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.

***

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.

***

September Wedding Dress

My wedding dress was mauve in color. Reaching to my ankles, it had long sleeves and a low neckline. My sister-in-law Kathleen bought it for me for my birthday.

In June of 2005, after my late husband Bill proposed to me, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, and I in Sheridan, Wyoming. Bill planned to move to Sheridan and marry me.

Meanwhile, I was visiting him in Fowler, where he’d planned a barbecue. Many of our family members and friends were invited, including my brother Andy and his family, who lived in New Mexico at the time.

Since hotel accommodations in Fowler were limited, Andy and his family stayed in Pueblo, about twenty-five miles west of Fowler. Kathleen and I went to a mall, where she helped me pick out the dress, a slip, bra, and shoes to match.

On the day of the wedding, September 10th, 2005, which was held in my grandmother’s back yard here in Sheridan, I paced the upstairs hall between the bathroom and my aunt’s old bedroom, thinking Kathleen had the dress with her at the motel where they were staying. Through the open bathroom window, I could hear guests arriving and music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion. As the time grew closer, I wondered if I’d be parading down the aisle in my underwear.

At almost the last minute, Andy and Kathleen arrived with the children. It was then that I discovered that the dress had been lying on my aunt’s bed all that time. Because of my limited vision, I hadn’t spotted it.

Later, as Dad escorted me down the aisle to the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon, I didn’t see Bill, either. Earlier, he’d planned to go with friends to The Mint Bar. Was he still there, or had he developed cold feet after having too many drinks? Of course he was totally blind, so he couldn’t have jumped in his car and hit the interstate in the direction of Colorado, but still… Then, there he was, in his green suit and the sunglasses he always wore, and I had no more worries.

My wedding dress still hangs in my closet. In January of 2006, three months after Bill and I were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side.  I cared for him at home until he passed in October of 2012. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about a specific article of clothing you remember. What did it look like? Where did you get it? Who do you associate with it? Can you remember some sort of conflict that happened, either while you were wearing the garment or that had something to do with it? Where is this article of clothing today?

If you have a blog, you can tell your story there and link to it here. If not, please share your story in the comment field. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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.

 

 

Saturday Song: I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You from The Mask of Zorro

Tomorrow, my late husband Bill and I would have been married eleven years. In 2005 after Bill proposed to me, while we were still living miles apart, he sent me a Valentine care package which included, among other things, a cassette tape of love songs he’d downloaded from the Internet. The song below was on that tape. Even now, it captivates me, and I’m amazed that a man wanted to spend his lifetime loving me. I still want to spend the rest of my life loving him.

 

 

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.

 

Saturday Song: Shrimp Boats by Jo Stafford

I first heard this song on the television series MASH, sung by members of a USO troupe while traveling to a gig somewhere in Chorea before encountering enemy fire. One of the singers suffers an appendicitis and is rushed to MASH 4077, where she falls in love with Hawkeye, the chief surgeon portrayed by Alan Alda, but I digress.

After I married Bill, I discovered that this song was one of his favorites. Since he enjoyed shrimp, was interested in boats of all sorts, and had a couple of model ships, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I hope you enjoy this song, even if you’re not interested in boats or don’t like seafood. Have a great Saturday.

 

 

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.

 

Saturday Song: Wish I Knew You by the Revivalists

Thanks to REBIRTH OF LISA for inspiring me to post this song. My late husband Bill and I didn’t meet until the earlier part of this century. In the summer of 1984, I spent a weekend in Los Angeles, attending my uncle’s wedding. At the time, Bill was living in the area. He once told me he wished our paths had crossed back then. Now that he’s gone, I wonder what might have happened if we had met by chance that June weekend.

 

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 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.