My Late Husband in Summer (Poetry)

Summer arrived sometime last week, so here’s a poem that appears in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders. You can click the title to hear me read it. Enjoy and stay cool.

 

MY LATE HUSBAND IN SUMMER

 

He sits outside in the sun

at the picnic table in his wheelchair.

Sometimes he wears a hat—

often he does not.

 

With headphones, he listens

either to a recorded book or ball game.

His favorite books are westerns, mysteries.

The more blood and guts the better,

as far as he’s concerned.

 

His favorite baseball team, the Colorado Rockies,

don’t often play well.

Nevertheless, he’s ever faithful to the end.

 

He asks me to bring watermelon in a bowl,

already sliced, the seeds gone,

so all he has to do is enjoy their taste.

Like a little boy with a sweet tooth,

he asks for cookies, candy

with Pepsi, Mountain Dew, or Propel.

 

In late afternoon or early evening,

picnic table shaded, I join him,

check email on my lap top,

listen to an audiobook of my own.

With the two of us side by side,

I feel a sense of peace

despite the work involved

in getting us here.

 

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.

 

 

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.

***

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

***

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.

 

Abbie’s in Love

Abbie-1

No, I haven’t found another man. Although my late husband Bill has been gone four years, I still love him. This Valentine’s Day, while others celebrate love for those still living, I still love a man who has left this world.

In light of Debbie Reynolds’ passing, I thought it would be nice to sing her 1957 hit, “Tammy,” during my performances at Sugarland Ridge and Westview last month. I now realize the song is also about me but in a different way. The following poem illustrates this. Click on the title to hear me read it.

***

I’M IN LOVE

 

Like the whispering cottonwood,

hooting owl, whippoorwill,

murmuring breeze,

melting snow dripping off the roof announces it.

The crow in the distance caws it.

The sun in the sky shouts it.

The cold winter breeze sighs it.

Although he’s no longer a part of this world,

He’s still with me in spirit.

I long to be in his arms

where I’ll sing for joy.

 

***

Now here’s my rendition of “Tammy.” Happy Valentine’s Day.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

 

Bill’s Birthday

Abbie-1

Bill would have been seventy-four years old today. I wrote the following poem four years ago on his birthday while he was in the nursing home almost two weeks before he passed. It appears in my new book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Click on the title to hear me read it.

***

BIRTHDAY

Gray hair against white pillow,

lips caress my cheek,

his good arm encircles my shoulder.

The odor of peanut butter

scent of his shampoo comfort me.

Seventy years old today, he says he loves me,

kiss soft against my cheek,

as we hold each other,

for who knows how long.

***

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.

 

Losing Bill, a Poem

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

LOSING BILL

 

 

The Nurse

 

He’d only been living here a month,

although he came frequently for respite care

while his wife went to writers conferences.

He loved bragging about her,

the author of two books,

When his decline made caring for him difficult,

he moved here to stay.

 

After that, he went downhill,

lost strength in his good arm

needed help eating,

developed bed sores so painful

he couldn’t sit up for long.

One day, he quit eating,

was given oxygen.

His wife signed end-of-life papers.

Four days later when I came to work, he was gone.

 

The Husband

 

For six years,

I couldn’t use my left arm or leg.

My wife did everything,

wiped me when I pooped,

dressed me, got me out of bed,

helped me with my computer,

prepared meals, did laundry and other chores.

Other women would have walked away-

she didn’t, despite limited vision.

For six years, I was happy until

 

I didn’t feel like eating.

It became harder and harder for my wife to lift me

so I reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home.

She visited me every day.

We went out once or twice.

Although I wanted to be involved,

it was too hard, too painful.

 

I wanted to be in a better place.

I knew it would be a shock for her

so I held on as long as I could.

When she finally gave me permission, I went.

 

The Wife

 

The nurse’s call woke me at 6 a.m.

I thought, this is it, I’m a widow.

I knew it was coming.

In a way, it was a relief,

but that didn’t take away the emptiness.

At his bedside in the nursing home,

I kissed his cold face,

positioned my cheek in front of his still mouth,

expecting a response—none came.

I buried my face in his soft hair,

caressed his cold chest,

told him I loved him,

took his belongings,

my life changed forever.

 

The Wife, Four Years Later

 

His suitcase from the nursing home sits in the closet, still packed.

His computer and other belongings gather dust

in the nook off the kitchen that was his for years.

Whether I find someone new,

there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Life and love go on.

(((

I wrote the above poem during a workshop this past weekend given by University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. Click this link to hear me read it. Please check out my new memoir to read more of our story.

***

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.

 

Summer Strawberries

I love to eat them year round, not just during the hottest months. When my late husband Bill was alive, he would buy them fresh, rinse them in cold water, remove stems, slice into bite-sized pieces with a sharp knife, then sprinkle with sugar and serve warm over ready-made angel food cakes. When two strokes left him partially paralyzed, most of the work involved in preparing this sweet treat fell to me. To my amazement, with only one hand, he was still able to slice the strawberries and add the sugar. The first few times, I couldn’t help wondering if some of the red was blood, but he didn’t appear to be bleeding, and the dessert didn’t taste bloody.

After my husband died, I continued buying fresh strawberries and shortcake and preparing them the way Bill liked them because this made me feel closer to him. In the following poem from my collection, That’s Life, I illustrate this. Click this link to hear me read it.

***

The Art of Eating Strawberries

 

 

I eat them the way you like them,

feel close to you when I rinse them in cold water,

remove stems, tear into bite-sized pieces,

add sugar, let sit in the refrigerator,

heat in the microwave over shortcake,

so sweet, so warm,

wish you were here to enjoy them,

but you’ve gone to a better place

so I must eat strawberries alone.

***

Then I discovered whole all natural strawberries from Schwann. They’re already in bite-size pieces, so they don’t have to be sliced. They’re pretty sugary, as they are, and I don’t need the extra calories in angel food shortcake. Now I just put some in a bowl to thaw overnight, and they make a great breakfast treat. I think Bill would have approved. You can read more about other foods Bill liked and my cooking disasters in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Do you have a favorite summertime fruit? How do you like to eat it: plain, with vanilla ice cream perhaps?

***

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.