A Writer’s Destiny
by Abbie Johnson Taylor
In January of 2005, I received a letter that changed my life. Being visually impaired, I was in a long-distance relationship with a totally blind man I’d met two years earlier through Newsreel, an audio magazine where blind and visually impaired people can share ideas, music, recipes, and other material. Bill lived in Fowler, Colorado. I lived in Sheridan, Wyoming, where I still am today. We were drawn to each other because I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and his mother lived in one. We met face to face twice when my father and I detoured to Fowler on our way to New Mexico to visit relatives. I thought Bill just wanted to be friends.
But on that night in January when I read his letter containing a marriage proposal, I was forced to consider the possibility that our relationship would be more than that. I wasn’t ready to share my life with anyone. After reading his letter, I thought Bill wanted me to move to Fowler, but I didn’t want to leave my hometown. To my surprise, Bill told me he wanted to move to Sheridan, and this made my decision easier.
He came for a visit two months later. At first, I had my doubts, but when he officially proposed to me at a restaurant among family and friends, I said yes.
In July of 2005, Bill moved to Sheridan. In September, we were married. I quit my job and started writing full-time.
In January of 2006, I returned home one night to find him lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, barely coherent. After a trip to the hospital, we learned he’d suffered a debilitating stroke caused by bleeding on the right side of his brain. Because the emergency room doctor thought Bill would need surgery, he was airlifted to a hospital in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of Sheridan. After it was determined that surgery wouldn’t help and that Bill wasn’t strong enough to participate in that hospital’s rehabilitation program, he was moved back to Sheridan, to the nursing home where I’d worked for fifteen years.
His left side was paralyzed, and after two months of therapy, he reached a plateau, and we were forced to face the fact that he might never walk again. In September of 2006, after acquiring a house that could more easily be modified for a wheelchair, I brought him home and became his full-time caregiver.
In October, he started outpatient therapy, and we thought maybe he would be on his feet again. But in January of 2007, he suffered a second mild stroke that set him back. He continued outpatient therapy, but in August, his therapists gave up on him. We had five good years after that until he declined to the point where I could hardly lift him. I moved him back to the nursing home in September of 2012. I’d hoped to get him into a better facility, but he died a month later before that could happen.
I now realize that because of my experience with nursing home residents, some higher power determined that I was best suited to care for Bill when the time came. If I hadn’t married him, he would have ended up in the nursing home in Fowler with his mother. He wouldn’t have lived as long or enjoyed the same quality of life.
At a dead end with my music therapy career, I started writing. If I hadn’t quit my job after Bill and I were married, I wouldn’t have published five books. After Bill’s strokes, I learned to dress him, transfer him from one place to another, and perform other personal care tasks I never dreamed of doing.
In the end, he taught me that a disability should never stop you. I believe in fate, that we were meant to be together, even for a short time. It was my destiny.
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. She is currently working on another novel. Her work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, The Writer’s Grapevine, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Visit her website http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.