God bless you.
This week, Joyce, my wife of 42 years and my girlfriend of 49 years, is retiring from a full-time job. So it's time to celebrate.
By the end of this year, maybe even sooner, I, too, will be retiring from my 45-year career as a journalist as soon as I can get some pension issues settled.
Officially, Joyce will be retiring from working for Cushman-Wakefield, a commercial real estate company, for the last 13 years as a senior administrative assistant for some of the best brokers you'll find anywhere in the planet.
Previously, she worked 25 years for Prudential Insurance. Before that, she worked three years for Florshiem Shoes. But she started work as a part-time secretary for Boy Scouts of America 47 years ago in Kansas City, Kan.
So my dear Joyce is retiring from a cumulative 41 years as a full-times employee for three major companies.
"Hey, I feel good about it--what do you want me to say," Joyce told me Tuesday in her frequent sassy tone. "I'm looking forward to not having to get up as 5 o'clock every morning, catch the Metra (formerly the IC), walk from the station to work, work all day and then come home tired and hungry.
"You bet I feel good about this. Who wouldn't? I'm 64 years old, I got aches and pains I never had before. It hurts me when I walk on concrete to and from work. Now, starting next week, I'll be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I might eventually get a part-time job doing something if I'm not too bored. But no time soon.
"Now, it's time for me to sleep late like (I, Lacy, often do because I've mainly worked the night shift)). Now, it's time for me to get more rest and exercise when I want to. What I'll probably like most is not having to get up at 5 o'clock every morning during the winter. It was no fun going out into the sub-zero temperature with the wind blowing to produce stinging and numbing chill factors. Sometimes, the winds almost blew me down or out into the streets."
The wind wouldn't have a hard time blowing down my little Joyce. She's always been quite petite.
I remember when I first met Joyce early one weekday morning in the outer lobby of Sumner High School in KCK. She was one of the sweetest and prettiest little 65-pound, 4-feet-1 angels I could ever meet. She was quiet and shy. Always was, still is and always will be quiet and shy.
At that time, I was president of the student council and had arrived extra early, around 6:30 a.m., to be picked up to be honored with other student council presidents by the KCK Kiwanis Club. For Joyce and her older brother, Butch, this was standard operating procedure. Their father, Roscoe Wooten, would drop them off on his way to the first of two jobs he worked each day to provide for his wife, Emma, and their four daughters and two sons.
My father-in-law loved the Lord and he loved his family with all his heart. And my wife, Joyce, was his favorite eventually. I say, eventually, because when Joyce was born, she was born with blond hair and blue eyes and white skin. Her grandfather was white and part Cherokee and Joyce and her mother inherited many of his features.
"Whose child is that?" Roscoe thundered at Emma the first time he saw Joyce.
"It's your daughter, honey," Emma said.
"Naw, she ain't," said Roscoe, who was dark-skinned but strong and handsome. "I can't have no white baby like that!"
"He broke my heart when he saw Joyce," my mother-in-law often told me. "He really couldn't believe she was his. But as time went by, he realized she was his baby."
That's largely because Joyce quickly lost her blue eyes and blond hair and more dominant Negroid genes and chromosomes came into play in the most beautiful way. Some of the world's most beautiful children come from mixed marriages.
Anyway, Joyce and her daddy became a pair. And she won him over largely by being so loving, so caring and sharing with her father. Yes, Joyce was so much Roscoe's favorite daughter that he nicknamed her "Little Emma."
Joyce and I hit it off not too spectacularly when we first met. It was not so much love at first sight. But I knew I had to get to know this pretty little chick and get her to be my girlfriend.
Within a month of meeting each other in the spring of 1961, Joyce and I started going together. I didn't have a car at that time. Didn't even know how to drive. I'd walk three miles to her house to date her. Our idea of a date was to sit on her family's front porch and listen to the crickets chirp and occasionally steal a side glance from each other because, well, as I said before, Joyce was quiet and shy.
She says I was her first boyfriend. I find that hard to believe because she was so beautiful. But that really didn't seem too far-fetched because she was only 15 years old, and I was 17, when we first started going together and her parents were very, very protective in that old-school way. You never went out of the house unless parents knew where you were going and whom you were going with and they approved of it.
A couple of times, I quit Joyce because when I'd call her on the phone and tried to hold a conversation with her, she wouldn't say anything and only gave one-word answers. In other words, she was just quiet and shy.
So I'd tell her, "I'm going to quit you because you refuse to talk to me."
And Joyce would say, "Okay," and hang up the phone.
Boy, that made feel like a fool because two, three or four days later, I'd be calling her back acting like nothing was wrong. And since her memory wasn't too great, I could get away with it.
Eventually, we started really going together and fell in love. I almost lost Joyce when I fell in love with another beautiful girl when I was a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Joyce's family found out about it, told her to quit me because I was just using her. I was forced to make a very hard choice. I chose Joyce because we had been going together longer. For the first time, I'm telling the world that I cried when I made my decision. It a very hard one because I really loved both girls.
Joyce and I courted for seven years. We rode the bus to the movies. She came to hear me preach a few times. We were invited to each other's family dinners during the holidays. I met her sisters Gwinetta, Gloria and Deliece and her brothers Butch (or Roscoe Jr.) and Ronald. She met my sister Veronica and my brothers Sonny, Jimmy Lee, Ephthallia and Hansel. Her bothers are deceased. But they were very kind to me.
We married in her family's living room at 3129 North 29th street in KCK. We could not afford an expensive church wedding. We were saving our money more for a beautiful marriage than a big, expensive wedding.
Well, it has worked out well so far. We lost twin sons because they were born premature. But the Lord still blessed us with three daughters: Nicole, Noelle and Natasha.
Yes, it's worked out well because we loved the Lord, loved each other, loved our families and we LOVED TO WORK. Still do.
Years before we were married, Joyce and I worked hard and saved our money in joint checking and savings accounts. The only time Joyce ever really took off from work after we go married was when she was pregnant.
We have been able to raise our three daughters, send them to college and enjoy the finest experiences in life because we have always been a loving two-parent- working household. We were able to take our children on several wonderful family vacations in California and Florida, where they enjoyed both Disneyland and Disneyworld.
And when our children frowned on vacationing abroad, we'd take them on a vacation for them first. Then my sister-in-law Gloria would keep them while Joyce and I vacationed in London three times, Paris twice, Munich and Amsterdam once, Cancun once and Hawaii five times.
Now, Joyce is retiring from 41 years of full-time employment in Chicago, where we moved to set up our home shortly after we got married in 1968. We'd had some good times and we've had some bad times. But we've been blessed to work for and with some good people and some good companies. We've been able, so far, to enjoy meaningful careers with positive endings that include some pension and social security.
God has been good to us. Now, I pray that He blesses us to enjoy some retirement.
My father, the late Rev. A.D. Banks, never retired. He died of a stroke while still working full-time at age 64.
My mother, the late Sarah Lorraine Banks, never retired. She died of poisoning from medical negligence at age 42 while bearing a dead fetus in her womb.
My oldest sister, Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, and my father-in-law died shortly after retiring and thus were never really able to enjoy much of it.
My youngest brother, Hansel, died of a heart attack while still working odd jobs at age 52.
My sister-in-law Gwinetta retired years ago. My other two sisters-in-law, Gloria and Deliece, are still working hard.
Joyce and I are the legal guardians of my mother-in-law, who remains quite beautiful and busy at age 87. Hey, sometimes my mother drives me mad and almost crazy. But I love that woman to death and I am proud to be her only remaining original son-in-law.
Joyce has always been there for our daughters and me and has worked hard for us.
Joyce suffered her greatest setback when we lost our twin infant sons at childbirth in 1973.
She was there for me when I got fired by the Sun-Times in 1975. She stuck with me and supported me through 13 months of unemployment. until I won an arbitration case and got my job back.
She was there for me when I underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in 2001.
She was there for me the two times I underwent angioplasty and stentings in 2003 and 2005.
She was there for me when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure in 2008.
She was there for me when I underwent radiation treatment for my prostate cancer in 2008.
She was there for me when I underwent back surgery in 2009.
She was there for me when I was placed on the heart transplant list by the Mayo Clinic last November.
She was there for me when I suffered a heart attack on Jan. 11 of this year and then underwent life-saving, open-heart surgery to implant a heart pump on Jan. 29 to sustain me until I get a new heart.
And when I get my new heart, guess who I expect to be right there by my side praying for me and caring for me?
That's right: Joyce.
When somebody is as sick as I am, it pays to have a loving woman like Joyce in your corner. She and the Lord, not in that order, of course, are the main reasons I'm still alive.
God bless you because he sure is blessing me.
July 2010 Archives
God bless you.