Silent Night #Fiction #TuesdayTidbit #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

I’ve posted the story here before, but if you’ve read it, I hope you’ll agree it’s worth another read. It was published in Magnets and Ladders and The Writer’s Grapevine. Below it, as a special holiday treat, you’ll find a recording of me singing the song for which the story is titled. Enjoy!

SILENT NIGHT

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2018

The day before Christmas, my seven-year-old daughter Hannah was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I opted to spend CHRISTMAS Day with her. My parents, as they’d done every year since the divorce, had invited Hannah and me to their house for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t leave my little girl alone in the hospital.

Hannah wasn’t on solid food yet, but a nurse offered to bring me a tray, perhaps realizing it would be difficult for me to navigate to the cafeteria with my limited vision. While Hannah slept, I sat by her bed and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. The food was surprisingly good for a hospital.

I said as much to the nurse when she came to collect my tray. “We have a chef now,” she said.  “Of course, many of our patients are too sick to appreciate it, but it’s certainly better than the fare we used to serve.”

The little girl in the other bed moaned and then started crying in earnest. I looked over and couldn’t see anyone sitting with her. “Oh, that’s Jessica,” said the nurse in a conspiratorial tone. “Poor kid, she fell out of her neighbor’s treehouse yesterday and broke her leg in three places. She’s in a body cast from her chest to her right foot.”

Hannah must have awakened for she said, “Ou, I guess I won’t complain about my tummy anymore. I’m glad I don’t have a treehouse, and I hope Santa didn’t leave me one.”

I marveled at how sensitive my daughter was. As the nurse went to Jessica and tried to comfort her, I said, “How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“I’m okay, but my tummy still hurts.”

“I thought you weren’t gonna complain about your tummy anymore,” I said, as I ruffled her hair.

Hannah giggled, then winced. “Ouch, Mommy, it hurts more when I laugh.”

“It sounds like you could use some pain medication, too,” the nurse said, as she started to leave the room.

“No, it only really hurts when I laugh,” Hannah said.

“Well, in that case, laughter’s the best medicine,” the nurse said. “I’ll be back soon.”

“How old is Jessica?” Hannah asked.

“Oh, I think she’s about your age,” answered the nurse. “I’ll be back in a bit with some medicine for her, and that’ll make her feel better.” With that, she was gone.

Jessica was still sniffling, but it wasn’t as loud as before. “Mommy, you should go sing her a song,” said Hannah. “like you did for me last night when I was really hurting. I’m not hurting as much now, and I think she’s hurting more.”

Years earlier, I’d worked as a registered music therapist. That was before Hannah was born, before I’d started losing my vision, before my world changed. My husband hadn’t wanted a child but was resigned to the idea once he learned I was pregnant. The vision loss after Hannah’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, he paid plenty of child support. That, along with my disability payments, allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and once I learned to use a computer with screen reading and magnification software, I brought in a little income from freelance writing.

Now, I looked over at the little girl in the other bed. My specialty as a music therapist had been with elderly nursing home residents, not hospitalized children. I hadn’t even done a clinical practicum with that population. I remembered bed-ridden residents who smiled and relaxed when I sat by their beds, held their hands, and sang. I even performed at some of their funerals. The fact that my singing in the emergency room the night before had calmed Hannah made me think that perhaps I hadn’t lost my touch. I rose and pulled my chair next to the other bed, where I sat and took the child’s hand that lay on top of the white sheet covering her.

“Hi Jessica,” I said. “I’m Joan. My little girl Hannah is in the other bed. What’s wrong?”

“My leg really hurts,” she answered. “I’ll never play in that stupid treehouse again.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, stroking her hair. “Would you  like to sing a song with me?”

“Will that make the pain go away?” she asked.

“It’ll take your mind off of it. What’s your favorite Christmas song?”

She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

“All right, let’s sing it together, shall we?”

I started, and soon, she joined in, followed by Hannah. When we finished that song, Jessica suggested “Jingle Bells,” then “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The nurse appeared and said, “What lovely singing. Jessica, I have some medicine that will make you feel better. I’m going to put it in your IV now.”

As she started to do this, I said, “Why don’t we sing one more song?”

“I want to hear you sing something by yourself,” said Jessica. “You have a pretty voice, and so did my mommy. She used to sing to me at night before I went to sleep.” A wistful look crossed her face.

“Why doesn’t she sing to you anymore?” I asked.

“She was killed in a car accident a few months ago,” she answered. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” I said, as I stroked her hair. Tears welled in my own eyes.

Holding them back, I said, “What song did your mom like to sing to you this time of year?”

“‘Silent Night,'” she answered.

“Yeah, sing that one, Mom,” said Hannah.

I took a deep breath and began. To my surprise, the nurse joined in, singing alto. Our two voices blending together in harmony was almost too much, but I managed to continue.

As we started the second verse, I sensed a presence at my side and turned to see a man standing there. “Daddy!” Jessica said, her eyes wide with delight.

“Hey princess,” he said, reaching over me and ruffling her hair. Then he said, “oh, don’t stop singing on my account. It’s beautiful.”

His voice broke, and it was all I could do to keep from losing it. We started the song where we’d left off and finished the second verse. To break the spell, I turned to the nurse and said, “You and I need to talk. I sing in a women’s group that could use an extra voice.”

“Wow, that sounds interesting,” she said. “You also have a nice voice. I need to see to other patients, but I’ll come back later after my shift, and you can tell me more about it.” She turned and started to leave the room.

Jessica’s father put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You and I also need to talk. It’s only been two months since I lost my wife, and I never dreamed I’d say this to another woman, but could I buy you a cup of coffee, maybe in the cafeteria?”

From the doorway, the nurse said, “Our coffee here isn’t as good as the food. Why don’t you two go across the street to Starbuck’s?”

We hesitated. “Your kids will be fine,” she said. “They’re both out of the woods. I have your cell numbers in their charts. If anything drastic happens, I’ll call you. Joan, you’ve been here all day. You need a break. Go!” With that, she was gone.

I looked at this stranger, not knowing what to think. Finally, I said, “I’ve been divorced for about six years. I’m losing my vision, and I never imagined another man would ask me out for coffee.”

I expected him to back away, but instead, he said, “Any man not interested in you is a fool. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re good with kids, and you have a lovely voice.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “You just got here. Don’t you want to spend some time with Jessica?”

Jessica said, “I’m okay.  My leg doesn’t hurt so much now that the nurse gave me some medicine in my IV. Daddy, Joan could make you happy like Mommy did.”

“Yeah,” said Hannah. “Mom, I think this guy could make you happy like Daddy did.”

Jessica’s father laughed and said, “I think these two, along with that nurse, are trying to play matchmaker.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Don Gray.”

“Joan Clark,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it.

Still uncertain, I turned to Hannah and said, “Honey, don’t you remember what I’ve told you about not going off with a stranger?”

“Yeah, but he’s not a stranger. He’s Jessica’s dad.”

“She’s got a point,” said Don.

“My dad told me not to go off with a stranger too,” said Jessica. “but he’s okay. He’s been really sad since Mom died.”

I could feel my heart melting as more tears threatened. “Jessica and I could sing another song,” said Hannah. “How about 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”

“Yeah,” said Jessica. She started the song, and Hannah joined in. Laughing, we both made our way out the door.

“Do you need to take my arm?” Don asked.

“Yes, please,” I answered, realizing I’d left my cane in the room. As I grasped his muscular arm and walked with him down the hall, I had a good feeling about this.

 

***

Silent Night

***

You know, Hannah isn’t my only character with appendicitis. In my latest novel, Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me, a ten-year-old suffers the same fate. Want to know more? See below for details, and read the book.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

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

 

 

The Red Stuff #TuesdayTidbit #Memoir #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

THE RED STUFF

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2020

 

For six years, despite my limited vision, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side soon after we were married. Bill was so finicky that mealtime was often a nightmare because he didn’t always want to eat what I wanted to fix. So, I had to scramble to find a substitute for him while still enjoying what I wanted to eat.

One year at Christmas, my singing group performed at an apartment complex for senior citizens. After we sang, we were invited to eat with the residents. Because I needed to get home and prepare supper for Bill and me, I reluctantly declined. The cook, whom Bill and I knew, offered to send me home with food for both of us. I agreed, grateful I wouldn’t have to fix anything. I knew Bill would enjoy the meal they were serving.

“Okay, honey,” I said, in our kitchen later, as I set a plate of food in front of him at the table. “There’s a pork chop on the right that I’ve cut up. In front of you is stuffing, and that red stuff at the top on the left-hand side I’m pretty sure is cranberry sauce.”

A moment later, I realized I’d mistakenly identified the red concoction when Bill said, “Ooh, these beets are horrible!”

“I’m sorry,” I said. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. “I guess I should have sniffed them first. I assumed it was cranberry sauce.”

“Well, you know what happens when you assume, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I answered with a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

He laughed.

Needless to say, I ate a second helping of beets, which I like and don’t eat often. To this day, I’ve never learned not to assume anything.

***

Note: The above piece can also be read on Recovering the Self and was also published in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders.

***

You’re invited to my state poetry society’s virtual open mic poetry reading on Sunday, December 12th at 5 p.m. mountain time. You can share some poetry or just listen. See below for details.

***

WyoPoets is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

 

This event is open to anyone who wants to share or listen to poetry. You
don’t have to be a member of WyoPoets, you don’t even have to be in Wyoming
to participate. So, feel free to invite your friends!

 

Please sign up to read using this Google Form:
https://forms.gle/aRFLvfXSxJn3FF5F8
The first 20 poets to sign up will get to read, additional poets will be
allowed based on time.

Topic: Poetry Night
Time: Dec 12, 2021 05:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81527317416?pwd=VDZyTENmQ1VZM2pZaWowbUovc21GUT09

Meeting ID: 815 2731 7416
Passcode: 813443
One tap mobile
+12532158782,,81527317416#,,,,*813443# US (Tacoma)
+13462487799,,81527317416#,,,,*813443# US (Houston)

Dial by your location
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 815 2731 7416
Passcode: 813443
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbpMPXDmU0

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

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

 

 

Hurricane Matthew and Me #Tuesday Tidbit #Poetry #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

In Sheridan, Wyoming, a Florida hurricane
was far from most people’s minds
on the morning of Thursday, October 6th, 2016.
I texted my brother in Jupiter,
got no response, not unusual.

In the afternoon, he called,
said they were putting up special shutters,
preparing for shortages of power and food.

In the evening, while munching a sandwich,
I found a Florida radio station online,
pictured my relatives in their shuttered home amid wind and rain.

Before going to bed, I tuned in the same station.
Phone and power lines were down, shelters open.

Friday morning, I tuned in the station a third time.
The storm had passed, left damage in its wake.
I sent a text to my brother
before dashing off to my water exercise class,
found a response on my return.
They hadn’t even lost power.

***

The above poem was published in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, which can be read here. Click below for a recording of me reading it.

 

hurricane matthew and me

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Your Last Day #Fiction #Tuesday Tidbit

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

“When you go to sleep tonight, you’ll die,” the doctor says.

“But I feel fine,” you say.

“Your test results indicate a rare form of cancer that acts like a time bomb. When you go to bed and close your eyes, the bomb will explode.”

“Oh, my God! Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“I’m afraid not. I suggest you get your affairs in order. I know this doesn’t give you much time. I’m sorry.”

You walk out of the office in a daze. You blink in the bright sunlight and stumble towards your car, shaking your head in disbelief. When you manage to drive home, he’s in the living room, stretched out in his recliner, reading a newspaper. “Surprise!” he says, as he leaps out of his chair and flings the newspaper aside.

“What are you doing home so early?” you ask.

“I was ahead of schedule for once. So, I decided to take the rest of the afternoon off.”

You fling yourself into his outstretched arms, and you’re locked in a long, ardent embrace. When you come up for air, neither of you says a word. Arm in arm, you make a beeline for the bedroom.

After a couple of hours of the most passionate love -making you’ve experienced in years, you snuggle against him and feel the reassuring closeness of his body. You doze, but remembering the doctor’s words, you jerk yourself awake. “What’s wrong, honey?” he asks.

“Oh, nothing,” you say. “I was just thinking how fun it might be to go out to Dino’s tonight. Their shrimp fettuccini is just to die for.”

“Actually, I was hoping you would cook something here,” he says. “I love your meatloaf, and for once, I won’t be late for dinner.”

You sigh. The last thing you want to do on your last night on Earth is cook meatloaf.

“But if you really want to go out, I guess that would be okay.”

Although the restaurant is crowded, you manage to get a cozy corner table for two. You order fettuccini, and he orders lasagna. You order salad, and he orders clam chowder and a bottle of red wine for the two of you. You don’t say much, as you savor your favorite meal for the last time. He keeps up a running commentary on work and other topics.

For dessert, you both decide on spumoni ice cream. As you enjoy this and a cup of strong coffee, you look around the room at couples, threesomes, foursomes, and larger groups of people, all laughing, chatting, and eating. Will Heaven be like this? Is there even a Heaven?

“How about renting a movie?” he asks, as you leave the restaurant.

“That’s a great idea! How about ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo?’  I’ve always loved that show.”

“Actually, I was thinking of ‘Top Gun.’”

You sigh. The last thing you want to do on your last night on Earth is watch a war movie.

“But if you really want to watch ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo,’ I guess that would be okay.”

At home, you snuggle on the couch. While Mia Farrell is becoming infatuated with Woody Allen, the two of you are becoming re-infatuated with each other. Afterwards, you head back to the bedroom for another round of passionate love -making.

When that’s over, you snuggle against him. “Hold me,” you say, gripped by a sudden fear of the unknown. He does, and you are enveloped with a sense of peace.

You open your eyes and see bright sunlight. You sit up and look around. To the right and behind you are the windows. Your night stands, chests of drawers, and closet are where they’ve always been. Your clothes are scattered on the floor where you dropped them the night before. He is lying next to you, still asleep. You are filled with a sense of relief.

He wakes up and looks at his watch. “Honey, why are you getting up so early on a Saturday morning?” he asks.

“Who says I’m getting up?” you say, as you cuddle next to him and nibble his ear. “I’m not going anywhere.”

***

The above short story was inspired by a poetry prompt to write about your last day on Earth. It appears in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, where it won an honorable mention in the magazine’s contest.

***

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image 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.

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

The Bedroom #Poetry #Tuesday Tidbit

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

At three in the morning,

I’m mildly aroused

by the gentle touch of his hand.

He only has one good arm and leg,

still knows how to please me.

As he strokes me,

and I breathe the scent of his sweat,

I purr with anticipation.

But the mood is shattered when he whispers, “I need to pee.”

***

The above poem appears in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring work by disabled authors. This poem is also in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Click here to listen to me read it.

***

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy, and may you always have positive experiences.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image 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.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website