Pondering the Pavement

August 2, 2012

Rejoicing Joyce

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 5:20 am
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Book Portrait “Do you hate me?” Those were the very first words my biological mother ever said to me. Do. You. Hate. Me.

I had already been warned of her sense of humor so, as my grip on the telephone receiver tightened oh-so-slightly, I quickly replied, “That depends. Are you rich?”

Joyce chuckled and answered, “No.”

“Then I hate you,” I said.

And we laughed. Hard.

Joyce and I marveled in the odd quirks that we shared. For example, we had a peculiar fascination with office supplies. We could easily spend hours in Office Depot just roaming the aisles like kids loose in a candy store. Oh, the simple joys of paperclips and hanging folders… We firmly believed that Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies were the perfect food. And we also held to the belief there was nothing nearly as important, or necessary, as laughter. We had never encountered a situation that didn’t scream for a joke. Of course, we couldn’t guarantee anyone else would find something funny but, thankfully, that just didn’t matter. Humor was the way to deal with most of our own tragedies. We saw it as a universal language and we were fluent in it. She was a painfully funny woman. My birthfather is, too, but in an entirely different vein. Joyce once told me that I was such a perfect meld of both of them that I could never deny them even if I wanted to.

When I attended my first family reunion I wore a t-shirt that read “Have your picture taken with the orphan! $5.00! Makes a great gift!” Joyce laughed so hard I thought she was going to fall out of her chair. Never wanting to be one to be outdone she demanded 50% of my profits. “If it weren’t for my initial investment you’d have nothing!” she laughed. Can’t argue with that logic.

She loved helping others. She was often donating time, as well as her exceptional baking skills, to anyone in need. This Joyce-Of-All-Trades would do anything from writing ‘skits’ for her church to helping her nursing home roommate with her hair. Whatever was needed. And it seemed like she was always baking a pie or cake for some sort of shindig or another. I once remarked, “You do a lot for people.”

She smiled shyly and shrugged, “It’s what you’re supposed to do.” Then she burst out laughing and said, “Besides, it gives me an excuse to taste-test the pies I make!” Did I mention we also shared an infectious sweet tooth?

Joyce had been in failing health for quite some time. In October of 2011, she lost her left leg to diabetes. She was blind in one eye and could barely see out of the other. To help protect that eye she would often wear a medicated eye patch. She told me, after her leg surgery, “Well, I have one leg and I’m wearing an eye patch. Looks like I have my Halloween costume all figured out!” I laughed until I cried. There’s no doubt about it, Joyce had a hard life. But she faced it with a smile on her face, laughter in her heart and a pie or two within reach. Whether the pies were for eating or throwing is yet to be fully determined. My guess is it would depend on which would get the bigger laugh.

I exhausted the first 33 years of my life wondering about her. I spent nearly 10 of those years searching for her. And I was only able to share 18 years with her. For those of you keeping score that’s the span of time measuring from birth until high school graduation. In the big scheme of things it’s not even a fraction of the blinking of a bastard’s eye. But I am blessed to have had that time with her. Every. Single. Second.

Joyce made sacrifices for me and my younger brother, Joe. She made choices that were not easy in the hopes of her ‘lost boys’ having better lives than she could possibly provide. If that sort of selflessness isn’t being a mother then I don’t know what is. And you cannot possibly hate that form of generosity. You hear me, Joyce?

She quietly passed, with little fanfare, on July 16th. I last spoke to Joyce the Tuesday before her passing. When I asked her what she was doing in the hospital she gave me an answer that was vintage Joyce. “You know me,” she drawled. “I was bored at the nursing home and just wanted a change of scenery.”

And we laughed. Hard.

How fitting that our last conversation, just as our first, evolved into a joke. Her first words to me spoke of self-imposed guilt. Her final words, “I love you,” were those of self-acceptance and joy. Trust me when I tell you there was a lot of laughter in-between. And for that I am truly grateful.

Copyright © 2012, Charles A. Filius

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