Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Ideal Partner

“Dear Abbie, I’m writing to ask for your hand in marriage,” the letter stated.

‘Oh no,” I said, as the index finger of my right hand scanned the Braille words on the page.

It was a Saturday evening in January, 2005. This was all a bad dream, I thought, as I sat in the living room of my apartment. Any minute, my alarm clock would ring; I would wake up, and everything would be the way it was before. Instead, the talking clock in the bedroom announced it was eight thirty p.m.

I read the rest of the letter detailing how we could live together. In shock, I tossed it into the wastebasket. I finished reading my mail and perused the evening paper with the help of my closed-circuit television reading system, all the while thinking about the letter.

How could I marry Bill? I’d only met him twice after corresponding with him for two years by e-mail and phone. We’d met through Newsreel, a cassette magazine that encourages its blind and visually impaired subscribers to share ideas and contact information.

Born and raised in Fowler, Colorado, Bill was educated at Adams State College and Colorado State University where he received a degree in business administration. He lived in California for about twenty years where he worked for Swimquip and JBL before returning to his hometown. Despite being totally blind, he could own his own house as well as several others he rented out and that he could maintain these properties and make repairs.

I knew he was an expert at computers since he owned a computer store in Fowler for another twenty years after returning from California. He and I shared some of the same music preferences. He downloaded more than two thousand songs on his computer from various sources on the Internet and sent me tapes of these songs. His mother lived in a nursing home, and he was drawn to me because I was working as an activities assistant at a nursing home in Sheridan, Wyoming, which I’d been doing for fifteen years.

I received degrees in music from Sheridan College and Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, before going into music therapy. After two more years of study at Montana State University which included nine hours of practicum, I completed a six month internship at a nursing home in Fargo, North Dakota, before returning to my hometown of Sheridan.

I wrote my first novel, We Shall Overcome,with Bill’s support, and it was published in July of 2007 by iUniverse. I e-mailed him each chapter, and he sent me feedback and suggestions. He also encouraged my other writing endeavors and listened when I told him my troubles.

He was a good friend, but how could I leave my hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming, and live with him in Fowler, Colorado, more than 500 miles away? According to Bill, the little farming community had none of the amenities I enjoyed here in Sheridan. There was no Para transit service or public transportation and no YMCA or Walmart. There was no theater where I could attend a play or concert. In Sheridan, I sang in a women’s barber-shop group and attended monthly writers’ group meetings, but there was none of that in Fowler. Pueblo, a town situated thirty-six miles from Fowler, had all this, but how was I to get there? The thought of leaving my home and starting a new life in a strange town with a man I barely knew was frightening.

Although I was tired after a long day of work, I didn’t sleep well that night. As I lay awake at four o’clock in the morning while my apartment building’s maintenance man cleared newly fallen snow from the sidewalk outside, I composed a Braille letter in my head. “Dear Bill, Although I like you and have valued our friendship over the past couple of years, I don’t see myself marrying you at this time. I hope we can still be friends.”

I was tempted to get up, write the letter, and mail it, but I decided to try and sleep some more since I had another long day of work ahead of me. I would write the letter in the evening when I returned home and mail it the next day.

After work, Dad picked me up and drove me to Grandma’s house for Sunday night dinner. It wasn’t much of a family gathering, just me, Dad, and Grandma, but it was something we tried to do every Sunday. Dad and I picked up sandwiches and chips at a Subway shop and took them to Grandma’s house.

Dad knew Bill because we’d visited him on our way to stay with relatives in New Mexico. Surely he would agree that I shouldn’t marry a man I didn’t know well. As we sat down to the meal, I could hold back no longer. I was frazzled after working all day, thinking about Bill’s proposal, and hoping I was doing the right thing by putting him off. “Dad, Grandma, Bill Taylor wants to marry me.”

To my astonishment, Dad said, “Well, I’ll be damned. You should think about this, honey. He’s a fine fellow.”

“I’ve only met him twice,” I said.

“Grandma and I aren’t going to be around much longer,” said Dad. “Who’s going to take care of you?”

“I can take care of myself,” I answered. “I’ve been living on my own and holding down a job for years.”

“Ed, she shouldn’t marry him if she’s not sure,” said Grandma.

“Yeah, he wants me to move to Fowler, Colorado. It’s just a little town. There’s nothing there.”

“You don’t know that,” said Dad. “We’ve only been there twice and for a couple of hours at the most. Why don’t you at least go down there and spend some time with him before you make a decision?”

Maybe he was right. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty. I didn’t have to give an answer right away, did I? I composed another Braille letter in my head. “Dear Bill, I’d like to visit Fowler this summer to see if I would be happy living there with you.”

After I returned home and before I had a chance to write the letter, Bill called me. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Oh, just working on the computer and thinking about a marriage proposal I received in the mail yesterday.”

He laughed. I laughed. He said, “What do you think?”

“I was planning to write you a letter,” I said. “I’d like to come down to Fowler this summer to see if I’d like living with you there.”

After a long pause, he said, “Actually, I’m thinking of moving to Sheridan. I’m tired of living in a little town where there isn’t much to do.”

Did I misunderstand his letter? I thought he stated clearly that he wanted us to live in Fowler since his family and business were there. Living with him wouldn’t be so bad if I could stay in my hometown.

“Maybe I could come to Sheridan for a week or so in a couple of months,” he said.

I panicked. I’d put off my trip to Fowler until the summer to give me more time to get used to the idea. “Wouldn’t you rather wait until June? You wouldn’t have to worry about bad roads.”

“I think the roads should be okay by the middle of March.”

It was obvious he didn’t want to wait. Maybe in two months, I could get myself in a better frame of mind about this.

My thoughts were in a whirlwind. One minute, I liked the idea of being married to Bill. The next, I wondered if I was getting in over my head. As a result of the shock and stress of Bill’s proposal, I came down with a bad cold which lasted for three weeks. When I told Bill, he said he wished he were there to take care of me, but this didn’t make me feel any better. I wanted my mother to take care of me and advise me, but she died several years earlier. I never felt so alone or confused.

In the meantime, Bill researched realtors online and found houses we could look at while he was here, much to my consternation. He e-mailed me at least once a day and called me every night. He even called Dad once or twice. “He’s got it bad for you, doesn’t he?” said Grandma.

On a warm spring morning in March, Dad and I drove to the bus station to meet Bill. He traveled all night from Fowler, but he appeared well rested as he emerged from the bus, kissed my cheek, and said, “Hello, sweetie.” He’d never kissed me or spoken to me like that before.

We drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. I sat in the back seat of Grandma’s two-door Cadillac while Bill sat in front with Dad. This is a bad dream, I thought. Any minute, my alarm clock would ring; I’d wake up, and everything would be the way it was before. Instead, my talking watch announced it was ten a.m. At the restaurant, Bill sat next to me in a booth while Dad sad across from us. During the meal, he held my hand from time to time which I found reassuring. No man other than Dad had held my hand before. My stomach was so tied up in knots that I didn’t think I could get anything down, but when we were ready to leave, my plate was empty except for one sausage that I offered to Bill and he accepted.

Bill spent the next week with me in my apartment. At first, he slept on the couch, but after a couple of days, I found myself asking him to sleep in my double bed with me, thinking it would be more comfortable for him. I didn’t know if I loved him. I alternated between wanting to spend the rest of my life with him and wondering what in the world I was thinking. When I expressed my doubts, he reassured me with kisses and caresses, and for the first time, I knew what it was like to be loved by a man. “You don’t have to marry me. We could just live together,” he told me. This seemed preposterous, but I didn’t say anything. I knew he meant well.

I’m not sure when I made up my mind. All I know is that on the day he officially proposed to me during dinner with family and friends at a local restaurant, I said yes. Since the ring was too small, he used a necklace. As he placed it around my neck, he said, “If you say no, I’ll choke you with this.”

I caught another cold as a result of the stress of his visit and the big decision I’d made. This turned into a mild stomach flu which confined me to bed for a day. Bill held my head when I threw up, applied a cool washcloth, massaged my forehead, back, and shoulders, and fed me. I was relieved I’d said yes to his proposal. It was nice having someone to take care of me.

I was over my cold by the time Bill left town. At the bus station, we kissed in the rain, as the bus thrummed nearby, waiting to take him away. I wouldn’t see him for another three months, and that time seemed endless. I willed the bus to leave without him, but all too soon, he was gone. I sat with Dad in his pick-up and watched the bus drive slowly away from the station.

After Dad dropped me off at my apartment, I walked into the living room and collapsed on the couch. The apartment was quiet except for the hum of the refrigerator in the little kitchen. For years, I’d been content to be alone here, but now, it felt empty. The next morning when I prepared to wash the bedding, I held the sheets and pillowcases to my nose and drank in his scent. It was the last reminder of him I would have for three months.

Those three months flew by, and then it was time to visit Bill in Fowler where he was in the process of packing his belongings for the move to Sheridan. I met his mother in the nursing home and his sister who also lived in Fowler. The town wouldn’t have been such a bad place to live after all. Although Bill’s house was on the main street, there wasn’t much traffic, and it felt like the quiet residential neighborhood where I lived in Sheridan. The small grocery store down the street would have been sufficient, but since Bill hired a lady to clean his house and buy his groceries and received regular deliveries from Schwann, I wouldn’t have had to worry about shopping for food. Bill had a treadmill which I could have used instead of going to a water exercise class at a YMCA. He also had a lot of helpful friends and neighbors, and I could have found transportation to Pueblo to attendwriters’ group meetings or for any other reason.

Since I hadn’t yet found a house in Sheridan, I almost wished Bill would change his mind about moving, but he had already agreed to rent his house. There was no turning back.

Bill hosted a barbecue to celebrate our engagement. Many of his friends in Fowler and a few from out of town were there. Dad, Grandma, and my relatives in Colorado were also invited. There must have been at least sixty people. The event was catered. The food was delicious, and at Bill’s insistence, I reluctantly entertained everyone by playing a guitar and singing.

This was in the beginning of June. At the end of the month, Bill planned to make the move to Sheridan. Since he couldn’t sell his house in Fowler, we couldn’t afford to buy a house of our own. After I returned home, I found one for us to rent.

I only had two weeks in which to pack. Since one of my co-workers quit during my absence, I had to work extra hours which didn’t make things any easier. This happened many times before, and it always irked me, but it didn’t matter this time. I planned to quit. My dream of writing full time was about to become a reality. The two weeks flew by, and before I knew it, Bill stood in the hall outside my apartment with his sister and a friend who’d come to help us move. We embraced with the knowledge that we were together for good.

At the end of July after we were settled in our new home, we took an early honeymoon trip to California. A friend of Bill’s in Solvang invited us to his wedding. After that, we visited Bill’s friends in Huntington Beach and La Crescentia, his sister in South Pasadena, and my uncle and aunt in Valley Village. Among other things, we enjoyed a performance at a comedy club, a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and a visit to my uncle’s studio where he demonstrated how he does sound effects for movies. We were there for two weeks, and although I had a wonderful time, I was glad to get home. On the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th, 2005, Bill and I were married in Grandma’s back yard. There must have been a hundred people in attendance. Many of my relatives from across the country were there as well as some of Bill’s friends from out of town. Bill’s mother, despite failing health, drove up to Sheridan with his sister for the event. The ceremony was followed by a reception at a nearby hotel where Bill and I spent our wedding night. As we snuggled between the cool, clean sheets, I looked forward to living happily ever after with Bill Taylor.

As I write this, our sixth wedding anniversary is fast approaching. We plan to celebrate by attending my cousin’s wedding. I don’t think she planned it that way. She and her fiance liked the idea of 9/10/11, and it just so happens that September 10th was our wedding day. It’ll be a great way to celebrate our own marriage.

I’ll paste below a link to a recording of me singing “You Fill Up My Senses.” The link will be available for at least a week. As a Valentine gift in 2005, Bill sent me, among other things, a doll who sings this song when you squeeze her foot. We cherished that song ever since. I wanted to sing it at our wedding but didn’t think I could do it without crying so I’ll sing it now.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


  1. I love hearing you sing the song, Abbie. You have a beautiful voice. and I am glad you found your ideal mate.

  2. Hi, Glenda, I'm glad you liked my singing. Thank you for your comment.

    Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

  3. This is such a wonderful story. I smiled the whole time I was reading it. You two are tryuly two souls that waited until the time was right.

    Thanks dor another great entry.