Conversations with Me

Thanks to heylookawriterfellow for inspiring this. In his post, he shares things he and his wife do that drive each other nuts. It gave me a good laugh when I read it, but it also got me to thinking about one thing I did that annoyed my late husband Bill.

When I was a child, my mother talked to herself, even when I was around. As I grew older, I met a few other people who did the same thing, so the habit wasn’t hard to develop.

It was definitely a hard one to break, though try I did after I married Bill. He even hated it when I read my stories and poems aloud to myself as part of my editing process. That changed after he suffered his first stroke.

While he was recuperating in the nursing home, and I was home alone, I made an effort not to talk to myself. I vowed that I would be completely over this habit by the time he came home. I read my work to myself softly instead of out loud.

I succeeded, for the most part, in breaking this habit, but when Bill came home, he said he liked it when I talked to myself because he then knew where I was and what I was doing. When you can’t see, and you only have the use of one arm and leg, hearing the one you love and depend on to care for you can be a comfort. You can learn more about our life together by reading My Ideal Partner.

Since Bill passed almost five years ago, I’m back to my old habit. I talk to myself all the time and answer myself. I even say a sentence out loud before I type it. When I finish writing this, I’ll go back and read it aloud to myself, as I correct mistakes and make changes. No one is around to hear, so what does it matter?

What do you do that annoys your significant other? What does your significant other do that annoys you? I look forward to reading about it in the comments field.

 

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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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.

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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

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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.

 

Circus in the Bedroom

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In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

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UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

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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.

 

My First Love

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His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele so finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until my freshman year in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.” This was in 1976.

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked, as I got up from my chair and walked to the phone in the hallway where Dad stood, holding the receiver. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.

Speechless, I turned to Dad who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother Andy. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him another tape with some of the songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by and still no word from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

I don’t remember if I told my late husband Bill about Brett. If I did, Bill probably didn’t consider Brett a threat since I didn’t know where he was. Besides, he wasn’t the jealous type. You can read about how I met and married Bill and then cared for him after he suffered two strokes in my new memoir.

Who was your first love? If this person wasn’t your only love, do you still keep in touch?

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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.

 

Review: Until I Say Goodbye

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Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy

 

by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Copyright 2013.

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” The author uses this quote from Dr. Seuss in her bestselling memoir where she details one year of her life after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People with this condition can live for years with a ventilator and other equipment, but this journalist for The Palm Beach Post and mother of three in Florida decided to quit her job, live with joy, and not try to prolong her life.

She talks about how she spent a year traveling with family and friends: to the Yukon to see the northern lights with her best friend, a cruise on the Caribbean with her sister, a trip to Budapest, Hungary, with her husband John to re-live their years together there, a visit to her deceased birth father’s family in Cypress, a trip to New York City with her teen-aged daughter, who tried on wedding dresses for an event her mother would never witness, and other family vacations. She also explains how and why she got permanent make-up and arranged for a hut to be built in the family’s back yard.

She provides plenty of back story about her life growing up with her adoptive parents and how she met and married John and the adventures they had before settling down with their family in Florida. She discusses meeting her birth mother in California and learning about her birth father and how this affected her relationship with her adoptive mother. She describes how she wrote this book on her iPhone, since her hands were too weak to use even an iPad keyboard.

I like the way she ends the book by spelling out her children’s names as if she were typing them on her iPhone and then inserting the quote by Dr. Seuss. In this way, she leaves readers with the impression that a loved one’s death shouldn’t be a sad occasion. According to an Associated Press article, she stayed alive until September of this year. I wish my late husband had lived long enough to read this book. Maybe Susan Spencer-Wendel’s account of how she tapped out her story on her iPhone with one finger might have inspired him to write My Ideal Partner with me.

Several years ago, I suggested we write a book together, detailing his strokes and rehabilitation and my experiences with caregiving. Because this would have been tough for him, only able to type with one hand, I suggested, half in jest, that I tap the keys on the left side of the computer and he tap the ones on the right. In answer, he said, “I’d rather do this on the piano with you.”

“Never mind,” I told myself after he passed. “I’ll write my own book.” And I did.

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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.

 

Glenn Miller Brings Back Memories

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Thanks to Glenda Bealle for inspiring this post. I recently had an opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert. As the seductive strains of “Moonlight Serenade” flowed through the theater, I got goosebumps and was moved almost to tears, wishing my father was still alive and sitting next to me at that moment.

His father played the saxophone in a band before World War II, and Dad was born in 1936 while the band was touring in Pueblo. The family settled here in Sheridan in 1938, and in 1940, Grandpa Johnson started the family’s coin-operated machine business.

Dad once told me that Grandpa fought in the war and lost part of his hearing as a result of constant artillery fire. He may have continued to play the saxophone afterward, but I’m not sure. In any case, Dad grew up appreciating jazz and passed that on to me as evidenced by a poem I posted here a while back.

I’m not sure where my mother was born on December 7th, 1935, and I no longer have her obituary. I do know that she did most of her growing up in Colorado where her father was a school principal in Berthed. She once told me about her birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She and her family were driving to the countryside for a picnic when the news came on the radio. Her father turned the car around and drove back to town. Needless to say, there was no birthday celebration that year.

My late husband Bill was born on October 18th, 1942 in Fowler, Colorado. Growing up on a farm, he wasn’t exposed much to big band music and never appreciated it much except for vocals. In fact, he was fond of saying that since he couldn’t see anything, he fell in love with my singing voice. You can read more of our story in my new memoir. I wish I’d taken time to learn more about my late parents’ and husband’s lives growing up during the Glenn Miller era.

I bought a CD at the concert that night, and now, “Pennsylvania 6-500” fills my home office, as I edit this. Is there a singer, band, or type of music that gives you goose bumps, moves you to tears, and/or brings back memories? Please tell me about it.

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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.

 

Review: Rushing Waters

 

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Rushing Waters

by Danielle Steel

Copyright 2016.

 

Fictional Hurricane Ophelia, worse than Sandy, hits New York. Starting in the fall, when the hurricane hits, and ending around Christmas, this book details the lives of several people affected by flooding as a result of the storm. Characters include an interior designer from London visiting her mother in New York, a hospital emergency room doctor, two college students, and others. Some of their paths cross, but most have separate stories of loss and re-building after the storm.

I love this author’s work, but I’m starting to notice an undesirable pattern. If you’re a writer, you’re probably familiar with the concept of showing versus telling. Showing is using dialog and action to tell the story. Telling involves narrative. I’m sure this is prevalent in many of Danielle Steel’s books, but I think there are times when she does way too much telling. I know she’s a best-selling author, but in my years of writing, I’ve come to believe that showing is more effective. Nevertheless, her stories are so compelling that they’re worth wading through the narrative.

I was only too happy to snuggle in my recliner, safe and secure, while reading about characters dealing with no electricity, a supposedly crumbling apartment building, and high water. The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible was great, narrated by Dan John Miller, the same person who read Hotel Vendome. This book made me thankful that I live in a place like Wyoming, which doesn’t have hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy struck New York at about the same time as my husband Bill passed away, in October of 2012. While those affected were dealing with the loss of loved ones and property, I was dealing with grief of my own that was not caused by a natural disaster. You can read more about this in my new memoir.

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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.