My First Love #Creative Nonfiction

His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele. So, I finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. I was partially sighted while he had no vision. So, I let him feel my dress, and he said, “Wow!” Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

Once I showed him one of my dolls and said it was our baby. He said, “That’s a doll.” I should have realized he wasn’t as serious about our relationship as I was.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until 1976 when I was a freshman in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.”

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.

Speechless, I turned to Dad, who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him a tape with some songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by, and I didn’t hear from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

 

THE END

 

I posted the above piece here a few years ago. It appears in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders.

 

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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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.

***

My First Love

Abbie-1

His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele so finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until my freshman year in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.” This was in 1976.

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked, as I got up from my chair and walked to the phone in the hallway where Dad stood, holding the receiver. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.

Speechless, I turned to Dad who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother Andy. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him another tape with some of the songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by and still no word from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

I don’t remember if I told my late husband Bill about Brett. If I did, Bill probably didn’t consider Brett a threat since I didn’t know where he was. Besides, he wasn’t the jealous type. You can read about how I met and married Bill and then cared for him after he suffered two strokes in my new memoir.

Who was your first love? If this person wasn’t your only love, do you still keep in touch?

***

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.