Lessons Learned from Dad #MondayMusings #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.Today, my father would have been in his mid 80s. I’ve revised and am sharing a post that went live two months before he passed in 2013. Enjoy!

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My fondest childhood memories are of Dad and me listening to music together. He loved to play the old standards on those scratchy long-playing records by such artists as Fats Waller and Nat King Cole. These songs taught me lessons that I’m pretty sure he wanted me to learn.

If “The Joint is Jumpin,” you’re going to get in trouble. No man will like you if “Your Feet’s Too Big.” You’d better “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” I also learned to appreciate “”Seafood, Mama” but not until I was an adult.

Dad also tried to teach me the value of money. He thought he’d succeeded until I sold my wheelchair accessible van after my husband Bill passed. George, who responded to my ad, asked if I could take a thousand dollars off the asking price because the switch on the back of the vehicle that automatically opened the doors to the lift didn’t work, and the lift needed to be re-sized to fit his electric wheelchair. Because he appeared to be in desperate need of this vehicle, I agreed. Dad was livid. He claimed that it wouldn’t have cost a thousand dollars to fix these problems, but what he didn’t understand was a lesson I didn’t learn from him.

Although money is important, being helped and passing on that good deed to another is more valuable. Several years ago, Bill and I really wanted a van we could use to go places at night and on weekends when the local paratransit service wasn’t running. We were lucky to find someone willing to sell us such a vehicle at a price we could afford. When George came to my home in response to my ad, I could tell right away he was in the same position. I didn’t need that extra thousand dollars, and he needed the van. you can read more about our adventures with the van in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

I leave you now with another lesson I did learn from Dad via Louis Armstrong. Despite the hateful things going on around us, we live in a “Wonderful World.” Rest in peace, Dad.

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What lessons have you learned from your father? Please feel free to share in the comment field below.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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A Teenagers Favorites List #OpenBookBlogHop

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Welcome to another edition of Open Book Blog Hop. Today’s question is: “Write a top 10 list in the voice of a character. Is your character a person making a bucket list? How about someone listing their greatest fears? What does the list they make say about the character?

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To me, a top ten list for one of my characters was a tall order. So, I shortened it to five. This list is for my main character Eve’s son in The Red Dress. This should tell you something about him and make you want to read the book, if you haven’t already done so.

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Thomas Sawyer’s Five Favorite Things

1. My Favorite Baseball Team: The Colorado Rockies. They don’t always play very well, but that’s okay. Their home is in Denver, not far from where I lived, Colorado Springs. Dad and I went to their games whenever we could. For my thirteenth birthday, Mom gave us two tickets, which was really awesome, although they lost big time.

2. Favorite Book: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Dad read that book to me when I was younger. He said that when he and Mom first met, she asked him if he was related to Tom Sawyer in the book. That’s why they named me Thomas.
3. Favorite Food: Mom’s Enchilada Casserole. For as long as I could remember, that was the only thing she made from scratch. Because she was so busy writing, most of the time, she put a frozen meal in the oven, and that was it. But then, she started getting recipes for meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, and other things. She even learned how to make oatmeal. But her enchilada casserole hit a home run for me every time.
4. Riding My Bike and Hanging Out with My Buddy Andy. I also got a new bike for my birthday. Andy got one for his birthday a few months earlier. So, the two of us had brand new bikes. We also liked going swimming when our folks could take us.
5. Doing Cool Stuff with My Dad. Not only did we go to ball games, but we also played ball in the park a lot. Once, I had to whitewash the fence, just like Tom Sawyer in the book. But I didn’t have to do it by myself. Dad and I did it together, and it was fun.

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How about you? If you’re not an author, maybe you could make a top five or top ten list about yourself and put it in the comment field below. If you’re a blogger and would like to participate in this week’s hop, click here.

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By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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First Words #Tuesday Tidbit, #Essay, #Poetry


Image contains: Abbie, smiling.
One of my earliest childhood memories was my dad yelling, “Son of a bitch!” I must have been about three, and at the time, I thought he said, “sun of a bench.” I knew about the sun, that bright orb that shone in the sky, and I knew what a bench was, but what was a sun of a bench? I don’t know why I didn’t ask, and that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.

Of course, as I grew older, I learned the meaning of that awful term. I didn’t find out what a bitch was, though, until I was in college and reading a work of horror fiction about a pack of dogs threatening a town. Until then, I thought a bitch was just a woman someone didn’t like.

I must admit that now, when I’m alone, I’ll occasionally say nasty words when no one is around to hear them. But over the years, I’ve learned to curve my profane utterances for fear of offending someone. I’ve also realized that unless a character in a work of fiction is prone to uttering profanities, such language isn’t necessary in writing. In fact, I find common usage of strong language in books distracting. I believe there are better ways to express anger and frustration than the colorful words I learned from my daddy at the age of three.

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The above was inspired by a prompt from Ann Lauterbach in The Practice of Poetry, edited by Chase Twichell and Robin Behn, copyright 1992. Now, here’s a poem I wrote years ago about the first word my mother remembered me uttering when I was three. It was published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and has since been revised. You can click the Play button below to hear me read it.

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ON BEING THREE

 

I barely remember that year.
Mother said my first word was “ashtray.”
My earliest memory is of Dad cursing a blue streak.
Could I have sent his ashtray crashing to the floor,
leaving him with a burning cigarette?
“Son of a…!”

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What about you? How has the language you heard when you were growing up influenced you?

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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Visitation #Fiction

With Halloween just around the corner, here’s a short story that was published in the 2015 fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. This is my submission to blogger Stevie Turner’s October Share Your Short Story Contest. Enjoy!

 

VISITATION

 

Carrie was fourteen years old and lived in an apartment with her mother in New York City. A year earlier, her father wandered into traffic one night while drunk and was killed by an oncoming bus.

He hadn’t always been drunk. Carrie remembered many times as a child when he picked her up after school while between jobs and took her to the park where they flew homemade kites, and he pushed her on the swings and waited for her at the bottom of the slide. When she joined a softball league at school, he bought her a used glove, ball, and bat and showed her how to pitch, catch, and throw. He occasionally took her for ice cream.

As she grew older, his drinking bouts increased in frequency. He rarely took her places after school and was hardly ever home when she went to bed. She often found him sleeping on the couch in the morning.

Her mother, Dianna, constantly berated him. He kept saying he was sorry, that he would stop drinking and get a job and keep it. He never quit drinking, and he never kept a job for long.

Dianna worked as a secretary at a Baptist church. Carrie was used to getting by on the meager salary her mother received. Most of the time, it was their only source of income, barely enough to pay the rent on their small, shabby apartment, let alone buy food.

On the night Carrie’s father died, when he didn’t come home for supper, her mother packed his clothes and other items in a box that she left outside the apartment door with a note. He never claimed his belongings.

During the following year, Carrie and her mother were forced to move to an even smaller, shabbier apartment, and Carrie had to switch schools. Dianna threw herself into the many projects at the church to help those in need. These took up a lot of her time, and Carrie was often left to fend for herself when she wasn’t in school. She didn’t attempt to make friends because the squalor where she lived embarrassed her, and she never kept in touch with kids she knew from her previous school.

One day after school, she boarded the bus, resigned to yet another evening alone with the cockroaches and leaking roof. She hated riding buses, since her father was killed by one, but on this cold Halloween evening, it was getting dark, and she didn’t want to walk alone at night. As she’d done many times, she’d stayed after classes to study in the library where it was warm. Now, as the sky gradually darkened, she found a seat in the back of the crowded bus and stared out the window at people and buildings, as it bumped along, stopping every so often to pick up and drop off passengers.

Someone sat next to her. A hand fell on her knee, and a familiar voice said, “Hey sweet pea.”

She jumped and turned to see a man who looked just like her father, wearing baggy blue jeans and his favorite plaid shirt, the clothes he wore the day he died. She detected no acrid stench of booze but a whiff of the cologne he wore when he was sober. Thinking he was just another pervert who happened to look, smell, and sound like her father, she turned back toward the window. “I know you don’t believe it’s me, princess, but it is,” he said, taking her hand.

Princess, that was one of the many names he called her. “Leave me alone,” she said, jerking her hand away and moving closer to the window. People turned and stared, and she wondered why.

“Honey, nobody can see me. I’m a ghost.”

“You’re nuts,” she said, turning back to him.

“So are you,” said a man across the aisle.

This couldn’t be real, she thought, as her face grew hot, and she stared at the man sitting next to her. She shook her head and blinked several times. “Carrie, you’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”

She turned back toward the window. She was nowhere near her stop, but she had to get off this bus now. Without a word, she reached for the bell to signal the driver to stop. The man’s hand shot up and grabbed hers. “You’ll have a long walk home if you get off now, bug-a-boo.”

How did he know where her new home was? This was ridiculous. “Besides, sweet pea, you really don’t want to go back to that fucking apartment with those god damned roaches, do you?”

Carrie smiled in spite of herself. She always thought it funny when her father used such colorful language when talking about things that didn’t appeal to her.

“Now that’s what I like,” he said. “a smile from my little girl.”

She looked around, wondering if she could move to another seat, but they were all taken. “Honey, I know I haven’t been the best of fathers lately, but I’m clean now. I haven’t touched a drop of liquor since last year, and I won’t ever again. I’m going to make it up to you. From now on, we’re going to have the best of times, just you and me.”

Just you and me? What did he mean? Was she going to die right here and now? She remembered something her mother said. The preacher at the Baptist church believed that people like her father went to Hell, a place that was always on fire, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. Was that where her father was taking her? She pictured herself being consumed by ugly, yellow flames.

“No, I don’t want to go to Hell,” she screamed, trying to stand and pull herself away from him.

He squeezed her hand. “It’s gonna be okay, honey. Daddy’s right here.”

He said those exact words the night her appendix nearly ruptured when she was seven, as she lay in the emergency room, tears streaming down her face, gripped by pain. He told her everything would be all right, and it eventually was. It was one of few kept promises.

A squeal of breaks brought her back to the present. She felt a jarring crash, then nothing.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Monday Musical Memory: Oh My Papa

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.My father was a bear at times. He laid a hand to my hind quarters when I did something wrong. When my younger brother was suspended from high school for mooning out of a bus, he yelled, “When I see you, you’d better have a book in your hand. If you want to do something useful, chop wood.” He often got into shouting matches with my mother, especially when he was drunk.

Life with Dad wasn’t all bad, though. I spent many happy hours with him listening to jazz. At the age of six, my favorite song was Fats Waller’s “Your Feet’s Too Big.” When my younger brother and I formed a band with me on piano and him on drums, Dad often played along on string bass. When my younger brother developed an interest in photography, Dad helped him turn our third-floor bathroom into a dark room.

My father wasn’t like the papa in this Eddie Fisher song, who could be funny and adorable and would take you on his knee and change your tears to laughter. Nevertheless, he was a good man, and I loved him and learned a lot from him. May he rest in peace. Click the link below to hear me sing the song.

 

Oh My Papa

 

How about you? What was your father like? What did you enjoy doing with him? How did he punish you when you were bad? Happy Father’s Day in advance.

 

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

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