Copyright 2016 by Abbie Johnson Taylor
Independently published with the help of DLD Books
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by Two Pentacles Publishing
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.
She discusses learning to dress him and transfer him from one place to another, sitting up with him at night when he couldn’t urinate or move his bowels, and dealing with doctors and bureaucrats to obtain necessary equipment and services. There were happy times, like when she played the piano or guitar and sang his favorite songs, or when they went out to eat or to a concert. She also explains how she purchased a wheelchair accessible van and found people to drive it, so they wouldn’t always depend on the local para-transit service’s limited hours. In the end, she describes the painful decision she and Bill made to move him to a nursing home when he became too weak for her to care for him in September of 2012. He seemed to give up on life and passed away a month later.
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?
A Moving Memoir
by Carrie Hooper
What happens when reality shatters the dream of wedded bliss? How does a person cope when everyday activities become challenging chores? Abbie Johnson Taylor explores these topics and much more in her 2016 book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, published by DLD Books.
In My Ideal Partner, Abbie tells about her life with Bill Taylor, whom she met in 2005 through Newsreel, an audio magazine for the blind and visually impaired. (Bill was blind, and Abbie is partially sighted.) The book opens with Abbie receiving a braille marriage proposal from Bill. Stunned, she considers the reasons not to marry him. He’s nineteen years older, and they’ve only met twice. He lives in Fowler, Colorado; she lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Marrying Bill would mean a move to unfamiliar territory. The shock and stress of Bill’s letter literally make Abbie sick for three weeks.
Eventually, however, with her father’s encouragement and another visit with Bill, who agrees to move to Sheridan, Abbie says a resounding, “Yes!” She goes on to describe the outdoor wedding in September of 2005 in her grandmother’s backyard, which includes music by a string duo and, of course, lots of good food. After their wedding, Bill and Abbie make a life together in Sheridan. With Bill’s support, Abbie quits her job as activities assistant at a nursing home in Sheridan to write full time. Bill works on his computer, stays in touch with friends, and listens to Colorado Rockies baseball games. But life throws an unexpected curve ball in January of 2006 when Bill suffers a stroke that paralyzes his left side. After a hospital stay and therapy in a nursing home, Bill comes home, unable to walk or tend to his basic needs. Another stroke in 2007 dashes any hope of him walking again. Thus, Abbie becomes his caregiver who must dress him and help him in the bathroom. Although she experiences moments of frustration, she presses on, and with the assistance of a therapist and other home health aides, learns to help Bill with tasks most people perform without a second thought. In addition, Abbie learns to cook two of Bill’s favorite meals: oatmeal and meatloaf. For six years, Abbie cares for Bill until he becomes too weak to remain at home. She doesn’t consider him a burden. She loves him, and he loves her, as evidenced by their many love words to each other and their frequent snuggling.
These difficult years have their share of positive moments. Abbie attends writers’ conferences and visits her brother in New Mexico. Bill works on his computer, reads books outside in nice weather, and continues to follow his Rockies. Some of Abbie’s relatives come for Thanksgiving.
Abbie’s book captivated me from the beginning. I laughed and cried as I read her story. If anyone is looking for a love story in the truest sense, then read My Ideal Partner.
From Trish Hubschman, Author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series
I spent the weekend reading Abbie Johnson Taylor’s book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. This was my second time reading it. The first time was a few years ago. I picked up so much more this time around. It’s heart-warming and heart-breaking. It’s the story of perseverance and true love.
Abbie’s husband suffered two strokes, and she was there for him, helped him. She was his nurse, his wife, his everything. It’s a beautiful story. Abbie’s an excellent writer. In the course of My Ideal Partner, she mentions two other books she’s written: That’s Life and We Shall Overcome. I’m eager to track down those books and read them.
From Jane Toleno
Maybe, like me, many of you began a life partnership (traditional or forged in new ways) including some words about how you will keep and care for and honor your relationship. And don’t you forget the part about “in sickness and in health!” And don’t forget the assumption that sickness or sicknesses, (when and if they come, ought to show up after years of on-top-of-the-world, full-out life together living.
Well, in this memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, you will walk with Abbie Johnson Taylor in a different, but vital love story nonetheless. Abbie Taylor and her beloved husband didn’t get the long-lived life full of dreams come true in the usual senses of those words. She and he got surprised by love, surprised by marriage and, early in their life together, surprised by Bill’s two destructive strokes.
They strove to express their love in traditional ways, and they took on new, necessary imperatives in caregiving. I say “they” because Bill came to accept Abbie’s physical caring with grace. Abbie traveled roads of betrayal, perplexity, fury en route to accept Bill’s extremely limited capacities to move without deeming him useless, worthless and not worthy of love. She longed to keep and carry understandings of beauty, purpose, and joy. And, folks, together, they came to maintain treasured affection and great humor along the way.
Further, in our culture which still too often sees blindness as an impossible setback to live with, (never mind above/beyond) Abbie, legally blind, learned how to be a fiercely committed advocate for herself as a care provider, a wife, and the informed advocate for her husband’s best care needed. Abbie learned to be the competent lifter and mover for Bill. She learned when to ask for help. Together, they made decisions about home care versus facility care. Absolute cheers to both Abbie and Bill for this unexpected journey that Abbie revealed concisely and without blurring the lines of sorrow, pain, new learning, and recovering she experienced. I personally, as a wife, and caregiver for my husband, Tom, who now has Parkinson’s have discovered encouragement I didn’t begin to even know how much I would appreciate and need. And “no!” I will never lay on anybody the saying that you, (they) got this experience so that down the road you, they can help, teach others. I just know that Abbie’s poems, songs, and meticulous writing matter much to me. Maybe for you too when you read her book.
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Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography
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by Two Pentacles Publishing
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