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Interview with Joy - Coping with Life Changes

(Only nicknames or middle names will be used in my interviews to help protect each person’s privacy.)  


I met my friend Joy about 18 years ago when she won First Place in a local poetry contest. When I have a poem needing critique, I often ask her to take a look at my poem. I value her opinion and her fast responses.


Joy, would you tell me a little about your life? What have been two of your main challenges?

I was an Air Force Brat. That meant moving every few years. I remember attending third grade in three places: Germany, New York, and Virginia. That’s a lot of changes. Being naturally shy, it was hard. I remember pushing myself to be more outgoing, no matter how I felt on the inside.

Another huge hurdle was Parkinson’s. My husband had the disease in his later years, and I was the caregiver. It affected both of us, physically and emotionally. Not enough of me to go around sometimes….


My experience is that there is usually a sacrifice when we make changes and help others. And since feelings and behaviors come from beliefs, I’m curious about what your primary belief might be as you walk around in this world?

Jesus. He is my Savior. In hard times and good times, my faith is what gives me comfort. That’s what keeps me going.

Yes, perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said, Come unto Me and I will give you rest. Joy, you and Joe were married a long time. Do you want to share your secret?

When my Joe died, we’d been married almost 54 years. His faith was strong. That always inspired me. We usually went to bed with no arguments between us. That one thing was so helpful.

You lost your husband two years ago, so how have things changed for you?

The first year after Joe died, life was hard. I had no desire or energy for anything, and responsibilities and decisions were always before me. Thankfully, our daughters and dear friends were there for me.

All the “Firsts” without Joe were hard—you know, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas without him. The second year actually felt harder emotionally—loneliness and emptiness set in.

What helped me?  Visiting daughters and their families. Learning they are still there for me. As far as goals, I’m getting back to writing, crafts, time with friends. I keep saying and trying to live it out, “One day at a time.”


Thank you for sharing the ache within the ache. I know that’s not always easy. How do you make life as a seventy-seven-year-old work for you?

I’m easier on myself these days. Instead of three meals, I may have two per day, especially if I don’t want to cook. I know it’s okay to keep it simple with a PB&J sandwich or a bowl of cereal. Those same choices would have once made me feel guilty. No longer true.

I’m trying to keep life simple. Even my hairdo is simple. I’ve discovered I like the ease of clipping my hair up, and I’m embracing bold colors with tops and dresses.

I guess I’ve gone rogue! It feels good, and I’m not hurting anyone. There’s a little fun in it for me. At the same time, I’m throwing out clothes that don’t fit or don’t work anymore for me.  Well, not throwing them out—I’m actually giving them to thrift shops.


Sounds like your sense of style is evolving, and it looks effortless.

I’m learning to ask myself, “What works for me? What do I want?” 


You have a great fondness for people. Has that always been the case?

Relating with people has not always been easy, but that’s the very thing makes me happy and gives me energy. I often compliment strangers. I just think the world needs more smiles, more kindness. I want to be a part of that.


Nice. Can you tell me about your present struggles? How do you cope with most struggles?

When you say struggles, I think of my loneliness issue. It only takes a photo or a song to trigger a memory, and there I am, lonely for Joe again. When that feeling catches me off-guard, I tear-up. If I know a new joke or there’s big news, he is not there to hear me tell it.

But sometimes, I tell it to him anyway. He is still with me in a sweet way, you know. My faith, church, prayers—all of that is a great comfort to me. One day, I may get a dog.


I see you smiling. What holds you back on getting the dog now?

I guess I want to be free to travel and go places without the worry of a dog’s care. Dogs become family, you know. Also, I have two spoiled cats right now.


I hear you. So as you look backward in your life, what is it that you are most delighted about?

Oh, I lived in some fascinating places because my wonderful dad was in the Air Force. Amazing to know such a variety of people and places at a young age. 

Then I married. I think marriage helped me feel like I was part of a bigger story. Being a mother—well, what can I say? Our two girls were like anchors. They depended on me to be there and help in whatever ways I could.

After our girls married, we finally settled in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where I enjoyed new friends, poetry, the Ozark Folk Center. It was a good life, but Parkinson’s hit us hard. Then the pandemic hit. It changed our world.

Joe and I learned how to live with his disease. Much to our surprise, we also made new friends through Rock Steady Boxing classes, which is considered therapy for Parkinson’s. Joe became a boxer, and I, his cornerperson. We fought Parkinson’s together. Those people and that program taught me so much about living my life and being a nurturing caregiver.


Your sacrifices as a caregiver meant that your life was about giving to others, but I don’t hear any sadness in you about doing that.

No, it was a joy to serve. It’s true that I would grow tired in the evenings, but I’ve always loved helping people. It was my joy to serve.

Aging means confronting our limitations. We only know about aging from our own age. If you could jump into a time machine and tell your grown-up self or the little girl inside you something about aging, what would it be?

Maybe I’d tell the little girl in me to not be afraid of change and to find the good in the day. I hope I would tell my grown-up self, “Age is just a number. Be at peace.” 


Overall, what advice would you give to women today? 

I think I’d tell them to respect themselves, develop a strong faith, and try to see the good in other people. I want women to love as they wish to be loved, but I’m not wanting them to accept verbal or physical abuse. They matter! Each one of us matters, you know.

Yes, abuse is a daunting problem. I applaud your faithfulness, compassion, caring for other people, Joy. Thank you for sharing your heart here.

My best and God bless,

Pat Durmon

P.S. If you like this post, please share with your friends. To join my mailing list, scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up. Thank you for considering it!

Drawing of "Joy" by Mary Chambers, Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Poetry Books by Pat Durmon

Prose by Pat Durmon

The story of Lee R. Farrier from Norfork, Arkansas, is Pat's first book of prose and a tribute to Lee, the town of Norfork, and its people. All profits from sales go toward a scholarship at Norfork High School.


Dec 19, 2023

Once again you have brought insight, feeling, information and fun in your writings. Your questions and Joy's answers were inspiring. I can relate to many (on a lesser degree) to things she faced. Looking forward to your next interview; I'm sure you know of many other interesting people.

Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

Thank you!! Grateful for your thoughts and comments. I am trying something new here....


Dec 18, 2023

Beautiful woman, inside and out! Very inspiring. Thank You “Joy“ and Pat for sharing this story. Looking forward to reading more. God Bless you both.

Dec 18, 2023
Replying to

And thank you for telling us! More to come...

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