My mother and I in 2008

This picture of my mom with me was taken in 2008.

Yesterday, I managed to make time to intensely write at the crack of dawn. After breakfast, I finalized the “colored pencil over watercolor technique” on my illustration assignment. My heart was not into my art – hey, that rhymed!

I did not get a chance to visit my mother. I still have a light fixture and answering machine in my car for her. Thankfully, she has been very understanding of how busy I am. We talk frequently on the phone.

I did not speak to my father once, yesterday. That would be about the first time in probably five years. Now I realize the reason we didn’t speak was because his phone was off; I did call him! He probably needs a new cell-phone battery. Another thing I need to add to my list.

Last week, when my father had come over I had trouble concentrating on finishing some artwork while he was talking to me. I felt a wave of annoyance come over me when he said, “You really should go to bed; you’ll be tired tomorrow if you stay up too late.” 

I snapped at him, “Leave me alone! I have to finish my deadline!” 

As soon as the words left my mouth so help me god, I realized I sounded just like my daughter and he sounded just like me.

What a revelation about the parent/child dynamic! 

“Every day is a new day”

I was tired, but elated that my painting was done. My heart was not in it at all. Somehow, it wasn’t a “fresh,” transparent watercolor that I envisioned; it turned into an acrylic painting – a lot heavier, but adequate. It was midnight when I finished scanning the painting and correcting it.

Using the computer was relaxing. With a history eraser (a Photoshop tool), there could be no mistakes. While I worked, I listened to my songs playing on the computer. 

It was at that moment that my outlook suddenly felt positive. I actually wasn’t stressed at all today. In the first paragraph I wrote of the assumption that I would have stress every day!

Tomorrow meant “a new day” with endless possibilities. Instead of anticipating something bad might happen, I saw how there were good things at every turn! 

I also realized how glad I was that I decided to make the time to play tennis this morning; it was a priority for me. I thought it was way too windy to play. How surprising was that it worked out, despite the wind. I ended up playing! And as windy as it was, I felt so much lighter than I have felt in such a long time – it was almost as if I was flying off that court!

10 p.m.

It was late when I finished working on my layouts. I decided I would relax and read. I have stopped reading People Magazine and the newspaper. Instead, I had an envelope on my desk for over a week. I had taken it out of Jason’s box. On it was written, “Special Sympathy Cards.” I also had three journals; they were my diaries from high school and college.

I had forgotten all about them!

How exciting! I could really dig deep into my non-traumatic past! I went to my bedroom to read. I decided I could handle reading the sympathy cards sent to me in 1992 when my five-year old son, Jason, died. I opened card after card. At least three people who had written a sympathy cards to me were now dead. That was also sad for me. Michael wasn’t home, so I was alone.

Tears began to slowly inch down my cheeks. I was wet with tears! It had been a long time since I’d cried about Jason. Some of the cards had written poignant memories of him; that felt good.

It meant he really existed!

It was interesting to me that there were cards where I didn’t know who the person was who wrote it. Several cards were for my birthday; Jason died eight days before my birthday. They were not your typical “happy” birthday cards.

My husband came in; I told him what I was doing. I mentioned there were two cards addressed to him. Before he had come in, I had choked back sobs when I saw them. There were at least fifty signatures and statements from all his coworkers. Grown men wrote such moving things to him! I asked him if he wanted to see the cards. I was right; he wasn’t interested.

I saved those cards, knowing he’d never look at them again.

It was getting late. I enjoyed browsing through my diaries. I had almost finished them. I was amazed at how little substance there was. Mostly, I had written about the many relationships with girlfriends and boyfriends, as well as the activities. Every so often, there was something truly meaningful. I marked those with post-it notes. I will transcribe them later.

Yesterday, I had found one beautiful paragraph amidst my earliest writings; it was about my friend, the guitar. I posted it with one of my favorite songs.

I still had one last journal to finish. It was the unfinished one I had started after getting married. It only had about ten pages filled in. I remembered that after getting married, life just wasn’t as exciting to write about; I missed all my girlfriends and my carefree activities.

I remembered I wrote about feeling depressed. I learned so much about myself this evening. I thought I’d be an old lady when I had time to reminisce like this.

Here I am doing it when my life is so very busy!

Despite all the current stress, I’m just in a magical phase of my life right now. Everything is so interesting for me! 

A picture of me when I was nineteen.

I saw my mom today.

I made two calls for her this morning. I left a message again for her doctor. My mom wanted the feeding tube out, and was still waiting for a second opinion regarding having the screws removed due to her shoulder surgery last November.

I also called an administrator from her nursing facility. I begged this person to find an opening for my mom at the other campus where my father was. My parents needed each other very much. I knew my pleading made an impact. Once again, I felt very human and in touch with my ability to express powerful feelings. I could make a difference in my parent’s lives, as they had done with mine!

“Please! My parents’ sixtieth anniversary is coming up and my mother feels as though she will die before she’s reunited with her husband. My father is sleeping all day because he has been depressed from missing her so much!”

4:30 p.m.

There I was, lugging a box of items for my mother in her nursing facility. List of contents: answering machine and a manual, body-wash, deodorant, perfume, shampoo, dry mouth spray, toothpaste, and my dead, mother-in-law’s “most excellent” large dial watch, purse, and a magnifying glass. The moment my mom saw my box she said, “Did you bring face soap and batteries for my TV remote?”

I silently kicked myself for not thinking of those items.

And then there was that huge, lighting fixture Michael had bought for her. My mother had macular degeneration (the curse I fear of getting in my old age!). Lighting made a huge difference for her vision.

I felt excited to be going to see her after a week. For the two months she was in the hospital, I carried bricks on my entire body every moment of every day.

As I drove to see her, I sang along to my songs on tape while driving in my junky car. I was happy because I scored big.

My painting that I finished last night was approved with flying colors.

Another art performance that was successful. Will I ever banish that performance anxiety I face with each and every job; no matter how many years I continue succeeding? I just know my hypnotherapist, Connie, would suggest to me that I could “reframe” this thought in a more helpful way.

Okay, here it is, “How can I remember feeling this elation of success when I start a new job?

I spread out a lot when I work, but always organize everything afterwards.

I arrived at my mom’s nursing facility. She knew I was on my way and was in the lobby waiting expectantly for me in her wheelchair. She was scanning every person coming down that hallway.

Here are my analogies to describe her face as I walked up with the light fixture and big box of items for her:

She is in a window; I am the firewoman on a ladder saving her from the flames.

No, it is not an atomic blast of white light. It is my mother’s face.

Is it a neon sign flashing? No, my mother’s face again.

She is jumping out of her wheelchair. She is riding a bicycle next to me like we did forty years ago! Her face is shining.

I am galloping up on a while horse. I dismount and bow. I am the greatest heroine that ever lived.

I am the mother; I am the daughter. And today, I was the artist, too!

Bad List Today:

My oldest son was upset with me.

My daughter was upset with me.

My youngest son needed a consequence.

My husband looked tired and grouchy after work. He didn’t say he was upset with me, but he looked it.

Even the parrot looked grouchy; I’ve neglected him.

I received a bill from my dentist (after insurance) for $1,100

Property tax is coming due soon. It is an ungodly sum.

I am going to a funeral for my sister-in-law’s mom tomorrow. I hate funerals.

I need to order twenty-five more colored pencils; they are expensive.

Good List Today:

I found the time to write this.

I finished my job with flying colors.

I received the most amazing email from my former, college art teacher.

Even though I need to order more art supplies, it feels wonderful to know I’m using them up!

I took care of things for my mom (maybe they’ll find her an opening soon!)

My oldest son was very depressed, but I cheered him up.

I kissed my daughter’s forehead and gave her a big hug while she visited with me as I was typing this.

I ate dinner late, but still felt great. I have lost more weight. I am not filling myself up with food anymore.

My puppy still loves me. That is despite the fact that when I jumped up from my nap, I sent him flying five feet through the air with a yelp.

The parrot still gave me lots of kisses.

I played my guitar. I am a 70’s guitarist. I love music again. I played “If,” by the group Bread.

Bread is the perfect group for a sandwich generation lady!

I am going to go upstairs to cheer up my husband.

Last but not least, I’m not going to let the bad list bother me!

My landscape painting.

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Beth says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post, and I found myself relating to A LOT of things in there. I’m at a different stage in life, but somehow much the same. HOW do you find time to do your art??? Love’n the good list!

    blessings, Beth


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