I glanced up from my dessert and saw him. He was sitting at the next table, also alone, also eating French silk pie. Our eyes met. He stood, picked up his plate, and carried it to my table. Sitting down across from me, he asked, “You like French silk pie too?”
“Yes,” I answered, surprised by his boldness.
“You come here often?”
“Yes,” I said.
We stared at each other for a moment. Then, I picked up my fork and started eating again. Being a happily married woman, the last thing I needed was to be distracted by another man. Couldn’t he see the wedding ring on my left hand?
Finally, he extended his hand.
“I’m Jack Baker.”
With an inward sigh of resignation, I put down my fork and took his hand.
“I’m Jill Tanner.”
“Jack and Jill, how about that? I was transferred here a couple of weeks ago. I work at the Veterans Administration Hospital.”
“My husband was at the VA for a few days after his stroke. We weren’t too impressed with his care. We thought he’d be better off in a nursing home.”
“Yeah, I don’t blame you. Our nursing department has been short-staffed. I’m the volunteer coordinator, and I’m trying to recruit more people to help, but there isn’t much they can do unless they’re certified. It would be nice to get people who could fill patients’ water pitchers and do other tasks that don’t require certification. I already have a woman who’s blind and plays the guitar and sings. Those old guys really like that.”
“Linda was one of the few things we liked about that place. She has such a sweet voice. She knows all those old songs the men like, and she’s so good with them. Fortunately, she also volunteers at Fernwood Manor, so my husband can still listen to her music.”
“How badly has he been effected by the stroke?”
I sighed. “He can’t use his left arm or leg, and his speech is somewhat affected. His mind is still pretty good, but he might have lost some short-term memory. The therapists at the nursing home have been great, but the neurologist says there’s no telling if or when he’ll walk again.”
Jack reached across the table and took my hand. “I’m sorry. How long ago did this happen?”
I dislodged my hand and picked up my fork again. “A few weeks ago,” I answered.
“You look awfully young. How old is your husband?”
“I’m forty-six, and my husband’s sixty-four.”
He stared at me in amazement. “You don’t look a day over twenty.”
“I know,” I said, and I smiled in spite of myself. “but when I’m sixty-six, it’ll be a blessing.”
“There’s quite an age difference between you and your husband.”
“Yeah, when Don’s mother saw a picture of me, she accused him of robbing the cradle.”
He laughed. “How did you two meet?”
“I met him at a writers’ conference. I write romances, and he writes science fiction mysteries. I don’t like mysteries of any kind, and he doesn’t care for romances, but somehow, we hit it off. We both like to write, and that’s what matters.”
He looked thoughtful. “Wait a minute. Your husband is Don Tanner?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I love his stuff! I bought a copy of his latest yesterday and started it last night. He just had a stroke?”
“I’m afraid so. Before it happened, he signed a contract for another book. I talked to his agent, and he said he would see if he could get an extension, but I don’t know…”
As the stress of the past few weeks settled over me, I found myself looking deep into his blue eyes. After a moment of silence, he said, “Maybe I could be his ghost writer.”
“Have you done any writing?”
“I’ve had a few stories and poems published, but with a forty-hour-a-week job, it’s hard to find the time. This could be a big break. I’ve read most of your husband’s books, and I know his style. If I could meet him and get some idea of the direction he wants to go with his next book, I could write it for him.”
“I’m not sure how the ghost writing business works. Besides, Don has always been very independent. I’m not sure he’d like the idea of someone else writing his work, even though he may not be able to write it himself.”
“Are you finished here?” asked the waitress, as she started to remove our plates
“Yes,” I answered, anxious to end this conversation. “Could you please bring us our checks?”
“Actually, we’re both on one check,” he said.
The waitress hurried away before I could protest. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do. I’m one of Don Tanner’s biggest fans. I’m not going to let a stroke interfere with his career. I’ve made up my mind. I want to help him.”
The waitress returned, and after she left with his credit card, he said, “Why don’t you come over to my place, and we’ll talk about it some more? We could even go online and do some research on ghost writing.”
I looked at my watch. “It’s late. I really should see Don. He goes to sleep early, and I like to talk to him while he’s awake.”
“I understand, but this is important. If we could work something out tonight, we could both see Don tomorrow, and I could give him a proposal.”
The waitress appeared. As Jack signed the slip, I considered making a run for it, but I happened to glance into his eyes. He looked so sincere. “Okay,” I said with a sigh. “I’ll follow you to your place.”
He lived in a red brick building with four apartments, two upstairs and two on the ground floor. His was on the second floor and had a balcony plus a living room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen. After giving me the grand tour, he asked, “Can I get you a drink?”
“No thanks,” I answered. I wandered into one of the bedrooms which had been converted into an office. The shelves were lined with books, and I was reassured to see some of Don’s titles. I sat in an armchair next to Jack’s computer, hoping he would take the hint when he appeared with his drink.
My heart sank when he said, “It’s more comfortable in the living room.”
“I thought you wanted to research ghost writers.”
“We can do that later,” he said, as he approached me, extended his hand, and pulled me to my feet. “Come on. The night is still young.”
With trepidation, I allowed him to guide me into the living room where we sat side by side on the couch. We talked about this and that, as he drank glass after glass from a bottle of Scotch on a nearby coffee table. I tried several times to steer the conversation in the direction of our project and suggested we get started on the research, but he kept putting me off. After the third drink, he set the glass down and put his arm around me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I thought.
“Excuse me, but I’m a happily married woman,” I said, trying to pull away.
He tightened his arm around me. ”I find that hard to believe. Your husband is partially paralyzed. He may never be able to walk, let alone write, and he’ll never be able to make love to you like I can.” He pulled me into an embrace.
With my free hand, I slapped him hard on the cheek. Startled, he released me, and I jumped to my feet. “You bastard! My husband may never be able to walk or write or have sex, but I still love him, and he loves me, and that’s all that matters.” I snatched my purse from a nearby chair and hurried through the kitchen and out the back door, slamming it behind me.
I was shaking, as I descended the steep wooden staircase to the parking lot. I expected to hear the door open and his running footsteps behind me, but the only sound was the faint chirping of crickets. When I reached the car, I climbed in and locked all doors and windows. I took several deep breaths. When I felt calm, I started the engine and glanced at my watch. It was late, but I had to see Don.
When I reached the nursing home, I was surprised to find the main entrance still unlocked. “Hi Jill, you’re a little late, aren’t you?” said Beverley, Don’s nurse, as I passed the desk.
“Yes, I got held up.”
“I’m sure Don’s still awake. In fact, Bernadette might still be with him, although I doubt it.”
I’d forgotten about Bernadette, Don’s speech therapist, but would she be here this late? Because she worked somewhere else during the day, she came early in the evening to work with Don and other residents. In her mid-twenties with long blonde hair and blue eyes, she was also a fan of Don’s books.
The door to his room was closed. Thinking Bernadette was gone and Don was asleep, I inched it open and stepped into the darkness, stopping short at the sounds of kissing and voices. “Oh Don, even though you only have one good arm and leg, you’re such a lover,” said Bernadette.
“Ummm, you’re so soft, so silky, so delicious, my French silk pie,” said Don in the same seductive voice he’d used with me. “If I could write with the same part of me I use for loving, my troubles would be over.”
“Don’t think about that now. Just love me some more,” said Bernadette, and I heard more kissing. In shock, I cried out and flung the door open wide, flooding the room with light from the hall that illuminated the naked bodies on the bed.
About the author
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a memoir, two poetry collections, and a romance novel and is currently working on another novel. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. She has a visual impairment and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, she was a registered music therapist and worked for fifteen years with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. She also taught braille, facilitated a support group for the visually impaired, and served on the advisory board to a state trust fund that allows people with blindness or low vision to purchase adaptive equipment.
Find and follow Abbie
Books by Abbie Johnson Taylor
Click the titles or images to go to Amazon
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.
Life happens. As a teenager, you’re told you can’t go to the mall because your aunt from out of town is visiting, and the family is planning a trip to see The Nutcracker. As an adult, you hear news on the radio about an airport bombing in Los Angeles. Your husband suffers a debilitating stroke, and you spend the last six years of his life caring for him at home.
Not all the poems in this book are about tragedies. Some are humorous, others serious. Topics range from school to love to death and everything in between. Here is what others have to say.
“Abbie Johnson Taylor’s book of new and selected poems, That’s Life, speaks to both the small and momentous events in our lives. She writes of a picnic in Florida where she eats fried chicken, and she writes of her husband’s stroke and then death. In between, we see a woman who appreciates her foldable cane, and who offers advice to teen-age girls. Taylor’s language is simple and clean. She doesn’t get distracted by trying to make her poems sound “poetic,” but rather uses clear, everyday language to convey her thoughts to her readers. I know that many readers will find solace in Taylor’s plain-spoken, but heartfelt lyrics.” Jane Elkington Wohl, Author of Beasts in Snow and Triage.
“That’s Life is a collection of poems that celebrates the normal, the ordinary. In this book, beauty, peace, and happiness are found in everyday events and situations. Abbie Johnson Taylor also emphasizes the strength of the human mind and heart. Faced with difficult, stressful, and tragic circumstances, the subjects in this book nonetheless endure, thrive, and bask in happiness and hope.” Allyson Whipple, author of We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are.
In January of 2006, Abbie Johnson Taylor’s husband suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. After months of therapy in a nursing facility, he returned home in September of that year. Although he still had little use of his left arm and leg, it was hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. In January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In August of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he showed no progress. He has never walked since.
The first five poems tell the story of how Taylor found her husband when he suffered his first stroke, detail events in the first few months afterward, and describe Taylor and her husband’s reactions. The rest of the poems in the first part were inspired by Taylor’s experiences while caring for her husband. Covering such topics as dressing, feeding, toileting, their relationship, and his computer, they often provide a humorous outlook. Some poems are from the husband’s point of view. Poems in the next two parts cover childhood memories and other topics. The last section of poems was inspired by Taylor’s fifteen years of experience as a registered music therapist in a nursing home before marrying her husband.
Lisa Taylor is visually impaired and manages her father’s coin-operated machine business. She is terrified of policemen and of being arrested because of an incident that happened when her younger brother was apprehended on suspicion of arson years ago.
On the first day of the conflict with Iraq, as she is hurrying away from an anti-war demonstration after being threatened with arrest for civil disobedience, she is confronted by a newspaper reporter who asks her why she is running away. She tells him she is afraid she will lose her job if she is arrested.
The day after the protest march, Lisa meets John Macintosh, a bicycle patrol officer. After a short time, she falls in love with him. But Lisa must realize that police officers are human beings. She must learn to trust John after a close friend becomes a victim of acquaintance rape. Her future father-in-law must overcome his own stereotypes of people with disabilities. Will this couple marry and live happily ever after?
Tell me a story!
If you are a writer, artist or photographer…If you have a poem, story or memoirs to share… If you have a book to promote, a character to introduce, an exhibition or event to publicise… If you have advice for writers, artists or bloggers…
If you would like to be my guest, please read the guidelines and get in touch!