Book Excerpt: The Morning My Husband Passed

Six years ago today, my husband was found dead in his room at the nursing home where he’d spent the past month. I’d been caring for him at home for six years after two strokes paralyzed his left side. He’d started going downhill, finally getting to the point where I could no longer lift him.

I’d hoped to get him into Greenhouse,, a facility where residents live in cottages holding no more than twelve occupants and each have their own room and bath,. However, there was a six-month waiting list for people on Medicaid, so he and I decided that he should move to a regular nursing home for the time being. He must have decided he couldn’t wait for greener pastures.

The following poem, from My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, talks about how I learned of his death and my reactions. You can click this link to hear me read it.

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 THE MORNING MY HUSBAND PASSED

 

 

The nurse’s call wakes me at six thirty.

Relieved but unable to drive,

I call my father—he agrees to take me.

 

I think to myself,

this is it—I’m a widow.

I knew it would come, but why so soon?

 

He just turned seventy.

We were married only seven years.

I took care of him for six.

He wanted to make it ten.

 

Driving through the streets,

I see, hear, feel nothing.

When we arrive, I hurry to his room,

to his bedside where he lies,

swathed from head to toe.

 

I uncover his face,

eyes, mouth closed,

his body at peace.

I kiss his brow,

bury my face in his hair,

hold him, tell him I love him,

pack his belongings, leave,

my life having turned a corner.

***

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 Biggest Grammar Pet Peeve

Thanks to Mary Hiland  for inspiring this post. Like Mary, I understand the importance of good grammar usage, and I do my best to follow all English rules. Of course, if a character in a story uses bad grammar, that’s okay, but if you’re writing a blog post or other narrative piece, it’s important to watch your grammatical P’s and Q’s.

My biggest grammar pet peeve is incorrect usage of the words “lay” and “lie.” When my husband Bill was alive, and I was his caregiver, we struggled with this all the time. He would ask me if he could lay down. I would tell him no, that I would lay him down, or he could lie down, but he could not lay down. This information isn’t included in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, but you’ll find many other anecdotes about my trials and tribulations as a family caregiver.

Before I married Bill and became his caregiver, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. If I had a dollar for every time I overheard a certified nursing assistant ask a resident if she was ready to lay down, I would be rich enough to buy my own nursing home, and then I would immediately conduct a mandatory in-service on proper grammar usage. If, God forbid, I end up in a nursing home, and I’m asked if I’m ready to lay down, I will say, “No, you can lay me down, or I can lie down, but I will never lay down.”

What about you? Do you have any grammar pet peeves? Please share them here, so we can all learn better English.

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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.

 

 

Thursday Tidbit: Birthday, a Poem

Today, my late husband Bill would have been seventy-six years old. The following poem appears in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. I wrote it on his birthday during the last month of his life, which he spent in a nursing home. Click this link to hear me read it.

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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.

 

 

 

Reblog: Saturday is for Sharing–Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanks to Lynda Lambert for giving me this opportunity to promote myself. Check this out.

Saturday is for Sharing: Abbie Johnson Taylor

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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.

***

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.

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Stepping and Cooking

The poem you’ll hear me read when you click below appears in My Ideal Partner. It describes how my feet traversed through the house many times, as I cooked, cleaned, and cared for my late husband Bill, who was partially paralyzed. I swear if I’d been wearing a pedometer during those six years after his strokes, it probably would have been overloaded. The text of the poem is below.

The song I’ll sing is one I sang to Bill many times before his strokes. He loved to cook, so whenever I found him stirring something on the stove or peeling potatoes at the kitchen counter, I sang this Hank Williams standard. If I’d known he would have two strokes and I would have to do all the cooking, I would have paid more attention while he was preparing meals instead of flirting with him. I hope you enjoy my presentation of poetry and song.

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MANY STEPS

From counter to wastebasket, back to counter

to wheelchair, to bathroom, to recliner, to bed,

my feet pound linoleum and carpet to cook his meals,

dress and transfer him from one place to another.

At the end of the day, weary, footsore,

I hold him in bed, enjoy the fruit of my labor.

***

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.

***

Breast Exam

I posted this here a couple of years ago, but since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s worth re-blogging. I wrote it several years ago when my husband Bill was still alive. Ladies, if you’re over forty and/or have a high risk of getting breast cancer, you should, at least once a year, “get your boobies squeezed,” as Bill would have said.

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I’m sitting on the toilet, moving the index and middle fingers of my right hand up, down, and around each breast, as the radiology technician showed me. There are no lumps. I stand, repeat the procedure, and still find no lumps. In the shower, I rub a generous amount of soap on both breasts and repeat the examination a third time. Still, there are no lumps.

As I finish showering, I reflect on my first mammogram eight years ago. A friend e-mailed me a list of ways to prepare. One suggestion was to insert my boob into the refrigerator and close the door. Another was to place my breast behind one of the back tires of my car and have someone drive over it. Either way, I would have a feeling of what it would be like to have a mammogram. These suggestions didn’t make sense until I had my first procedure.

The mammogram machine was a tall contraption with an adjustable top. I stood, leaning against it while my breast was squashed between the top and bottom. I held my arm corresponding to the breast being examined straight out to the side and clutched a bar on the side of the machine.

Two views were taken of each breast, one side to side and one top to bottom. The top to bottom ones weren’t bad, but the side to side were excruciating because of my short stature. I had to stand on tiptoe so my breast could be aligned properly. At one point while the picture was being taken, I wondered what would happen if the power went out. Would the machine lock, trapping my boob between its metal jaws? For the next eight years, I allowed my bosom to be subjected to this torture, and for what?

As I step out of the shower and reach for my towel, I think about my mother who died of cancer ten years ago. Not in her breast, it was the dreaded disease all the same. During the last six months of her life, she was weak from chemotherapy, and Dad took care of her. The oncologist gave her a good prognosis a couple of weeks before she passed. It was a shock when she lay down on the afternoon of December 15, 1999, closed her eyes, and never woke up.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen while I was a child in need of her care. I was living on my own and holding down a job, and I only needed her companionship and moral support. I realize now that if I were to die, my husband Bill would be lost without me. Unable to care for himself, he would be forced to spend the rest of his life in a nursing home. After working in one for fifteen years, I know they’re not bad places, but living in an institution, no matter how pleasant the surroundings or friendly the staff, isn’t the same as living at home and being cared for by the one you love.

So I’ll continue to examine my breasts once a month. When I receive a card in the mail from the radiology clinic reminding me it’s time for my yearly mammogram, I’ll pick up the phone and arrange to have my boobs squashed.

“What are you doing?” Bill asks, as I climb in bed beside him and reach under my pajama top.

“I’m doing my monthly breast exam. Remember? I do it when I’m sitting, standing, in the shower, and lying down.” There are still no lumps.

I turn, put my arm around him, snuggle against him, bury my face in his hair. “You don’t want me to die of breast cancer, do you?” I say, as I kiss him.

“No,” he answers with a laugh. “Can I examine your breasts?”

“Sure,” I answer, positioning myself so he can reach them.

***

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.

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