Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eulogy for my wife - Joyce Shore

Hi. Some of you know me as J. and others know me as Jules and that’s the beginning of our story.
In January 1990, I was assigned to a new base and I was divorcing my first wife. I needed a change, so I changed my nickname to J.
In January 1990, Joyce was already in Oklahoma City, having moved there with her first husband and she was divorcing too.
Sometime in late August of 1990, Joyce was granted a divorce.
Roughly two weeks later, I was granted a divorce too.
Some months later, Joyce and I were over the shock of all the change and we were tired of being alone. Of course, we hadn’t met yet, but we were looking.

The Oklahoma Country and Western Dance Association gave free dance lessons at a club off I-35 every Tuesday and Thursday; Two-step, Schottische, Waltz, and the occasional line dance. The club members would usually stay to dance after lessons. It drew people to the club on off nights.
One Thursday in June 1991, after lessons, as everyone was still hanging around, just as a new song started, I walked over to a table of club members; Ken and Janice James, well, Janice had a different last name then, but remember Ken and Janice because we will get back to them. Anyway, Ken and Janice, and Ursula and Johnny had just sat back down, so I said to a lady at the table, someone I’d never seen before, “Everyone else looks like they need a break, would you like to dance?”

And that, my friends, is the real beginning of this story. After a dance or two, Joyce invited me to join her Saturday afternoon at an event held by a different dance organization in town. I went, I danced, I won a door prize – a gift certificate at a restaurant- , and I asked Joyce if she’d like to go to dinner.

The next scene in the story has Joyce and me moving in together to a rental house with Shadow, a 20 year old grey female cat, and Timothy, an indoor/outdoor heavy weight tabby with one folded ear. You do realize you can’t tell a story about Joyce without a few cats?

Come late October, still 1991, there was a morning we opened the door to hear the howls of a cat across the street. “Hey, J. do you wanna climb a tree?” Turns out the kitten was under the church van parked across the street and not up a tree. He was, however covered in oil; I guess the van had a leak. And that was Beetlejuice.

I know when, because a week after that we took a road trip. A “Meet the parents” type event. We drove from Oklahoma City to Jacksonville to surprise my Sis for her birthday and Joyce got to meet my parents and my sister. Then we drove up to Culpeper and I got to meet Donna and Harold and the kids. On the way back to Oklahoma City, we stopped at Nashville to see the sights. We were in the audience for a taping of a Christmas special by the Statler Brothers and a Crook & Chase show.

We went to dance contests in Muskogee and Dallas, and I met Louise and Robby in Ada Oklahoma, and I met Bowman and Jane in Arkansas, and time passed. We got an invite to Ken and Janice’s wedding, you remember Ken and Janice, I told you we’d get back to them. Ken and Janice had a beautiful wedding with all the club members in attendance, and the day after, I rolled over in bed and said, “Let’s get married?” Not that dramatic as proposals go, nor was it romantic, but it worked. On 8-8-92, the family gathered and a wedding was had.

Then came orders for a 4 year tour at Ramstein Germany. We had a great time in Germany. We saw all the sights. Paris, Trier, Cologne, Heidelberg, wine fests on the Mosel, cruising on the Rhine, Amsterdam, Brussels, there was always something to do; someplace to see. And the cats came too, Pipsqueak, and Minke, she’s the kitten the little German boys found, and Gheist and Weizen born among the barn cats next door and cold and hungry and in our door they came. We rescued some of Gheist and Weizen’s siblings and the base vet would give them their shots and find a family for them.

Then my time in the Air Force came to an end and I wanted to go back to school for my Master’s degree. We had Florida driver’s licenses in our pockets, because my parents lived there and Floridians pay no state personal income tax. I needed a university and a base close together because I had rights to base services for 2 years, so we settled in Tampa. It was great living close to my folks. I hadn’t had holidays with my parents in years. And Joyce worked for a group of orthopedic surgeons and I went to school and worked full time and life was great.

Then came the first of many health scares. Joyce had a triple bypass. Recovery was complicated, but family took turns visiting for a week at a time to keep Joyce company while I worked and went to school. And Joyce got better and went back to work and that semester I graduated and then got a job with Tampa Public Library.

But I was looking for a government job, because my Air Force years count for retirement from the government. I was finally hired and we moved up here. Joyce was thrilled to be back home and visits to see Donna and Harold happened about every two months. Holidays were spent with the Virginia relatives and Denise had married and Ashby had married and along came grand nephews.
Joyce got a job in a Doctor’s office. They loved her. She could do the paperwork while chatting with the patients and generally being friendly. The exact person you want to be the face of your office.

We rescued more kittens. I said no more at 13 and we got to 32 before Joyce realized it was a lot of work and she couldn’t save them all.

But Joyce was a type 1 diabetic, so there were more health scares. In 2006 she had a stroke and the state said she had to stop driving. But she recovered, and transportation was worked out and she kept working for Dr. Sivieri. Her vision was worse. On average her corrected vision was 20/70 meaning she saw at 20 feet what the average person sees at 70. But she got magnifiers and computer software to magnify the screen and she could still work.

Then in 2011, she had a Fem-Pop bypass, to improve blood flow in her leg. And that surgery became infected and they had to re-do it and she was released to home with two different IV antibiotics, given 3 times a day for one and twice a day for the other and I learned to give IVs thru a picc line. The month passed and the antibiotic course ended and Joyce and I both went back to our offices.

And life went on, and we visited Culpeper and we went to birthday parties and Thanksgiving and Christmas and we took care of our cats and we worked our jobs until
dun dun dun duh…
The next health crisis.

In December 2012 Joyce got a cold and with it came vertigo. The cold ended, but the vertigo never did. We saw the ENT and he pointed us to the neurologist. We saw the neurologist and he pointed us to the ENT. We saw the experts at Johns Hopkins and the final answer was there’s nothing we can do about it. Diabetic neuropathy meant there was a lag time in the signal from one inner ear compared to the other. If Joyce moved slow and focused on a fixed point she could walk without falling down, but move too fast or bend over to pick something up and she’d at best feel like she was falling, at worse, she’d fall.

She couldn’t work anymore and retired on Social Security disability. Those were a very lean 6 months until Social Security started paying, so we didn’t go out much or do much. But, as all things in life, this too passed and we got back to normal except Joyce didn’t get out much or do much.

Then Joyce’s oldest sister, Donna passed and Culpeper changed and Thanksgiving and Christmas just weren’t the same.

Then along came the next High School Reunion and Joyce got on the committee and had a ball tracking down info on old classmates and putting together the reunion booklet with everyone’s info and coming to Culpeper for meetings. After the reunion it got even better as a group decided they didn’t want to lose touch. They decided on bimonthly lunches and Joyce became the one to send out reminder emails and we still got to Culpeper every two months and Joyce had something to do.

Then came a day in late September 2016 when Joyce’s chronic dizziness resulted in a fall at home. She said she landed on her butt, but she had a bruise the size of my hand on her right hip. She thought she was okay, but was walking kinda stiff. After two weeks she was still stiff so we started seeing doctors to figure out what was wrong. We started with an xray that didn’t tell us much because her right hip had been replaced in 2015 and metal doesn’t play well with xrays. Then we saw the hip doctor and her walking got worse and we saw the back doctor and surgery was decided on to occur Dec 29, 2016. We released from the hospital to a rehab center for two weeks of rehab, but the surgery was infected and Joyce went back to the hospital and got cleaned out and started on IV antibiotics and we went back to rehab for a four week stay. On February 15th Joyce was back home. There were wound dressing changes and Physical Therapy and she was still on IV antibiotics, but as you can tell from the rest of this story, those were all old hat by now and life went on and Joyce got healthier.
We almost made the March lunch for the class of 68, but Joyce thought a 2 hour car ride might be too much. She was uncomfortable after 30 minutes in a car; 2 hours? Nah. Next time she’d be better.

On Friday April 7th she went to PT and we went to lunch and everything was normal. Overnight between Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th, Joyce woke me up to help her get to the bathroom. She couldn’t roll over without pain. Three courses of pain meds overnight didn’t help, so we went to the ER and found Joyce had her second infection of this surgery. We thought it was all over and life was going back to normal.

And I’m going to wrap it up soon because it’s recent and raw and I don’t want to cry or make you cry. Infections are the leading cause of confusion in older people. So each of these infections would be accompanied by periods when Joyce didn’t know where she was or why she couldn’t go home.
But, the second infection led to a third infection and more confusion and unfortunately the confusion never cleared and she was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Fortunately Joyce had told us, in an advanced directive that she didn’t want to live that way, so we withheld all medical interventions and let her go. Her way.

And the story ends, and the second era of Joyce’s life ends and the second era of my life ends.

Hi. I’m Jules.    


  1. Thanks for sharing that, Jules. (JD Thomas)

  2. That was a story of life well lived. thanks for sharing. I am so happy for y'all to have had such a good life together. praying for ya Jules.