Silent Night (Fiction)

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,” said the nurse, as she started to leave the room.

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

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

“How old is Jessica?” asked Hannah.

“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.

 

THE END

 

Note: the above story was published in the fall/winter 2018-2019 issue of Magnets and Ladders and is my contribution to blogger Stevie Turner’s Share Your Short Story Contest for this month. It will be published later this month in The Writer’s Grapevine. Please click below to hear me sing the song referenced in the story.

 

Silent Night

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover 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.

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The Sound of Music Medley #Monday Musical Memories

When I was in second grade, I was first introduced to The Sound of Music while hanging out at a friend’s house on weekends. Her family had the soundtrack, and we listened to it a lot. In fifth grade, I sang in the school choir, and we performed “Climb Every Mountain” for graduation. In seventh and eighth grade glee clubs, we used variations of “Doe Ray Me” to warm up before practicing songs we would perform.

When I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home, one resident liked to yodel. So, I sang “The Lonely Goat Herd” with her. I wasn’t the best yodeler, but she sang along with me and seemed to enjoy it.

A couple of years ago when I started entertaining at an assisted living facility on a regular basis, one lady told me she’d lived in Austria when they were filming The Sound of Music, and her favorite song was “Edelweiss.” So, I sang that song for her every time. She has since passed away, but I still perform the song there occasionally.

The Sound of Music was my late husband’s favorite. In My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I describe the agonizing process of getting him to sing with me, which the speech therapist recommended. Before his strokes, he was a pretty good singer. But afterward, although he could intone the words in the right rhythm, he couldn’t carry the tune.

Now that he’s gone, I enjoy singing songs from The Sound of Music because it brings me closer to him. I hope you also enjoy my medley of songs from this precious musical. May your hills always be alive with the sound of music.

 

Sound of Music Medley

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover 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.

***

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My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Re-Blog: My Happy Place

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.When I worked as a registered music therapist, my singing often took people’s minds off their pain. Now, it appears that one of my blog posts, along with a piece of music, had the same effect. Please check out Lynda’s post and re-read mine.

 

Via My Happy Place

 

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover 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 Other Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome: A Novel

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Thursday Book Feature: Homecoming

Homecoming: A Memoir

By David Russell

Copyright 2018.

 

This short memoir is autobiographical in nature, spanning the author’s life from birth till the present. David Russell talks about being born prematurely in the 1950’s and blinded as a result of receiving too much oxygen. He then touches on his life growing up in Michigan, living in a succession of homes, being sent to a public elementary school, then choosing to attend the state school for the blind during his junior and senior high years.

After describing his high school graduation, which occurred in 1970, he shares his experiences attending several colleges over the next decade, describing how he became a registered music therapist, completing a six-month internship at a mental health facility in Georgia. He then touches on his adult years in a variety of locations before finally getting married and settling down.

I liked the author’s description of how he was born and how his parents learned he was blind. For those of us who know that too much oxygen at birth causes blindness, the scene where his parents tell the doctor to do everything he can to save their child and the doctor puts baby David in a crude incubator so he can be transported to another hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit is a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. After that though, the author rushes through his life’s story with little dialog or interaction with others. He provides some detail on his music education, playing the piano for a living in various locations, his college experiences, his internship, and his job working with developmentally challenged clients in Florida, but it’s not enough. His book is divided into two parts with the first being about his life in general and the second being about a specific year in college. This doesn’t make sense.

I would like to have known more. What was it like for him to be mainstreamed in elementary school? Why did he choose to attend the state school for the blind, and why wasn’t he happy there? Having been a registered music therapist myself, I would like to have learned more about his experiences with his in-class practicum, internship, and how his work helped his clients. I realize his theme is “home,” but it doesn’t work. He has an interesting story but doesn’t draw his readers into it.

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Note: I submitted a portion of this review to Amazon, but they refuse to publish it. Here’s the reasaon I was given via email. “Our data shows elements of your Amazon account match elements of other Amazon accounts reviewing the same product.” I suspect what they actually mean is that they won’t publish the review  because it’s unfavorable. For this reason, I will no longer veview books on Amazon.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Song Lyric Sunday: Song of the Soul

Image contains: me, smiling.

This feature was created by Helen Vahdati. This week’s theme is “soul.” This song’s artist, Chris Williamson, is from my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. I don’t think she’s as popular, although she’s made quite a few recordings over the years. These don’t seem to be on Amazon, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this song on YouTube. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s about one of the things I did as a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. Enjoy, and sing along.

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—Song of the Soul

Written by Chris Williamson

 

Open mine eyes, that I may see

Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me

Open mine eyes, illumine me

Spirit divine

Love of my life, I am crying

I am not dying, I am dancing

Dancing along in the madness

There is no sadness, only a song of the soul

(chorus)

And we’ll sing this song, why don’t you sing along?

And we can sing for a long, long time

Why don’t you sing this song? Why don’t you sing along?

And we can sing for a long, long time

What do you do for your living?

Are you forgiving, giving shelter?

Follow your heart, love will find you

Truth will unbind you, seek out a song of the soul

(chorus)

Come to your life like a warrior

Nothing will bore you, you can be happy

Let in the light, it will heal you

And you can feel you, sing out a song of the soul

***

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

***

My Other Links

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Saturday Song: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

As mentioned in My Ideal Partner,before I met and married my late husband Bill, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home. Nowadays, I play my guitar and sing at senior facilities strictly for entertainment. Recently, a friend suggested I share a recording of such a gig to show how I interact with my audience. So today, instead of a video, you get to hear me sing one song live in concert. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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seventh inning stretch.mp3

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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.

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The Healing Voice

Sunlight streams in through large windows

of the room where we sit,

some like me in wheelchairs,

others on couches, in armchairs,

a few with walkers in front of them.

Some shout, cry, wander, fight.

Others, like me, watch the passing world.

The television talks–no one listens.

 

Then she appears, guitar in hand,

asks if we’re ready for some music.

TV silent, she stands,

strums the guitar, sings favorite songs,

knows our names.

Nothing else matters when her voice

fills each corner of the room.

I love to sing,

wish she would stay forever.

***

I recently received word that the above poem won second place in a contest sponsored by Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities. It will appear in the fall/winter issue. Click below to hear me read it.

 

 

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.