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 has been published in this month’s issue of 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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Bridge Over Troubled Water #Monday Musical Memories

For Christmas of 1969 when I was eight years old, I received my first and only eight-track tape player. It came with two small speakers and three cartridges, one of which was Simon and Garfunkel’s album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Over the years, I acquired other eight-track tapes by Gordon Lightfoot, Three Dog Night, Sonny and Cher, The Carpenters, and others. But Bridge Over Troubled Water has always been one of my favorites. You can read more about my music listening and singing at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/eight-track-memories/. Now, click below to hear me sing my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song.
07 bridge over troubled water.mp3

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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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

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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

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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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News from Abbie’s Corner February 2017

Abbie-1

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January was a pretty quiet month. I spent the first week with my brother and his family in Jupiter, Florida. We went to the ocean one day and had lunch and rode a carousel in downtown Palm Beach Gardens the next.

The highlight was a boar’s head festival at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by the Sea in a ritzy neighborhood in West Palm Beach. President Trump attends this church when he’s in the area. It’s huge with immense stained-glass windows, and the acoustics are phenomenal.

The boar’s head festival is something they do every year around the time of Epiphany. This year, music was provided by a chorus accompanied by organ and trumpets. There was also a drum and pipe band that led a processional at the beginning of the program when the symbolic boar’s head was carried in. Their rendition of “Amazing Grace” gave me chills.

There was all the pageantry of a Christmas program: shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph and Mary, and of course the Baby Jesus. My brother told me there were two live babies: one dressed up as Jesus and the other outfitted as a lamb. With my limited vision, I wouldn’t have known they were there. They behaved remarkably well during the performance. I imagine with all the rehearsing they did, the babies were used to it so didn’t fuss. The congregation was invited to sing familiar carols with the choir. The program was a lot of fun.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, a gal in my singing group hosted a party for all of us. It was a potluck dinner consisting of ham, rolls, lasagna, and a variety of salads and desserts. I brought a Schwann’s chocolate cream pie which disappeared rather quickly. I was lucky to get one piece but glad I brought such a party pleaser.

After we ate, we practiced some songs we’ll sing for an event at the Methodist Church in March. We start regular practices this month.

When I heard that my writer friend, Joan Feagins, was giving a reading at Sugarland Ridge, I thought it would be a great idea to follow that with some music. The activity director agreed, and it was arranged. Residents enjoyed both Joan’s reading and my music, and I had a good time, too.

The next day, I performed at Westview’s monthly birthday party despite the fact that it was snowing pretty heavily. As the para-transit bus was driving me home afterward, we passed a car that had slid into a ditch and was being pulled out. I wondered if I should have stayed home, but the residents enjoyed my music. One gentleman who requested Christy Lane’s “One Day at a Time” told me I sang it a lot better than she did. In that case, it was worth it.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. I hope your year is getting off to a great start. I’ll have more news next month.

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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.

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News from Abbie’s Corner October 2016

Abbie-1

As I write this, it’s a beautiful Indian summer day in late September. The sun shines in a cloudless sky. Through my open front door, as I sprawl in my easy chair with my feet up, I hear the occasional car going by, dog barking, and a neighbor’s weed eater. Guitar music flows from my device’s speaker, courtesy of the public radio station in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. It’s 77 degrees, and the only thing that keeps me from writing outdoors is my tablet’s low battery.

By the way, I’m working with a new device, a BrailleNote Touch from Humanware. This is the world’s first Google-certified Braille tablet. I like this a lot better than my iPad. I don’t have to swipe, flick, double tap, or triple click. Although using the touch screen is an option, most functions can be performed with the Braille keyboard and thumb keys.

The down side is that it’s running an older version of Android, but most apps I’ve tried work pretty well, and the word processor is a lot better than other Braille note takers I’ve used. After I finish writing and proofreading this, I’ll upload it to Dropbox so I can access it on my computer, add finishing touches, and schedule it for posting. It’s nice not to be tied to my PC all the time.

Believe it or not, I’ve also been doing other things this month. On September 10th, Range Writers was pleased to have as a guest state poet laureate Eugene Gagliano. He did a wonderful presentation on character development and other aspects of writing. September 10th would have been our 11th wedding anniversary so I thought it only fitting that former poet laureate and dear friend Rose Hill read a poem she wrote for our wedding in memory of my late husband.

On September 17th, I attended a writing workshop in Buffalo, about 30 miles south of here. It was conducted by Lori Howe, University of Wyoming instructor and state humanities council road scholar. She gave us prompts and plenty of time to write and share our work. A poem I wrote during this time was posted here earlier.

On September 29th, I returned to Buffalo for a reception for Eugene Gagliano. Again, he did a great presentation where he talked about his life, read some of his work, and demonstrated some activities he does with children in the classroom. I had a great time.

Of course I’ve been busy singing as well. My group, Just Harmony, is working on Christmas music and already has several performances scheduled in December. On the 9th, I performed at Sugarland Ridge for a fall social. On the 27th, I sang at Westview for their monthly birthday party. I’ll be at Green House on October 4th and at Westview on the 25th. Sugarland Ridge has invited me back in November to do a reading and music in an attempt to promote my new book.

Speaking of which, I did a signing this month at Sheridan Stationery on the 24th and sold books in the lobby of the Sheridan Senior Center on the 27th. On October 8th, I’ll be part of a National Indie Author Day presentation at the library. I still have plenty of copies of My Ideal Partner to sell, and it’s also available online through Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, and other sources.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. Happy fall, everyone. I’ll be back next month with more news.

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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.