Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Joyce to the World

Joyce and I "met" officially about 5 years ago, on the sidewalk across the street from my home. We both walk our neighborhood, and had seen each other around. I was sitting on the curb, trying to locate my cat Francis who has gone into a neighbor's back yard; Joyce was walking her dog and constant companion, Elizabeth, a friendly pooch who had sidled up to me for a few pets.

Joyce started chatting, and quite honestly didn't stop for nearly an hour. I remember waiting for a break in the conversation so I could continue looking for my cat. But as the hour wore on, I began to soften up a bit, she was so friendly and I liked her outfit.

In fact, Joyce's outfits are what stood out to me, whenever I ran into her walking her dog. She always seems to have a jaunty color on, be it her coat, scarf or shoes. She has great personal style. So for a couple of years we would stop on the street and chat whenever we crossed paths.

Joyce was always social and chatty, out and about daily walking her dog or off to shop. We had lunch a few times at her flat, which is filled with lovely antiques and collections from her travels.

She was always sharing an adventure she was off to- visiting a friend in India, exploring Egypt, going to Machu Pichu with her 90 year old boyfriend, etc. Then I didn't see her. For about six or seven months, there was no Joyce on the streets, no sign of her or Elizabeth out for a walk. Thought maybe she was out traveling still, but did worry a bit. Finally after nearly 8 months of no Joyce sightings, I ran into her, she in a ivory coat pulled over a pink sweater that matched her lipstick. Her shoes were practical sandals but she managed to add a bit of spiff with ivory and pink striped socks or something along the lines of senior citizen pizazz.

Joyce looked paler, a bit less chipper, and I asked about her well being. Her travel days were over, she told me, since she had hurt her back climbing the steps at Machu Pichu, her health had declined rapidly and she was in a lot of physical pain. She had only just recently had felt well enough to resume walking Elizabeth. We made plans to meet for lunch the next week.

When visiting Joyce, we had a great time chatting but I couldn't help but notice her change in vitality. She seemed much frailer than when I last saw her and I recognized something in her trembling hands, her shaky body. "Joyce," I cleared my throat as I bluntly asked her, "do you have Parkinson's?"

"I'm going to find out this week," she answered. Looking me in the eye, she shared her most recent medical dilemma,  Having suffered poor health her whole life, her recent trips to her doctor were attempts at finding the name for what was wrong with her. She was waiting for the results of some tests.

Turns out she had been misdiagnosed a few years ago, and recently received her official diagnosis of Parkinson's. Since, she's been dealing with adjusting to the medications, as well as coping with her depression and struggle to accept her situation. This once perky, highly independent woman is facing in her golden years, an ultimate challenge. "I don't know what I thought my life was going to be, but I certainly didn't think it was going to be this."

We keep in touch, and I took on a project with Joyce, helping her de-clutter her home from some of her collections, and clean out her storage unit. Her plan was to simplify her life while she had the strength to handle the task.  Also, included was her goal to clear out her wardrobe. She got rid of much of her jaunty outfits, as she wasn't going out so much, and was determined to go lean and clean. We went through her old teacher's wardrobe (she's a retired ESL high school teacher) as well as some of her recent garb, that she just felt wasn't worth the room in her closet. She also got rid of her collection of garments that she used to wear when she went to the symphony and opera. This somehow was the saddest for me, as the items were most often vintage, and opulent. So full of flounce and style. However, she felt she wasn't in the position to continue social outings. She gave me piles of velvets, silks and satin garments, which I sold on a rack at the Daily Planet last summer, to raise some money for a housecleaning fund for Joyce.

She purged so severely, that she realized in the fall that she had gotten rid of all her pants, save for a single pair of jeans and had to go online and order some bottoms.

This pandemic has been particularly hard on my friend. Since Joyce has health challenges, and is over 60, she is at high risk and so must self isolate. Fortunately for her, some young women in her building have been getting her groceries for her. But, Joyce is spending all of her time alone in her home, and even for such a solitary and independent spirit such as Joyce, this isolation comes with added challenges. She had just started grieving and processing her Parkinson's diagnosis, and now has added limitations to cope with as well.

While we've been chatting from phone every other week or so, our visits have been curtailed; I've only visited once this year, about a month and a half ago, on a Seattle sunny spring day, with us properly socially distanced on her back patio, me talking through a cotton bandana.

Elizabeth the dog has been dealing with health challenges of her own, teeth problems and a hurt leg. So the walks that used to take Joyce out into our neighborhood, sadly has come to an end.

Two totally random thoughts as I close my tribute to my friend and Phinney Ridge neighbor. I love that she plays classical music at all times in her home. We share a love for Chopin and Beethoven.

Also, Joyce used to make dolls and sew doll outfits for them, She also drew the most wonderfully precise colored pencil drawings of fruits and vegetables and flowers. She is a kindred spirit and I hope she can find cheer in this challenging time.

Would you like to see and hear more of Joyce?
Leave me your comment and I'll pass your kind words on to her.