The Little Pyromaniac #TuesdayTidbit #Memoir #Inspiration

Abbie wears a blue and white V-neck top with different shades of blue from sky to navy that swirl together with the white. She has short, brown hair and rosy cheeks and smiles at the camera against a black background.

Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography

 

 

The Little Pyromaniac

By Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

I remember the day my five-year-old brother Andy was arrested for arson. On a warm Wyoming spring afternoon in 1974, when I was twelve years old, my parents and I were in the garden behind our house. While Mother and Dad prepared the soil for planting, I studied seed packets of peas, corn, and tomatoes. Even with my limited vision, I could read the labels and make out the pictures. I imagined how they would look and taste on our dinner plates.

My food reverie was interrupted by the distant sound of sirens. “I’ll bet those are fire engines,” Dad remarked.

A little while later, I heard the phone ringing in the house. “I’ll get it,” I offered, dropping the seed packets and hurrying toward the back door.

In the kitchen, breathless, I picked up the receiver. “Hello.”

A brusque male voice said, “Could I speak to Mr. or Mrs. Johnson?”

Alarmed, I said, “Yeah, just a minute.”

I dropped the phone and hurried outside. “Mother, Dad, there’s a guy on the phone who wants to talk to one of you.”

“I’ll take it,” Mother said, putting down her shovel and wiping her hands on her slacks.

Curious, I followed her into the house and waited to see what I could find out. Of course, I couldn’t glean much from her end of the conversation.

“Hello. Oh, my God! We’ll be right there.” She slammed down the receiver and rushed past me out the back door.

I hurried after her and heard her say to Dad, “Ed, we need to pick up Andy at the police station. He was playing with matches near that abandoned shack at the bottom of the hill when it caught fire.”

After they left, I wandered aimlessly through the house, letting my imagination get the better of me. Although my little brother was a pain in the anatomy, I loved him and hated the idea of him being handcuffed and tossed into a jail cell. What if they locked up my parents and came after me?

A knock sounded at the front door.  My heart pounding, I hurried to answer, fearing the worst. But it was only Carrie and Shelley from next door, who were close to my age. Andy and I often played with them.

After I invited them in and explained the situation, Carrie, the older of the two, said, “Maybe you should call the police and find out what’s going on.”

“Yeah,” Shelley agreed.

Call the police? That was the last thing I wanted to do. “But I don’t have the number,” I said, hoping that would be a good enough excuse.

“Call the operator, and she’ll connect you,” Carrie suggested.

“They can’t arrest you for calling them,” Shelley assured me. “You’re not committing a crime.”

That made sense. Although their presence comforted me, I still felt trepidation, as I made my way into my parents’ bedroom and picked up the receiver on Mother’s side of the bed. They stood eagerly in the doorway while I made the call.

The same brusque voice answered. “Sheridan Police Department.”

I was tempted to hang up but managed to babble, “Hi. I’m looking for Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. They should be there with Andy Johnson.”

“Oh, yes, they’re here,” he said. “They’re filling out paperwork. Who’s this?”

“I’m Miss Johnson. Thanks.” It was all I could think to say, and I hung up.

When I relayed our conversation, Carrie said, “See? There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah,” Shelley chimed in. “They’ll be home soon.”

A little while later, we were in my room, drinking Coke and listening to music when I heard the station wagon pull into the driveway. I hurried outside, Carrie and Shelley at my heels. To my relief, Andy climbed out of the station wagon, and I hugged him. “I love you. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he answered with a grin. “They put me in a jail cell.”

“Oh, no!” I cried.

“Weren’t you scared?” Shelley asked.

“No, I found a rotten peanut butter sandwich.”

“Ugg!” I said. I’d always hated peanut butter and never cared for peanuts.

“Did you eat it?” Carrie asked.

He shook his head.

Dad, removing Andy’s bike from the trunk, said, “Now, you’re going to stay off this for a week, do you hear?”

Andy’s face fell. “Yeah.”

That wasn’t the only time he committed arson. Once, with the help of another neighbor girl his age, he set fire to his basement bedroom. Fortunately, Mother put it out before it could do much damage.

Another time, when Andy and I were in his room, he picked up a lighter, held it to my face, and flicked it. It hissed, but that was all. “It’s empty,” he cried, as I hurried away, screaming.

I don’t know what turned him around, but Andy eventually outgrew his fire fetish.  However, in elementary school, he exhibited some behavioral problems. Through the years, he had other brushes with the law, most of them alcohol-related.

But he now has a P.H.D. in physics and lives in Jupiter, Florida, with his own family, where he teaches at a private high school. Perhaps he ignites, in his students, a spark of scientific interest.

THE END

***

The above true story appears in the summer issue of The Writer’s Grapevine, which can be downloaded here. I was inspired to write it while taking a class from Glenda Beall, who blogs here. She prompted us to write something about a family member, starting with the sentence, “I remember the day when…” I hope you enjoyed reading this.

***

If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my email list to receive my twice-yearly newsletter and other announcements. This is a one-way announcements list, meaning the only messages you’ll receive will come from me. So, you can rest assured that this list is low-traffic. Send a blank email to:  newsfrommycorner+subscribe@groups.io  You’ll receive a confirmation email. Reply to that with another blank message, and you should be good to go.

***

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?

***

Facebook

Website

 

 

 

My Man Bill #TuesdayTidbit #Jottings #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.

My late husband was the bravest person I ever knew. He was tall with gray hair and often wore sunglasses. A soft-spoken, gentle soul, he rarely got mad. When he did, it wasn’t for long. He endured so much hardship in his life, yet remained positive.

At an early age, he lost some of his vision as a result of rheumatoid arthritis, which also affected his legs. Through surgery, he was able to walk, but he lost the rest of his eyesight twenty years later. As an adult, he had one or two more operations to fuse limbs that were giving him trouble.

In 2003, we met through a magazine. A few months after we started corresponding, he contracted the West Nile virus. It took him several months to make a full recovery, but he got back on his feet.

In January of 2006, three months after we were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. After spending nine months in a nursing facility, he returned home, and I became his caregiver.

We hoped that through outpatient physical therapy, he would be able to walk again. But in January of 2007, almost a month after his first stroke, he had a second one, not as severe, but enough to set him back to the point where he would never walk again.

With the use of only one arm and leg, he could do little for himself. I dressed him, prepared his meals, and helped him with various devices he enjoyed using for email and listening to audiobooks and ball games. All the while, he was stoic and loving. Whenever I felt the pressure, all I had to do was hold him and be reassured by the touch of his arm around me and the feel of his body against mine.

But in the summer of 2012, his appetite decreased. As a result, he lost strength, making it harder for me to lift him. In September, we consulted a physical therapist, who told us it was no longer safe for Bill to remain at home. He reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home permanently.

Over the next month, he continued to decline, eventually getting to the point where he couldn’t eat without help. All the while, he remained alert and upbeat until he finally got to the point where he was no longer aware of what was going on around him.

One day, while an aide tried to feed him lunch, the food just dribbled out of his mouth. He apparently couldn’t or wouldn’t swallow. He also started having trouble breathing. I signed end of life papers, and he was put on oxygen.

But even then, although he could no longer talk, and I didn’t know if he could understand what we were saying, he hung on. After three days of watching him in this state, I realized I needed to give him permission to go, which I did. On October 30th, 2012, he finally left this world. I’ll always love him and admire him for his courage in the face of all the adversity in his otherwise good life.

You can read our full story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, which is available free from Smashwords this month. See below for details. I was inspired to write the above while taking a memoir writing class from fellow author Glenda Beall, who blogs here.

How about you? Who’s the bravest person you know? Please tell me about it in the comment field below. Alternatively, you can post about it on your own blog with a link to this post.

And now, I’m pleased to announce that until the end of the month, all my books can be downloaded from Smashwords ABSOLUTELY FREE as part of its summer/winter sale. You can click here to visit my author page and download these books. Happy reading!

 

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?

***

Facebook

Website

 

 

Writers continue to meet in Glenda’s Studio in 2022 #FridayFinds #Events #Reblogs

Fellow blogger Glenda Beall, who teaches in North Carolina, will be holding a writing class from April 5th to May 10th. The class, “Turn Your Memories into a Legacy,” taught through the Institute of Continuing Learning in Georgia, will take place on Zoom. I took a similar class from Glenda last fall and learned a lot. You can read one of the pieces I wrote for that class here.

Now, registration is open. If you’re interested in writing your life stories, this is the class for you. Click below to learn more and find out how to register.

 

Writers continue to meet in Glenda’s Studio in 2022

 

By the way, tomorrow is the last day of the Smashwords Read an eBook Sale. Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me, The Red Dress, and My Ideal Partner are available absolutely free until the end of the day tomorrow. You can visit my Smashwords author page to download these books.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which 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.

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?

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

Virtual Writing Workshop Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 – 9:00 EST #WordPressWednesday #Reblogs #Events

Fellow blogger Glenda Beall, who teaches in North Carolina, is offering a free memoir-writing workshop on March 22nd via Zoom. I took a class from her last fall and learned a lot. You can read a piece I wrote for her class here. If you’re interested in writing your life stories, this workshop is for you.

 

Virtual Writing Workshop Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 – 9:00 EST

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which 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.

Life is good. It is snowing. Enjoying Elderhood. #WordPressWednesday #Reblogs #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

Fellow author and blogger Glenda Beall has been recuperating from COVID while visiting her sister and brother-in-law. In this post, she shares her experiences and recommends an interesting book. Enjoy!

 

Here I am recovering from COVID and watching the snow falling beautifully. I have survived the virus thanks to having been vaccinated and having taken a booster shot. Gay, Stu, and I tested negative tonight and I am so relieved. With Gay taking care of me and being with me so much, I have been afraid she would catch it, but she has had her shots, too.

 

Read the full post here.