peace Corps volunteer experiences. The title comes from an essay in which Marilyn describes how her son Jayson perceived the moon when he was a child. Jayson was also born blind.

This book can be downloaded in recorded format for free from Marilyn’s Website. Most of the narration is done by Bonnie Blose, a friend of Marilyn’s who is also blind and hosts a book discussion group on Accessible World, a site that provides Web activities for the blind. Marilyn reads a few of the pieces herself. One such poem is a spin-off of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” from the point of view of the mouse with “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of  Music playing in the background. Both Marilyn and Bonnie do an excellent job of narrating in this recording produced by Marilyn’s husband Roger and her son Jayson.

This book can also be purchased in print from Create Space and Amazon, and it will eventually be available for Kindle. If you can read print without difficulty, I urge you to buy the book so you can support this author. Chasing the Green Sun would make a great holiday gift for anyone who loves a good poem, story, or essay.

 

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

From a Husband’s Perspective

When Bill came home after his first stroke, I talked to him about writing a memoir about our experience. We could take turns writing alternate chapters from our points of view. He said, “I don’t know.”

Since he only had the use of his right hand, I suggested he could dictate his chapters either into a recorder or to me directly, and I could write them down. I even joked that we could both sit at his computer. I could press the keys on the left side, and he could press the keys on the right side, kind of like playing “Chopsticks” on the piano. He said, “I’d rather play ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano with you.”

I gave up on the idea of a book written by both of us, but now that he’s gone, I’m thinking of writing a memoir about my six years of caring for him. In the meantime, I’ve written three poems from what I hoped was Bill’s perspective. I could only imagine what he was thinking. These poems were published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste one below.

 

 

From a Husband’s Perspective

 

 

She works hard

to care for me, the house.

She cooks, cleans, does laundry,

fetches, carries,

does everything I’m unable to do.

She writes short stories, novels, essays.

She’ll be a best selling author one day.

I couldn’t do without her.

 

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

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and for what am I thankful? Although I lost my husband Bill almost a month ago, I still have plenty for which to give thanks. For one thing, I still have a roof over my head. I didn’t lose my home to Huricane Sandy, not that I would have since I don’t live in any of the affected areas, but according to a news report I heard yesterday, there are still some parts of New Jersey that are without power, running water, and other amenities. I’m thankful to have everything I need here.

Bill could have suffered from cancer, dementia, or some other disorder. He could have left me for another woman, but he stayed with me for seven years, ever faithful, through good times and bad, and he remained, for the most part, healthy. For this I am truly thankful.

I’m also thankful for family with whom I’ll be spending the holiday. My cousin from California, who got married last year on our wedding anniversary, will be here with her husband, and we’ll gather for dinner tomorrow at my uncle and aunt’s home here in Sheridan, Wyoming. I hope those of you reading this have a fun-filled and memorable holiday with your families.

Now, please click on the link below to hear me sing an old standard that is usually sung at this time of year. If you must go over the river and through the woods, I wish you a safe journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Over The River and Through the Woods

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

I Shouldn’t Be Doing This

Doing what? Reviewing a book by a comedian I never really watched on television. Why? I don’t know. When I ran across I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This: and Other Things that Strike Me as Funny, I thought it might be a worthwhile read.

This is a memoir that only Bob Newhart could have written. Not necessarily in chronological order, he talks about his life growing up in Chicago and his experiences in stand-up comedy, television, and movies. He provides a few of his stand-up routines and explains how he put together  his various comedy albums. He shares his opinions on psychology, religion, death, and other topics. I would tell you that Bob Newhart did a great job reading this book, but I downloaded the recording from the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download site, and the narrator here does a pretty good job. I won’t be surprised, though, if Audible has a recording of Newhart reading the book.

According to Wikipedia, Bob Newhart was born on September 5, 1929 in Oak Park, Illinois. He became prominent in the 1960’s when his comedy album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, became a best-seller and moved to #1 on the Billboard popular music charts. It’s still the twentieth best-selling comedy album in history. His follow-up album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, was also a huge success, and both records held the #1 and #2 positions on the Billboard charts simultaneously.

He later starred in two long-running and prize-winning television situation comedies: first as psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970’s, then as innkeeper Dick Loudon on Newhart in the 1980’s. He was also in a third short-lived television situation comedy, Bob, in the 1990’s.

He appeared in such movies as Catch-22 and Elf. He was the voice of Bernard in the Walt Disney films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. One of his most recent roles was in The Librarian. In 2011, he made a cameo in the movie Horrible Bosses.

In the 1970’s, my mother watched Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore back to back on television every week, but for some reason, I never took an interest in him. However, I got several good laughs out of I shouldn’t Even Be Doing This: and Other Things That Strike Me As Funny. It was a great source of comic relief after reading a downer like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

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

He’s Not Here

Some of you are probably wondering how I’m doing. Two weeks ago today, Bill passed away. A week ago yesterday, we buried him. I’m okay, but there are times when without warning, I’ll lose it. For example, last night during my singing group practice, I belched while we were singing a song, and everyone laughed, and the next thing I knew, tears were rolling down my cheeks, I guess because Bill would have found it funny, too. Wouldn’t you know it? That was the time I forgot to grab Kleenex before leaving the house.

The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver expresses what it’s like now that Bill isn’t here. You will also find a link to a YouTube video containing a song I would have loved to record me singing as a tribute to Bill, but I can’t do that at this time.

 

When You’re Not Here

 

I listen to your music,

hear longing in the words,

 sit in your chair

surrounded by the warmth,

 eat your favorite food,

know your pleasure in the taste,

 drink your beverage of choice.

My thirst isn’t quenched.

I imagine your body next to mine.

You’re not here.

 

Wind Beneath My Wings

 

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

An Unlikely Pilgrimage

Harold lives in Kingsbridge, England. He’s in his mid-sixties, recently retired, and not happily married to his wife Maureen. One day, he receives a letter from a former co-worker he hasn’t seen in years, Queenie, who’s in a hospice six hundred miles away at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, also in England, dying of cancer, writing to say goodbye. He answers her letter, walks to the mailbox with it, but then decides to trek the six hundred miles to the hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, thinking that will save her. Thus begins The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Harold sets off immediately without proper shoes, a cell phone, map, or other necessary equipment, and along the way, he meets a cast of interesting characters, gains media attention, and attracts followers who also want to save Queenie. During the course of Harold’s walk, we learn about his life growing up with a mother who left when he was a boy and a father who kicked him out when he turned sixteen and his relationship with Queenie and Maureen. Close to the end, a shocking secret is revealed about Harold’s son. I downloaded this book from Audible, and the British narrator, Jim Broadbent, does an excellent job, making characters come alive and giving each of them his/her own voice. I also like the way the author tells the story from both Harold’s and Maureen’s points of view.

According to Rachel Joyce’s Website, she has written a variety of plays for BBC radio and television. In 2007, she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is her first novel, and she’s working on a second one, Perfect. She lives in Gloucestershire, England, with her husband and four children.

As I started reading this book, I wondered for a fleeting moment if I walked the one mile from my home to Sheridan Manor when Bill’s health was declining, would that have saved him? It’s highly unlikely, just as it wasn’t likely that Harold walking six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed would have saved Queenie, but hope springs eternal, right? I don’t know why I chose to read this book at this time, but I’m glad I did because it gave me a new perspective on life and death.

 

 

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