How Bill Got My Attention

Daily Inklings, a site providing prompts for bloggers, inspired this. In the post, bloggers are encouraged to write about how someone drew them into a conversation. In my case, the conversation wasn’t face to face.

On a Saturday evening in January of 2005, I was perusing the mail after a long day on the job at the nursing home where I worked. Among bills and junk, I found a braille letter from Bill Taylor, with whom I’d been corresponding for the past couple of years.

We’d communicated by email daily and phone occasionally, and he’d sent me cassettes of songs he’d downloaded from the Internet. He’d supported my writing endeavors by providing feedback on poems and stories I’d emailed him. Now, his words on the page jumped out at me. “Dear Abbie, I’m writing to ask for your hand in marriage.”

Stunned, I wondered how in the world I could marry this man. I’d only met him twice when my father and I drove from our home in Sheridan, Wyoming, to his home in Fowler, Colorado, on our way to visit relatives in New Mexico. I was under the impression he just wanted to be friends.

Because I worked in a nursing home, and his mother lived in one, we’d hit it off when we’d met a couple of years earlier through Newsreel, an audio magazine for people with blindness or low vision. We’d also discovered that we liked some of the same kinds of music and loved to read and that our favorite beverage was Dr. Pepper.

Did that mean I could just marry him? I was already in my mid-forties, and he was in his mid-sixties. We were both set in our ways. Could we make this work?

Long story short, six months later, I married him. He wanted to leave his home in Colorado, so we settled here in Wyoming.

Three months after our wedding, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. A year later, he suffered a second stroke, not as severe, but enough to hold him back so he never could walk. I cared for him at home until he passed in October of 2012. You can read our full story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

How about you? Can you think of a time when someone got your attention? Please tell me about it, either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Re-blog: Being a Caregiver Can Be the Same as Having the Disability in the Eyes of the Employer

Being a caregiver, I feel for Donna. I never had to work while caring for my late husband Bill, but before I even met him, I faced similar issues with supervisors because of my own disability. Many corporate executives are more concerned about making money than the well-being and satisfaction of employees and customers. If you’re one of those people, I want you to read this article and think. The corporate world must change for the better.

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Being a Caregiver is the Same as Having the Disability in the Eyes of the Employer

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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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Re-Blog: Novel Explores Serious Questions

Here I am, again coming to you from Florida, where I’m having too much fun in the sun to do my usual Thursday book feature. Instead, here’s a re-run from March of last year. Enjoy, and have a great day.

Novel Explores Serious Questions

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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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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.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Hangover Revisited

Abbie-1

I just returned last night from a week in Florida with my brother and his family, where I had a wonderful time. Since I’m still unpacking and have a million other things to do, I decided to simply re-blog a post from last year about this time. You can read the original here.

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Hangover: A Source of Inspiration

 

Now that the holiday season has passed, some people’s thoughts turn to the effects of drinking too much on New Year’s Eve. Did you know that a hangover isn’t necessarily related to consuming a lot of booze? According to dictionary.com, a hangover can also be defined as “any aftermath of or lingering effect from a distressing experience.”

For six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. People who have never been family caregivers don’t understand the trauma involved in such a role. Bill could do little for himself. I had to dress him, take him to the bathroom, and even help him with his computer. With children, you know they’ll eventually grow up and become independent, but when your spouse is no longer able to do for himself, your family caregiving obligations will only stop when he dies.

It has been three years since Bill’s passing. Because he could do little for himself, I couldn’t be away from home for more than a couple of hours at the most. Even now, on occasion, when I leave the house and am not home in a couple of hours, I become anxious and have to tell myself that Bill is in a better place where he can change the channel on the satellite radio and find another book to read, all on his own. He’s not waiting for me to come home and empty the urinal or get him out of bed so he can sit outside and listen to the Colorado Rockies being creamed by almost every team in the league.

I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep at night. I nod off and am jerked awake by a feeling of anxiety or restlessness. I tell myself that Bill is not calling me to get up and empty the urinal, that I can go to sleep and not be interrupted. I eventually do and usually sleep through the night.

I have developed sciatica in my right hip, probably as a result of lifting Bill from the bed to the wheelchair to the recliner to the commode, etc. It occasionally flares up after I’ve been exercising and becomes more prevalent during cold and humid conditions. Adville and ice packs are my best friends.

This type of hangover is not something that a Bloody Mary will cure. It will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The good news is that it’s not as bad as a hangover you get from excessive imbibing.

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One year later, I’m sleeping better and have discovered that walking for about a half an hour a day, on the treadmill this time of year, keeps the sciatica at bay. I’m not as anxious as I was last year, so maybe this hangover is finally abating. I hope you enjoyed my blast from the past and that any hangover symptoms you may have suffered over the New Year’s holiday are gone.

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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.

 

 

How I Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Abbie-1

As Han Solo in Star Wars once said, “Sometimes I even amaze myself.” This is true of me as well, although I’m not a spaceship pilot who rescued a princess from an ominous Death Star.

For six years, I cared for my late husband Bill, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed. He was nineteen years older than me. When we met, I was in my forties, and he was in his sixties. When we married in September of 2005, he was walking, albeit with a cane. Three months later, he suffered the first of two strokes that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I’m visually impaired, so how did I bathe, dress, and feed him and transfer him from bed, to wheelchair, to recliner, to commode?

I doubt it would have been possible without the help and support of Laura Andrews, the occupational therapist at Sheridan Manor, where Bill spent nine months after his first stroke and another couple of months after his second. She didn’t say, “I don’t know how you can do this if you can’t see.” Instead, her mantra was “Let’s see if we can figure it out.”

For two months before Bill came home in September of 2006, she worked with us every day on dressing and transferring him from the bed to the wheelchair. Because of my limited vision, figuring out how to do these things was a challenge, but she was patient. We tried one technique after another until we finally found ways that worked.

She suggested to a local carpenter ways he could modify our house for wheelchair accessibility. When that was done, she came home with us to work on transferring Bill from the wheelchair to the recliner and commode and vise versa as well as between the bed and wheelchair. She also gave advice on toileting and other personal care issues. When Bill suffered his second stroke in 2007, we did it all again, but this time, Bill was only in the nursing home for a couple of months. I must admit there were times when Bill landed on the floor, but fortunately, he was never seriously hurt, and no one questioned my ability.

My caregiving feat would also not have been possible without the services provided by the Sheridan Senior Center’s Help at Home program. An aide came to the house three days a week to give Bill showers because this would have been too difficult for me. Not only was I grateful for the extra hands, I also appreciated having another set of good eyes around to notice lesions, bruises, or other medical issues with Bill about which I might not have known due to my lack of vision.

Day Break, the senior center’s adult day care facility, was also helpful. While I attended water exercise classes and a weekly poetry class, I didn’t have to worry about him being home alone. However, two weeks after Bill started attending the program, he said to me one morning, “I don’t want to go there anymore. It’s a baby-sitting service.”

I was flabbergasted. Yes, Day Break is a place where caregivers can leave their loved ones in a safe, friendly environment. They can watch television, play cards, and do just about anything else they can do at home, or they can participate in group activities. Having been a social butterfly, at least before the strokes, Bill enjoyed visiting with others and playing cards, so I thought he would have a great time there.

However, he assured me he could manage at home alone for at least a couple of hours, although he couldn’t get to the bathroom by himself, not to mention get out of the house in case of fire. He wore a LifeLink necklace which allowed him to call for help in an emergency. Although I was nervous about leaving him home alone, he turned out to be right. When I came home, I often found him with wet pants, but that was the only casualty. I eventually got a cell phone so he could call me when I was away from home. This gave me even more peace of mind.

Big Goose Transit was also a big help. Their friendly drivers came to our house and drove Bill and me to Day Break, physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, and anywhere else we needed to go. Because of my limited vision, I had difficulty attaching pedals to Bill’s wheelchair so he, in it, could be loaded into their vehicles more easily. Drivers were only too happy to accomplish this task, since it only took someone with good eyes about a minute. We eventually bought a wheelchair accessible van so my father and others could drive us on weekends, evenings, and holidays when Big Goose Transit wasn’t operating. You can read more about how I amazed myself in my new memoir.

Being a caregiver can be a challenge, even with good eyes. If not for the support of others, Bill would probably have spent the last years of his life at Sheridan Manor. He might not have lived as long. Despite his paralysis and the difficulty I had caring for him, we spent six happy years together. That’s amazing.

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Note: a portion of the above article appears in the November 5th issue of The Sheridan Press, my hometown newspaper.

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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.

 

A Losing Battle (A Poem)

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

I just found out that today is World Alzheimer’s Day. This inspired me to post a poem I wrote years ago that appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Click on the title to hear me read it.

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A Losing Battle

 

My get up and go

just got up and went.

I’m feeling so down.

My whole life’s been spent.

 

I sit in my chair

day in and day out.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I shout.

 

I don’t know one soul

from the next, don’t you see?

I can only smile

when they talk to me.

 

I need help each day,

am unsure what to do.

Everything’s jumbled.

Everything’s new.

 

Although I can walk,

I don’t know where to go.

Nothing’s familiar.

There’s nothing I know.

 

Sometimes it’s hopeless.

I see no light

at the end of the tunnel,

no daybreak in sight.

 

It’s just as well

there’s no forthcoming dawn–

for my get up and go’s

gotten up and gone.

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I’m so thankful that my late husband Bill never had Alzheimer’s. His mind was clear until almost the very end. To read more of our story, please check out my new memoir. I can just imagine how awful it would be to care for a loved one who didn’t know who I was.

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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.