How Bill Got My Attention

Daily Inklings, a site providing prompts for bloggers, inspired this. In the post, bloggers are encouraged to write about how someone drew them into a conversation. In my case, the conversation wasn’t face to face.

On a Saturday evening in January of 2005, I was perusing the mail after a long day on the job at the nursing home where I worked. Among bills and junk, I found a braille letter from Bill Taylor, with whom I’d been corresponding for the past couple of years.

We’d communicated by email daily and phone occasionally, and he’d sent me cassettes of songs he’d downloaded from the Internet. He’d supported my writing endeavors by providing feedback on poems and stories I’d emailed him. Now, his words on the page jumped out at me. “Dear Abbie, I’m writing to ask for your hand in marriage.”

Stunned, I wondered how in the world I could marry this man. I’d only met him twice when my father and I drove from our home in Sheridan, Wyoming, to his home in Fowler, Colorado, on our way to visit relatives in New Mexico. I was under the impression he just wanted to be friends.

Because I worked in a nursing home, and his mother lived in one, we’d hit it off when we’d met a couple of years earlier through Newsreel, an audio magazine for people with blindness or low vision. We’d also discovered that we liked some of the same kinds of music and loved to read and that our favorite beverage was Dr. Pepper.

Did that mean I could just marry him? I was already in my mid-forties, and he was in his mid-sixties. We were both set in our ways. Could we make this work?

Long story short, six months later, I married him. He wanted to leave his home in Colorado, so we settled here in Wyoming.

Three months after our wedding, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. A year later, he suffered a second stroke, not as severe, but enough to hold him back so he never could walk. I cared for him at home until he passed in October of 2012. You can read our full story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

How about you? Can you think of a time when someone got your attention? Please tell me about it, either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Opening Paragraph

Thanks to Charles French for inspiring this. In his post, he encourages authors/bloggers to talk about one of their books and share the opening paragraph. So here’s the synopsis and first paragraph from my latest book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Synopsis

In September of 2005, Abbie Johnson married Bill Taylor. She was in her mid-forties, and he was nineteen years older. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side and confined him to a wheelchair. Abbie Johnson Taylor, once a registered music therapist, uses prose and poetry to tell the story of how she met and married her husband, then cared for him for six years despite her visual impairment. At first, there was a glimmer of hope that Bill would walk again, but when therapists gave up on him seven months after his second stroke, Taylor resigned herself to being a permanent family caregiver.

Opening Paragraph

 

This couldn’t be happening, I told myself, as, in my underwear, I paced the upstairs hall in Grandma’s house between my aunt’s old bedroom and the bathroom. It was the afternoon of September 10, 2005. In the yard, I heard strains of music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion and the chatter of arriving guests. Soon the ceremony would start. Would I have to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm in my underwear? Where was my sister–in–law, Kathleen, who agreed to be matron of honor?

***

How about you? If you’re an author, please feel free to share the synopsis and opening paragraph from one of your books, either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading your work.

By the way, if you use talking books because of a visual or other disability, My Ideal Partner is now available from the regional talking book library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The catalog number is DBU04558. I hope the book will eventually be available on the National Library Service’s braille and audio download site, but for now, your regional talking book library should be able to order it from Utah for you.

I now leave you with a recording of me singing a song I wish I’d had the nerve to sing at my wedding. Simply click the link below and enjoy.

 

Annie’s Song

 

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

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Song Lyric Sunday: I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen

Image contains: me, smiling.This blog feature was created by Helen Vahdati. This week’s theme is “take/taking.” My brother Andy’s first wife’s name was Kathleen. I sang this song at their wedding, as she came down the aisle. You can click on the title to hear me sing the song the way I sang it over twenty years ago. As far as I know, no one is taking Kathleen home again now. Andy has a new wife and is happy.

***

I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen

 

Lyrics Courtesy of Google

 

I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen

Across the ocean wild and wide

To where your heart has ever been

Since first you were my Bonnie bride.

The roses all have left your cheek.

I’ve watched them fade away and die

Your voice is sad when e’er you speak

And tears bedim your loving eyes.

Oh! I will take you back, Kathleen

To where your heart will feel no pain

And when the fields are fresh and green

I’ll take you to your home again!

 

Songwriters: James Carroll / Sean Gilroy / Myles Mooney / Trevor Peak / Paul Ryan

I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust

***

My Books

 

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

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

We Shall Overcome

***

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Thursday Tidbit: Prologue–My Ideal Partner–Excerpt

Today, I’m trying a new feature. I normally post book reviews on Thursday, but since I don’t always have books to review, in that case, I’ll toot my own horn instead of that of another author. Today’s tidbit is from My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

This couldn’t be happening, I told myself, as, in my underwear, I paced the upstairs hall in Grandma’s house between my aunt’s old bedroom and the bathroom. It was the afternoon of September 10, 2005. In the yard, I heard strains of music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion and the chatter of arriving guests. Soon the ceremony would start. Would I have to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm in my underwear? Where was my sister–in–law, Kathleen, who agreed to be matron of honor?

She was probably still at the motel with my brother, Andy; their two sons, Dylan and Tristan, ages eight and six, who were to be ushers; and their two–year–old daughter, Isabella, who would serve as flower girl. Not only were we missing ushers and a flower girl, but my dress was with Kathleen at the motel, or so I thought. Why wasn’t she here?

***

Now, here’s a recording of me singing a song I wanted to sing at our wedding but didn’t think I could without losing it.

***

annie’s song.mp3

***

For more information about My Ideal Partner and ordering links, click here.

***

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.

***

Wedding Song

abbie wedding

 

 

Our Wedding Picture

Eleven years ago today, a Saturday, Bill and I stood under an arch framed with flowers in my grandmother’s back yard and said our vows, not knowing that tragedy would strike in three short months. The following poem was written for our wedding by Rose Hill, a dear friend and Wyoming’s poet laureate from 2015-2016.

***

Wedding Song for Abbie and Bill

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

The band’s tuned up, the table spread.

The day of days is finally here.

Abbie and Bill are wed today.

 

From far and wide your friends are come

to offer gifts; advise the groom;

to eat and toast and kiss the bride,

to celebrate these solemn vows.

 

Beneath the gaiety and fun are prayers,

half-formed, heartfelt and deep,

that your love grows each passing year,

that you respect and cherish one another,

 

And as your love grows deeper, stronger,

your home becomes a peaceful haven,

a fort against the world’s demands

where you find joy together.

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

We celebrate your love and marriage

and many anniversaries until

Abbie and Bill are wed fifty years today.

 

Rose Hill

***

Of course it’s not our fiftieth anniversary, and we’ll never make it that far, but we had seven mostly happy years together, and that’s cause for celebration. To read our story, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

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.

Visit my Facebook page.

 

 

News from Abbie’s Corner

I’m trying something different. Other authors like Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steele have monthly newsletters which their readers can sign up to receive by email. However, these are bestselling authors who put out a new book every few months. I’m lucky if I can publish a book every few years. Who wants to sign up for a newsletter that describes my life which is just as ordinary as anybody else’s? On the other hand, since this blog covers my writing and other aspects of my life, why couldn’t I make this so-called newsletter a monthly feature like my book reviews? That way, those not interested in learning more about little old me can wait until the next Tuesday. As I used to tell residents at the nursing home when encouraging them to participate in a new activity, “You never know until you try.” So here goes.

The past couple of months have been busy. As you may know, I took a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother and his family. This trip was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, and highlights include a food truck festival in downtown Jupiter, a canoe trip along the Loxahatchee River where we encountered an alligator, and a trip to the beach. My adventures in Florida this time around inspired a series of lunes.

At the beginning of April, I planned to take a trip to California to attend my uncle’s wedding, but I developed a bad chest cold. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and could barely talk and decided to cancel my trip. I didn’t want to travel when I felt so miserable and risk passing my crud on to anyone else. I was sorry to miss the wedding. My brother told me about it later, and it sounded fun, but That’s Life.

In the middle of April, my Third Thursday Poets group gave a reading at the local senior center to commemorate National Poetry Month. We were joined by twenty-five high school students, some of whom shared their work. One such pupil turned out to be another Abigail Johnson. As she read her poem about Alexander Hamilton, I saw myself over thirty years ago. The only difference was that I was sharing a poem someone else wrote and performing it from memory in front of an audience as part of my participation in the high school speech team. Oh, and one more thing, this girl didn’t appear to be visually impaired. I wrote a poem about this moment which I’ll share at our October reading and hope she comes.

At the end of April, my friend Rose Hill, who is our state poet laureate, and I drove to Riverton to attend the WyoPoets annual workshop at the Holiday Inn. WyoPoets is an organization that supports poets and promotes the use of poetry throughout the state. The night before the workshop, there was a reading at the Riverton public library, during which Rose unveiled our new chapbook, Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond. Yours truly and others featured in the book shared our work. My poem, “For the Last Time” will be featured here later.

The workshop presenter, Linda Hasselstrom, covered two topics: revising your poetry and performing your work before an audience. I must admit I didn’t take away much from this because she didn’t say anything I didn’t already know about these subjects. Anyway, it was fun critiquing others’ poems, and I got some helpful feedback on one of mine.

Another poem, a short story, and a creative nonfiction piece were published in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I’ll feature them here later.

In June, Rose and I plan to attend the Wyoming Writers conference which will also be in Riverton at the Wind River Hotel & Casino. This will feature Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall, III, poet Lori Howe, and other authors, agents, and editors who will give workshops and hear pitches. There will also be open microphone readings, and Joseph Marshall will be the keynote speaker. Wyoming Writers is an organization similar to WyoPoets except we don’t do just poetry. Last year, I was elected to its board of directors, and I have one more year to serve.

This week is National Nursing Home Week. On Thursday, I’ll be playing my guitar and singing at a facility called Green House. On Friday, I’ll do the same at an assisted living center. The following Thursday, I’ll perform at an adult day care program, and on the last Tuesday of the month, as I usually do, I’ll go to another nursing home and entertain at its monthly birthday party. This was something I did quite a bit when I was a registered music therapist before I got married and started writing full time. Back then, my activities were more for therapeutic purposes, but now, I just entertain them, and they love it.

Well, that’s about all the news I have for now. I would like to add one more thing, though. In the past, I’ve been inserting my photo and books’ front cover images at the bottom of each of my posts. The only way I can do this is to copy and paste the images from another post. For some reason, this WordPress site no longer plays nice with any of the two screen reading programs I use, and as a result, this task is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming. So it is with a heavy heart that I will no longer post these images unless I can find an easier way to do it. You’ll still see links to the pages on my Website where you can learn more about the books. The front cover images are on those pages, thanks to my excellent Webmaster, Julie Posey. Of course when I post to Writing Wranglers and Warriors, which I only do once a month, I will include the images in those posts since others who blog there do the same thing, and it’s always good to have consistency in a blog.

I realize this newsletter may have gotten a little long, but if I do this every month, I won’t have as much to report. Please let me know what you think of this feature in the comments field below. If enough people want to get this sort of thing in their in box monthly, that’s something I can consider. In the meantime, happy May.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

After the Wedding Pawn (Fiction)

Author’s Note: I was inspired to post the following after reading Alice Massa’s story on Wordwalk last week. Alice and I are both involved with the same writers’ organization, Behind Our Eyes, and a few years ago when I was President, I gave the group several writing prompts having to do with weddings. You can click this link to hear me read my story.

***

AFTER THE WEDDING PAWN

 

At the end of a long day of work, I used the tip of my cane to feel each step in front of me, as I climbed aboard the bus. When I put my token in the slot, the driver said, “Hi Frank, someone’s already in your usual seat, but the one next to it is empty. Don’t worry. I’ll still see you, and I won’t forget to tell you when I get to the corner of Mills and Watson.”

“Thanks Ed,” I said. After eight years of working at J. B. Lansing and riding the same bus back and forth every day, why was my usual seat now taken? I was too tired and frustrated to care. As I turned to walk to the next seat, the voice of the man in my seat stopped me cold. “Hey bro.”

Oh great, I thought. Wasn’t it bad enough that my new boss couldn’t work with my blindness, despite the fact that for the past eight years, I was proactive in improving the company’s computer system and that I was dedicated, with an excellent employment record? Now, here was my brother, back to make my life miserable again. “I’ll move over so you can sit here,” he said, and I heard his body shift from one seat to the next.

At least he had some manners this time, I thought, as I took the vacant seat, folded my cane, and grasped the pole in front of me, as the bus lurched forward. I turned my head in his direction and sniffed. What, no booze? I sniffed again. “I’m dry as a bone,” said Jess. “Have been for about as long as you’ve been working at JBL.”

“How did you know I was working at JBL?”

“Mom told me. She always wanted us to make up.”

“Yeah, even though she sacrificed her ring so I’d have one to give to Jackie at our wedding after you got drunk and pawned ours at the last minute. It was bad enough I couldn’t afford to buy her a good ring, but then you had to steal it.”

“I don’t remember doing that, but yes. She and Dad always respected your wishes. You didn’t want to have anything more to do with me so they didn’t have you over when I was there, and you didn’t want them to even mention my name so they didn’t.”

“But she told you all about me? Did she tell you that after you pawned Jackie’s ring, there almost wasn’t a wedding? Jackie told me for months beforehand that she didn’t trust you as best man, that I should ask my good buddy Jerry to stand up with me instead. I wanted to give you one more chance, and you blew it. When I got to the altar, Jackie almost didn’t say I do. I had to get down on my knees, literally, and promise her I would always listen to her and never trust you again.”

“That’s why when you and Jackie came to the rehab center for Family Day, in front of all those people, after Mom and Dad said they forgave me for the third time, you said you wouldn’t have anything more to do with me until I paid you back the two hundred and fifty dollars the wedding ring cost. You said I shouldn’t bother darkening your door unless I came up with the money.”

“So you decided to take my seat on the bus instead?”

“I didn’t know it was your seat. Mom just told me which bus you ride to and from work.”

“So your last time through rehab actually worked? You haven’t had a drink in eight years?”

“After you said you didn’t want to have anything more to do with me until I paid you back for the ring, I knew I had to make it up to you, that I had to give you and Jackie a reason to trust me, for good this time.”

“So what did you do when you got out of rehab?”

“You know I’ve always been the athletic type, and you’ve always been the brains of the family. I should have listened to Mom and Dad when they told me there was more to life than football.”

“But you didn’t, did you?”

“Even before I turned nineteen, I had to drink to forget I wasn’t college football material. The fact that you were always ahead of me and passing just about everything with flying colors despite being blind didn’t help.”

“So what did you do after your third stint in rehab?”

“I figured if I couldn’t play football professionally, I could teach it. With Mom and Dad’s blessing and some financial support, I went back to college and this time, I majored in physical education. You’re looking at the P.E. teacher and football coach at our old school, Waverly High.”

I turned my head in his direction, not believing what I was hearing. “You mean that?”

“Yep, it wasn’t easy, but I’m proud to be where I am today.”

“Way to go, dude,” I said, thumping him on the back.

“Mom told me your son Chad is seven and playing soccer, and your daughter Amber is five and starting ballet. I hope to still be at Waverly High when Chad gets there. I’ll teach him a few things about football and about life.”

All I could say was “Wow.” I pinched myself and shook my head to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. “Oh, by the way, I almost forgot something,” said Jess. “Give me your hand for a second.”

To my surprise, I found him counting bills into it. “A hundred, two hundred, twenty, forty, and fifty, there you go.”

“What the…”

“You said you wouldn’t have anything more to do with me until I paid you back what I owe you for the wedding ring so here it is. Your little brother’s not a loser anymore.”

Dazed, I folded each bill separately before placing it in my wallet. “Hey Frank, here’s your corner,” the driver called, as the bus jerked to a stop.

“Come on, bro,” said Jess, grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet. “Let’s go buy Jackie a new ring.”

I pulled my arm free and took his. “Oh sorry buddy,” said Jess. “I forgot. It’s been a long time.”

I didn’t know what to think, as he led me off the bus and down the street to a nearby jewelry store. As we stood at the display case, waiting for assistance, Jess said, “Oh wow, look at that ring. It looks just like the one you were going to give Jackie.”

“How would you know? You said you don’t remember the ring.”

“I don’t remember pawning it, but I sure remember what it looked like, almost like Mom’s ring which you gave Jackie instead. It’s too bad Jackie isn’t blind. If she were, she probably wouldn’t have known the difference.”

“You know, Jess, I may not be athletic, but I do know how to throw a punch, and if I didn’t have a wife and kids to support, I’d risk doing some jail time just to hear your body hit the floor.”

“Hey Frank, I’m sorry, really I am. I didn’t mean that. Jackie’s a good woman. You’re lucky to have her. Maybe someday, I’ll find one just like her.”

“May I help you?” said a woman’s voice.

“Yes, we’d like to see that ring there,” said Jess. My brother wants to buy it for his wife. He’s blind so he needs to feel it.”

I hated the idea that Jess and others thought they needed to speak for me because of my impairment but let it go for now. “Oh this ring would be perfect for your wife,” said the clerk, placing it in my outstretched palm. “It has a gold band and one gold stone in the center. If it doesn’t fit her, we can always re-size it.”

I was amazed when I felt the ring. “You’re right, little brother. It’s just like the other one,” I said, fighting back tears. “How much is it?”

“We have it on special for two twenty-five,” answered the clerk.

“Wow, bro, you still have twenty-five dollars to spend,” said Jess, as I paid her.

“How come Jackie doesn’t drive you to and from work?” he asked, as we walked the few blocks to my house.

“She’s got a lot to do as it is, getting the kids to and from school, soccer practice, and ballet class. Next year when Amber starts first grade and is in school all day, she’s thinking about going back to work, at least part time, if the newspaper will hire her again.”

As we strolled up the front walk, Jess said, “It looks like Mom and Dad are here. Dad’s Plymouth is parked in the driveway.”

My talking watch announced it was six o’clock. “That’s funny. I don’t remember inviting them to dinner.”

“Surprise!” I was startled by the voices that greeted us, as we walked in the front door. I shook my head.

“Happy birthday, bro!” said Jess, thumping me on the back.

It was my birthday. With all the stress I’d been having at work and Jess showing up all of a sudden, I’d forgotten about it. “Did you know about this, little brother?”

Jess only laughed.

“Who’s that with you, Daddy?” said Amber, as she approached us.

I was still holding Jess’s arm, and I felt him bend down and tousle the little girl’s hair. “Hey cutie, I’m your uncle Jess.”

“What’s he doing here?” said Jackie.

I reached into my pocket and took out the ring in its box. “Honey, I have something for you.”

“It’s your birthday, and you’re giving me a present,” said Jackie, as she took the box. I heard her open it and the rattle of tissue paper. “Oh my God, it’s my wedding ring. Where did you find it? Oh honey, happy birthday. I love you.” A moment later, I was in her arms.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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