A Goodbye Valentine

Betty Dodson's picture
Sat, 03/01/2008 - 00:00
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Wednesday February 13, 2008 at 8:30 pm, the phone rang just after I'd finished a private sex coaching session. It was Grant's new wife Kenya crying hysterically. She had just returned home and found my old friend and webmaster still in bed. When she tried to wake him he was unresponsive so she immediately called an ambulance and then me. I tried to grasp what she was saying with her heavy Dominican accent between sobs. One of the EMS guys got on the phone and said they were rushing him to Lennox Hill Hospital. I figured the chances were good that he'd suffered another stroke.

Over the years, I'd seen him through three strokes and two major surgeries. His first stroke in 1993 resulted in aphasia which is the complete loss of speech. He went through the arduous process of retraining his remaining brain cells by learning the HTML language so he could set up a website for me. Three years later in 1996, Betty Dodson Online was launched. Today we get ten thousand unique hits daily and a million page views a month. It always tickled Grant and me that two old sixties hippies had scored a success in cyberspace.

grant taylor and betty dodson in 1966
Grant Taylor and Betty Dodson, 1966

A year ago, I encouraged Grant to marry his housekeeper Kenya who had been a registered nurse in the Dominican Republic. First she was my housekeeper who came to me unable to speak English. We got along great with sign language and me drawing pictures. A couple of years later, I sent her over to Grant to help take care of his apartment and then to care for him for the past ten years. They genuinely liked each other. When they married last June, it took a load of responsibility off my shoulders. More importantly, it allowed me to sign off as his primary care giver and Health Care Proxy. When Kenya called back from the hospital, I reminded her that Grant wanted no extreme measures to be taken, but she said they already had him on a ventilator with an intravenous feeding tube.

A word to the wise: tell the person who is your Health Care Proxy to make sure the paper goes with you to the hospital. The ER team is on automatic when it comes to saving a patient's life, even if it's an 85 year old man with a brain scan that showed a massive stroke had taken out a large portion of his remaining brain cells. They are not trained to see death as a blessed healing for a painful old age. It turned out that I was still his Health Care Proxy. After getting out the legal document, it took me two determined days to get the breathing tube removed. Grant was a smart old codger. He figured Kenya might want to save him while I would be strong enough to let him go. We'd also discussed the Hemlock Society's option of self-deliverance from a terminal illness. A good life deserves a good death.

Grant Taylor came into my life in 1965; not long after my husband had run off with his secretary. Secretly, I was relieved because at thirty-five, I wasn't ready to settle into a sexless marriage even though it allowed me to paint full-time. At my Wednesday night therapy group, I noticed a new person: a tall man with a sandy colored crew cut, horn rimmed glasses, and a tweed jacket- definitely an intellectual. I'd just read an article that said the higher the IQ, the better the sex. Later I learned that Grant was forty-two and had recently resigned a tenured English professorship at New York University in disgust over academic politics. Speaking in complete sentences made him seem a bit formal, but his beautiful voice and perfect diction was captivating. When he said he'd been divorced for a year, I happily announced that I'd been legally separated for a whole week.

Our first six months together were practically spent in bed. After my seven year fairly sexless marriage and his seventeen years of predictable monogamous marital sex, we were two horny consenting adults making up for lost time. Grant and I both confessed that we'd been sneaky marital masturbators. He convinced me that I wasn't genitally deformed by sharing his girlie magazines that depicted other women with extended inner lips like mine. He was the first lover to include clitoral stimulation during intercourse which solved my orgasm problem during partnersex and he introduced me to the electric vibrator after his barber used one on his scalp. We agreed to be each other's primary lovers while we continued to date other people. Next we experimented with three-way sex and from there we explored the humorous, banal and exquisite moments in group sex.

The feeling of empowerment as a fully orgasmic woman gave me courage to mount my first one woman show of erotic art in a Madison Avenue gallery. Grant was by my side. Toward the end of the sixties, he began to encourage me to learn to write. At first I resisted but with the women's liberation movement surfacing, I had a lot I wanted to say about the importance of women's sexual liberation. Women needed to understand the importance of the clitoris instead of remaining victims of Freudian vaginal orgasms and sexual ignorance. Once Grant became my English teacher and editor, we locked into the passionate love/hate friendship of the century. The physical sex lasted five years, but our intellectual and psychic connection continued off and on for the next forty-three years.

By 1970, feminism had totally captured my heart and I began running orgasm workshops for women with Shelia, my first sexual girlfriend. In 1973; I became bi-coastal dividing my time between San Francisco and New York. During that decade, Grant and I didn't spend much time together, but we unwittingly exchanged careers. He became an artist sculpting ceramics and I became an author and sex teacher earning a modest income from my self-published book Liberating Masturbation.

At the beginning of the eighties, I was struggling with finances again. Grant insisted I write a sexual memoir which would solve all my money problems. From 1981 to 84, I wrote in long hand while he typed two thousand pages of my so-called "best-selling memoir." After getting interest from several major publishers, I ended up with a stack of rejection letters and blamed him. More to the point, once AIDS, the Regan administration, and the Moral Majority entered the scene, sex went into a serious decline. However, I did expand my little self-published masturbation book and in 1986, I received a modest advance when I sold Sex for One to Crown Publishing.

Bety and Grant at the computer, 1983
Betty and Grant, 1983

I began making erotic sex-ed video tapes for women in the nineties. After two successful productions, Grant offered to help with video distribution twice a week and in 1993, he had his first stroke in my office that included the loss of his speech. After a remarkable recovery, he worked at home on my website from 1996 to the present. For the past twelve years he'd been living on pain killers with a disintegrating spine. His failing eyesight from macular degeneration kept him a few inches from the computer screen using a magnifying glass. Many friends were convinced he was holding my career back with old web technology, but if I took it away, it would be like killing him because that's all he lived for- to serve his beloved Betty. He was also dependent upon the salary I paid him. Finally, I saw a way to continue his bi-monthly uploads by creating a new website that promised to increase my income so I could afford to keep Grant on the payrole.

His adolescent dream was to publish a sex magazine and it had come true once he was my webmaster. He also savored the many compliments sent in by our readers. Although there were days I wished him gone, there were also days when I fully appreciated our unique friendship. We'd shared America's sexual revolution as lovers, and then he became my writing mentor and eventually a creative collaborator on the website. He was a taskmaster and relentless devil's advocate at every turn, but I look back with gratitude that he was in my life.

How appropriate that I spent Valentines Day 2008 in the hospital with Grant. He brought me in one last time to make sure the plug was pulled. He never regained consciousness and his wife Kenya was at his bedside the entire time. He was on a morphine drip until his body expired five days after entering the hospital. My Valentine gift to Grant was fulfilling my promise of a good death and being the executor of his estate. His gift to me was having the upload for the 15th of February sitting on his computer. Goodbye old friend. I will both miss you and feel relieved you are gone.

Grant E. Taylor 1923 --- 2008