In memory of Dorothy Joyce Bishop.

My first marriage didn’t work out and, like most relationship splits, I gave up more than a husband. I also gave up a family — my in-laws. Believe it or not, I didn’t prepare for that. In my naiveté, I thought they would accept that I would no longer be married to their son but that we could all still be friends. (Excuse me for a moment while I laugh at myself.) Not only did they dump me, they did it brusquely. And painfully.

Skip forward five years, and the weekend I met my new finance’s parents, Joyce and Joe, I was reserved. They were warm and welcoming, but I had already decided to maintain a safe emotional distance. After all, one never knows what the future will bring. I always called them by their first names, unlike my first set of in-laws who I affectionately referred to as Mom and Dad.

As time passed, my new in-laws continued to impress. There were funny, inquisitive, and loved nothing more than to have large family gatherings. Considering that my husband is one of eight children, that was easy to accomplish.

When Joe passed away almost a decade ago, it was a tough time for all. But true to form, a party was held in his memory. People gathered. Plenty of food was served. Memories were recalled. Smiles and laughter celebrated a life well lived. I learned a lot about my father-in-law that I didn’t know. But in reality, they were merely details that supported what I already knew about him — he was an exceptional man.

Several months later, Joyce vacationed in The Villages in Florida, an active adult community. She and Joe had visited there before, and liked it. Both were outgoing and never met a stranger. Even though Joyce went back on her own, she quickly met friends and jumped into a slew of activities — her favorite being dancing.

It didn’t take long for Joyce to make The Villages her permanent home until a stroke left her unable to care for herself. Her kids agreed to relocate her to an assisted living facility in Port Orange, just outside of Daytona Beach, where one of her daughters lived. They sold Joyce’s Ohio house and bought a condo that everyone shared. That made visits with Joyce fun and easy. Who doesn’t enjoy hanging out for a week or two at the beach?

In memoryJoyce was so much fun. Because I’m also a dancer, we would always find places to dance when I visited. Even when she was using a walker, I would pick her up and take her to a local community center so she could listen to the live music and watch the dancers move around the floor. Joyce passed away last February at the age of 93. Her memory brings big smiles to many faces, including mine.

I may have never called her Mom, except for a few times when it slipped out, but she holds a revered place in my heart. With a memorial coming up soon in her honor, I’ve been reflecting on the values I most appreciated about her. These are the attributes that I hope others see in me, too.

  • Don’t judge
  • Welcome everyone
  • Make family a priority
  • Have fun (lots of it)
  • Don’t be afraid to travel the world
  • Always say hello
  • Dance (or at least tap your foot)
  • Keep on keeping on
  • Beer is a health food

Here’s to you, Joyce. Thanks for being a great Mom.