A DAY OF FIRSTS #Fiction #Tuesday Tidbit

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

I’m forty-seven years old, and for the first time in my life, I have a cavity. Here I am, in the dentist’s chair, about to have it filled. Because this is one of my worst fears, I feel as if my world is being turned upside down. I’m also afraid of being arrested and getting stuck in an elevator, none of which has happened, at least not yet.

“If you’d prefer, I could give you gas,” the dentist says. “but you’d need to rest at home afterwards.”

“No. My husband is partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes, and I need to be able to take care of him.”

“I understand. I’ll give you Novocain.”

As the drill whines, I close my eyes and imagine myself lying in bed with my husband while my next-door neighbor is boring holes into something. To my surprise, there’s no pain, only a cold sensation.

When I arrive home, a policeman is waiting for me. “Did you know you were supposed to appear for jury duty today?” he asks.

“No, I just got back from a dentist appointment,” is all I can think to say.

“You were sent a notice last week. I found it in the bushes under the mailbox.” He holds up a white envelope.

“I see by your cane that you’re blind. So, I understand why you didn’t get it.”

“Actually, I have some vision,” I say, looking at my husband, sprawled in his recliner.

I turn back to the cop. “You’re right. I didn’t see the notice. I’d be glad to serve on a jury anytime, but I need advanced notice, so I can make arrangements for my husband’s care. He’s partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes, and he depends on me for everything.”

“I’m sorry, but I have to take you in, anyway. You need to appear in Judge Watkins’s court this afternoon.”

I feel a sick sensation in the pit of my stomach. My husband, knowing my fears, bursts out laughing. I turn and glare at him. “That’s not funny. What the hell am I supposed to do with you?”

Between paroxysms of mirth, he answers, “Call Westwood Manor.”

Westwood Manor is the nursing home where he recuperated from his strokes and where he goes occasionally for respite care when I need to be out of town. It’s also the place where I worked for fifteen years before I decided to write full-time.

I turn again to the policeman. “Can you wait while I make arrangements?”

“Of course.”

With trembling fingers, I pick up the phone and dial the number I know by heart. I ask to speak with the admissions director I’ve known for years. Thank goodness he doesn’t laugh when I explain the situation. He assures me there will be no problem. “It just so happens I’m driving the van today because our regular driver is sick,” he says. “I have nothing else to do. So, I’ll be there to pick him up in a few minutes.”

The cop waits with infinite patience while I toss items into a suitcase for my husband. I’m glad of the distraction that keeps my apprehension at bay. As soon as I park my husband in his wheelchair by the kitchen door, the nursing home’s van pulls into the driveway.

If I’d taken the gas at the dentist’s office, I would be totally numb. I wouldn’t feel the handcuffs biting into my wrists or hear my husband laughing at me. I wouldn’t be shaking, as the policeman helps me into the back seat of the patrol car. At the station, I’m locked in a holding cell with four other people who also failed to appear for jury duty.

We swap stories. The others had either forgotten, or like me, didn’t know they had to appear. One guy had just returned from a long vacation and hadn’t gone through his mail yet.

Later that afternoon, after being given the regulation orange jump suits to wear, we’re taken to the courthouse in leg irons and handcuffs and herded into an elevator. The car ascends, stops with a jerk. After a moment, one of the sheriff’s deputies says, “I think we’re stuck.”

“Oh great!” I say, my heart pounding. “This day couldn’t have gotten any worse if it tried.”

A gentle hand touches my shoulder. I’m relieved to open my eyes and find myself snuggled next to my husband in our dark bedroom. My talking watch tells me it’s four in the morning. My husband says, “I need to pee.”

For once, I’m not irritated, as I crawl out of bed, pull him into a sitting position, and hand him the urinal. After he does his business, I climb in bed beside him, resting my head on his shoulder, as his good arm encircles me.

“Don’t you have a dentist appointment today?” he asks.

***

Those who know me might think this is a true story, but I assure you it’s pure fiction. I was inspired to write it years ago after reading a newspaper account of how four people who failed to appear for jury duty were hauled into court in leg irons and handcuffs. This story appears in the current issue of The Writer’s Grapevine, which can be downloaded here.

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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.

***

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Spring’s Hopelessness #Poetry

Today’s poem comes from my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. My late husband Bill loved to sit outside in the sun. One year, when spring came after a difficult winter, he was anxious to do this but frustrated because it still wasn’t warm enough. That is what inspired me to write this poem. You can read more about Bill and me in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, which can be downloaded absolutely free this month from Smashwords. See below for details.

This poem is a haibun. It contains two paragraphs of prose followed by one stanza of haiku. You can click on the title to hear me read it.

 

Spring’s Hopelessness

 

 

Spring comes wet with little sun. Hope is dashed by the wind that buffets the house, rattles wind chimes, rain that drums on the roof. Without enough warmth, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs won’t grow.

He loves the sun, can’t get enough. It’s one of his few pleasures, since he can no longer walk or use his left arm or care for himself. After a brutal winter with endless snow, frigid temperatures, he longs to enjoy the sun’s healing warmth.

 

wishes for the sun

fall on the deaf ears of God

wait for warmth to come

 

By the way, for the next month, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are available on Smashwords as part of its sale to support those isolated as a result of the coronavirus situation. Please click here to visit my Smashwords author page and download these books. Thank you for stopping by and reading today.

 

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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Review: Me Before You

Me Before You

By Jojo Moyes

Copyright 2012

 

In 2009, Louisa, after losing her job as a waitress in an English village, gets a job as a caregiver to Will, a young, wealthy former business executive and daredevil who became almost totally paralyzed as a result of a motorcycle accident two years earlier. At first, Will is hard to get along with, but he eventually opens up to Louisa, and they develop a special bond. She soon discovers that in six months, he will go to a clinic in Switzerland where he will end his life.

After that, Louisa tries unsuccessfully to convince Will that life is worth living. She takes him out to a horse race, concerts, and even to the wedding of his former girlfriend. After he suffers a bout with pneumonia, she spirits him to a faraway tropical island where they spend ten glorious days. She realizes she has feelings for him which complicate her life since she already has a boyfriend, Patrick, a marathon runner. Louisa breaks up with Patrick and reluctantly accepts Will’s decision.

Having been a caregiver, I could identify with Louisa’s feelings of insecurity when she first starts the job and her sense of accomplishment when she gains more confidence in her abilities to perform many of Will’s personal care tasks. My favorite scene takes place close to the beginning of the book after Will suffers from a fever not related to the pneumonia he catches later. She snuggles in bed with him and sings him a silly song, and he tells her in no uncertain terms that she’s not the best of singers. It reminded me of times when I cuddled with and sang to my late husband Bill. Of course he loved my singing. As a matter of fact, he fell in love with my voice, thank goodness.

This book gives readers a negative impression of people with disabilities. Having a terminal illness and wanting to end your life before it gets too painful is one thing, but Will had at least ten good years ahead of him. Being wealthy, he could have been a philanthropist, funding research on spinal cord injuries or the development of adaptive equipment, perhaps opening a recreation or rehabilitation center for people with disabilities.

When I was single and employed and lived in an apartment building, one of my neighbors, Pat, was a quadriplegic like Will. She depended on others for help doing almost everything, but she never let that get her down. Before the accident that left her almost totally paralyzed, she was a motorcycle cop. Naturally, she couldn’t do that anymore, but she was able to use her computer to become involved in advocacy for the disabled and edit the apartment complex’s monthly newsletter. Like Will, she had her bad days, but she always worked through them. When my work hours were cut back as a result of my own disability, she was there for me, faxing documents to my attorney and other locations and providing encouragement and support.

When I got married and moved out of the building, we lost touch. I often wonder what happened to Pat. If she has left this world, I would like to think that unlike Will, she lived the last years of her life to their fullest.

My late husband Bill is another example of courage in the face of adversity. In 2006, three months after we were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that left him partially paralyzed. Like Will and Pat, he needed help doing almost everything, and he suffered from occasional depression, but I don’t think it ever occurred to him to end his own life, even if it was possible. For six years while I cared for him, he enjoyed listening to recorded books and ball games and used his computer to do email, surf the Internet, and even bet in a football pool. He also enjoyed talking on the phone daily to friends and relatives. Thank goodness for unlimited long distance. He was happy until 2012 when his body decided it was time to go. All this is detailed in my new memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

As for Me Before You, I would like to have seen a more positive ending. After Louisa finds out that Will plans to take his own life, she visits the local library where she learns to use a computer. She does research and networks with quadriplegics and their caregivers.

I would like to have seen Louisa encourage Will to do the same. Perhaps Will could have met someone like Pat and realized that becoming almost totally paralyzed isn’t a death sentence. If you read this book, please take the author’s negative portrayal of a quadriplegic with a grain of salt.

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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