News from Abbie’s Corner December 2016

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As you read this, I’m flying the so-called friendly skies to Florida where I’ll spend about a week with my brother and his family before returning on January 9th. December was a busy month, as you would expect for a holiday season.

The whirlwind actually started the night after Thanksgiving when Just Harmony, my singing group, was one of many entertainers during the Christmas stroll in downtown Sheridan. We sang at a thrift store run by the local senior center called The Green Boomerang.

A week later on December 3rd, we performed for a Christmas open house at the Trail End Museum here in Sheridan. After that, our appearances came in quick succession: a memory service at Champion’s Funeral Home, an AARP Christmas party at a local senior apartment complex, a Big Horn Women’s Club Christmas party, and a Sunday morning service at Prairie Dog Community Church. We also sang at Green House and Sugarland Ridge.

I did some performing of my own with my guitar. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I did a poetry reading and sang for a cider social at Sugarland Ridge. The Tuesday after that, I sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview. The following week, I performed at Sheridan Manor, the week after that at Green House, and on the 22nd at the senior center’s adult day care facility.

On the 21st, I planned to participate in an open mic program at the senior center, but I was the only one signed up, so I played my guitar and sang for about half an hour while people played cards and chatted. The activities director asked me to come back any time.

I also went to a couple of Christmas parties. December 8th was our Friendship Club Christmas party at Ole’s Pizza and Spaghetti House. We ordered lunch off the menu, exchanged ornaments, and played Christmas bingo. On the 10th, Range Writers had its Christmas party at The Country Kitchen. Again, we ordered off the menu, and we exchanged gifts and each read something to the group.

Here in Sheridan, we definitely had a white Christmas. We already had quite a bit of snow on the ground. When I got up about eight o’clock Christmas morning, it was cloudy, but contrary to the weather prediction, it didn’t look like we’d received any new snow overnight. By eleven o’clock however, as I was waiting inside the kitchen door for the para-transit bus that would take me to the senior center for Christmas dinner, it was coming down. Actually, I think it was blowing more than it was snowing.

Despite the inclement weather, the senior center’s dining room was crowded. The delicious meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, fruit, and custard was paid for by a local philanthropist. Someone played Christmas songs on the piano while everyone ate. I ended up eating and visiting with people I knew.

Afterward, as the bus made its way through the storm, windshield wipers at full speed, I wondered if it would have been safer to eat Christmas dinner at home alone. I had a mini beef pot roast from Schwann I could have cooked in the microwave along with some frozen mashed potatoes and green beans, but although it would have tasted good, it wouldn’t have been the same. Once I arrived home safely, I was glad I went.

Aside from my trip to Florida and my usual appearance at Westview’s monthly birthday party, I have no other plans for January. Just Harmony will start practicing music for programs in the winter and spring months. I have a completed full-length poetry manuscript I recently submitted to the National Federation of State Poetry Society’s Stevens Manuscript Competition, and I may send it out to other publishers and then resume work on the short story collection I started last summer, Welcome to Wyoming.

Here’s a song we associate with the coming of a new year. I wish you all a great 2017 and will have more news in February.

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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.

How I Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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As Han Solo in Star Wars once said, “Sometimes I even amaze myself.” This is true of me as well, although I’m not a spaceship pilot who rescued a princess from an ominous Death Star.

For six years, I cared for my late husband Bill, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed. He was nineteen years older than me. When we met, I was in my forties, and he was in his sixties. When we married in September of 2005, he was walking, albeit with a cane. Three months later, he suffered the first of two strokes that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I’m visually impaired, so how did I bathe, dress, and feed him and transfer him from bed, to wheelchair, to recliner, to commode?

I doubt it would have been possible without the help and support of Laura Andrews, the occupational therapist at Sheridan Manor, where Bill spent nine months after his first stroke and another couple of months after his second. She didn’t say, “I don’t know how you can do this if you can’t see.” Instead, her mantra was “Let’s see if we can figure it out.”

For two months before Bill came home in September of 2006, she worked with us every day on dressing and transferring him from the bed to the wheelchair. Because of my limited vision, figuring out how to do these things was a challenge, but she was patient. We tried one technique after another until we finally found ways that worked.

She suggested to a local carpenter ways he could modify our house for wheelchair accessibility. When that was done, she came home with us to work on transferring Bill from the wheelchair to the recliner and commode and vise versa as well as between the bed and wheelchair. She also gave advice on toileting and other personal care issues. When Bill suffered his second stroke in 2007, we did it all again, but this time, Bill was only in the nursing home for a couple of months. I must admit there were times when Bill landed on the floor, but fortunately, he was never seriously hurt, and no one questioned my ability.

My caregiving feat would also not have been possible without the services provided by the Sheridan Senior Center’s Help at Home program. An aide came to the house three days a week to give Bill showers because this would have been too difficult for me. Not only was I grateful for the extra hands, I also appreciated having another set of good eyes around to notice lesions, bruises, or other medical issues with Bill about which I might not have known due to my lack of vision.

Day Break, the senior center’s adult day care facility, was also helpful. While I attended water exercise classes and a weekly poetry class, I didn’t have to worry about him being home alone. However, two weeks after Bill started attending the program, he said to me one morning, “I don’t want to go there anymore. It’s a baby-sitting service.”

I was flabbergasted. Yes, Day Break is a place where caregivers can leave their loved ones in a safe, friendly environment. They can watch television, play cards, and do just about anything else they can do at home, or they can participate in group activities. Having been a social butterfly, at least before the strokes, Bill enjoyed visiting with others and playing cards, so I thought he would have a great time there.

However, he assured me he could manage at home alone for at least a couple of hours, although he couldn’t get to the bathroom by himself, not to mention get out of the house in case of fire. He wore a LifeLink necklace which allowed him to call for help in an emergency. Although I was nervous about leaving him home alone, he turned out to be right. When I came home, I often found him with wet pants, but that was the only casualty. I eventually got a cell phone so he could call me when I was away from home. This gave me even more peace of mind.

Big Goose Transit was also a big help. Their friendly drivers came to our house and drove Bill and me to Day Break, physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, and anywhere else we needed to go. Because of my limited vision, I had difficulty attaching pedals to Bill’s wheelchair so he, in it, could be loaded into their vehicles more easily. Drivers were only too happy to accomplish this task, since it only took someone with good eyes about a minute. We eventually bought a wheelchair accessible van so my father and others could drive us on weekends, evenings, and holidays when Big Goose Transit wasn’t operating. You can read more about how I amazed myself in my new memoir.

Being a caregiver can be a challenge, even with good eyes. If not for the support of others, Bill would probably have spent the last years of his life at Sheridan Manor. He might not have lived as long. Despite his paralysis and the difficulty I had caring for him, we spent six happy years together. That’s amazing.

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Note: a portion of the above article appears in the November 5th issue of The Sheridan Press, my hometown newspaper.

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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.

 

At Sheridan Manor

Here you lie

after suffering two strokes,

unable to walk.

For six years, I cared for you.

We were happy.

 

Now, after giving up on life,

you’re breathing your last.

Here I sit, holding your hand,

talking to you,

singing your favorite songs,

wishing you’d respond,

tell me you love me,

squeeze my hand.

I shouldn’t be here. To hear me read this poem, click the link below. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/21%20at%20sheridan%20manor.mp3 From That’s Life: New and Selected Poems Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press. Order That’s Life from Amazon. Vote for my new book idea.