While waiting for my father in my car, I snapped a picture of one of the many blisters on my arm. It didn’t hurt – really!


A line of lyric just crossed my mind. It was: “There were so many things that I wanted to tell you . . .”

That line from my song “So Real” referred to the fact that when I was awakening and still half asleep, I had blissfully forgotten about my loss. Of course, with the realization of grief, came the pain of knowing it was too late to share anything.

I remembered that line because I wish I could speak with my mom about everything going on in my life. I cannot tell her so many things because it would only cause her anxiety and pain. My mother is still alive, but with her rapidly advancing dementia I feel the loss of her presence in my life. It is real and very tangible for me.

This was taken on my fiftieth birthday, before my “transformation.”

I didn’t tell her that I was burned on Sunday. And taking my father to the hospital last night, well that’s another story.

I wonder if more challenges are facing me to test my resolve to stay positive.

I wrote these recent lyric lines, “She thought she’d always mourn, trauma from her past. But when she was reborn, healing came at last.” I’m no longer mourning, I’ve healed, and I definitely feel like I’ve been “reborn.”

However, I had hoped with healing, there would not be trauma from the past resurfacing anymore. I am only beginning to realize how deep the subconscious is because yesterday, I was overcome by a traumatic memory.

I visualize a traumatic memory as “dry tinder,” waiting for a certain spark that reignites it into scorching flames.

The “wave of trauma” that engulfed me was so vivid and heartbreaking; it left me in tears. I allowed it to come “up and out” and decided I could write about it.

Certainly, I was aware that my physical pain weakened my ability to control my emotions; I had edginess. I have been amazed at how well I’ve managed with the awful burn I suffered on Sunday.

I will share my “trauma memory” and story further along in this post. What I found so interesting was that I could easily have titled my story, “Trauma From her Present!”

“Trauma From her Present”

I wrote about my painful memory. The release of trauma left me emotionally spent, but I was still so appreciative of my life and where it was heading.

The phone rang as I was wiping away the tears. It was Miriam. She said my mother had refused physical therapy this morning.

My mother came on the phone and babbled incoherently as I gently explained to her how she loved exercising and it was important for her to do the therapy. Miriam said the therapist told her my mother could go back later on and try again.

My mom promised she would go back, after I convinced her. Despite her paranoia, she asked me how I was. I hesitated and then told her I was fine, but I wondered how I’d hide the bandages without being overly bundled the next time I saw her.

I spoke again to Miriam and told her that my mother said she would be compliant; to call me if any further problems arose. I also told her my father was sick and seeing a doctor today. He was in a lot of pain and wondered if it was his prostate that was bothering him.

The challenges were still coming for me!

I listened to the dual, guitar tracks I had created the night before and looked forward to singing a vocal with them. I was peaceful inside.

I spoke with the man at the computer “recovery service.” He told me he had many files of images I could look at; then I could decide if they were usable and he’d tell me the cost. I was surprised that I decided not to hurry over there and planned to go the next day.

I had thought of performing with my guitar at Kulak’s open mic, but my arm was covered with large, bubbling blisters. Though they didn’t hurt, I decided it would be better for me to take it easy.

However, instead of lifting my guitar, I was lifting my father’s walker into my car, and holding him to prevent him from falling.

This picture is of the “new me.” I am completely different from who I was in the picture with my mother taken a year earlier.

6:00 p.m.

I received a call from a nurse practitioner; my father was very ill with a severe, urinary tract infection. She was extremely concerned about his heart rate and blood pressure. My father refused to allow her to call an ambulance and she asked me to speak with him.

He did not want to go to the hospital. I was firm and he said he’d go if I would take him. I quickly got into my car and went first to pick up his medication at a nearby pharmacy.

Trauma began for me when I lost my patience waiting for my father while he shuffled through papers at his house. I had tired after half an hour sitting in my car – even my music didn’t help me. I raised my voice to him. I told him I was angry that he hadn’t allowed an ambulance to take him; the papers he needed weren’t necessary. I peeled back my bandage to show him my blisters, and quickly regretted it that instant!

My father became tearful and promised he could now leave. However, he could barely walk. I propped him up on his walker and then he stopped at my car door. He was moaning loudly in terrible pain. I began to cry also. “Dad, what should I do?”

He said, “Nothing! I’m urinating right now and it hurts! I can’t help it!”

The ordeal continued. One of my blisters popped and seeped through the bandage onto my leg. Having that “problem” was like feeling the effects of kryptonite. I could not be so powerful with my arm bandaged. I was weakened.

I undressed my father down to his shoes and socks. I was very pained and tried to overlook that his socks and shoes had holes. I also noticed his shirt and pants were dirty and frayed.

I knew he had lost a lot of weight, but he was truly skeletal as I pulled off his shirt. He needed to give a urine sample. He shuffled to the nearby emergency room bathroom and held onto me. Someone was inside and she was washing her hands.

My father began to moan again and said he couldn’t wait. I knocked on the door and said to the woman in a frantic voice, “Can I please come in?”

She said, “You can – but he can’t!”

My eyes were a dead giveaway. My father had already dropped his pants. She quickly went out.

I said to my dad, “I’ll wait outside for you!”

He said, “I need you! Wait here and hold the cup!”

I closed my eyes.

10:00 p.m.

My father was admitted to the hospital and he was having a lot of tests done. The young doctor was friendly and very funny. He made everything “light” and thought my dad was very healthy without any serious, preexisting conditions.

I decided I could leave – he kept telling me to go hours earlier. As I lifted my purse, it felt very light. My wallet was missing. I felt a panic run through me. I mentioned to my dad that it wasn’t there.

He admonished me for not zipping my purse tighter. I walked to my car wondering if this was just another challenge to add to my list. Could I continue to feel happy? I pledged that if I found my wallet I could stay positive.

I looked in my car and my wallet was on the floor. Relief flooded me. I knew I needed to go back to let my father know and it would be good exercise for me. As I walked back into the hospital, I listened to my music and danced.

I was happy.

A long ago beach day with Jason.

“A burn memory reignited”

It all started with the white, Silvadene cream that I was given to apply to my burn.

I remembered that cream well. But it wasn’t because I had personally experienced a burn before.

It was a long time ago. On that long ago morning, I was in the kitchen of our former house. That kitchen had a blue theme – I remember everything about it, even down to the tile I had picked out when we remodeled it.

My little boy, Jason, was keeping me company as I made our breakfast. He was so small and light – I carried him around with me since he was always so tired. I gently rested him on the counter top where I was making breakfast. He chattered away in his breathy, singsong voice.

I poured some hot water into a mug for coffee; I was about four feet away from him. Suddenly, the teakettle began sputtering as I was pouring it. There was burst of noise, and a violent stream of boiling water shot across the counter. It hit Jason on his tiny thigh. He began screaming loudly – just as I did, yesterday.

I quickly put his leg under cold water and watched the skin start to peel away. Just as mine did, yesterday. The area was about five inches in diameter.

My poor child, who had enough doctor visits in his lifetime, would have additional ones due to my negligence.

Because Jason usually went to his cardiologist due to his heart defect, I wasn’t that involved with his regular pediatrician. He was always busy, but I was fortunate I was able to get an immediate appointment that morning. There was a sweet nurse who seemed to remember me and she told me she could fit Jason in so I wouldn’t have to wait at urgent care.

Jason’s pediatrician was an older man who perhaps was ready to retire. He was certainly quite experienced and had many patients. The doctor’s name was Dr. Doi; he was Hawaiian and had very kind eyes. He patiently explained to me how to apply the white, Silvdene cream.

I felt so terrible, but was proud of how well Jason seemed to manage with the pain – just as I did, yesterday. I vowed never to make that mistake again when pouring hot water.

Last night, I carefully applied the same white cream to my arm. I could hear Jason’s voice from the past sweetly telling me how his burn felt so much better as I applied the cream. Then I remembered more.

It was when I was collapsed in a terrible state of grief. There were no words to describe the desolation and endless, aching pain. I was in a darkened bedroom and the phone was brought to me. I didn’t really want to speak to anyone.

It was a nurse who was on the phone. It was the same nurse from Dr. Doi’s office. She said, “I wanted to find out how Jason’s burn was doing – you didn’t come to your last appointment.”

My voice was monotone as I calmly said to her, “I’m so sorry to tell you – but Jason won’t be coming to any more appointments. He’s dead.”

Then, I explained to her about his recent, heart surgery and how he didn’t make it through.

I hung up the phone. I fell back into my “pit of despair.” But then there was another phone call. I didn’t want to take that call either. It was Dr. Doi on the phone.

This older man’s voice sounded like it was cracking.

I admired this doctor so much at that moment. I didn’t even think he remembered me, with all the patients that he had!

He said, “Mrs. Unger, I am so very sorry to hear about Jason. So, so very sorry. Please accept my condolences!”

I remember his voice and that moment so clearly that tears are coursing down my cheeks as I type this.

© Judy Unger and 2011. 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. Lori says:

    I just finished reading your latest blog entry with tears in my eyes. I also remember so vividly that exact phone call from Matthew’s pediatrician’s office. He had fallen and scraped his elbow pretty bad the week before he died. The doctor’s office called to see why I didn’t bring him for his follow-up. I couldn’t tell them what had happened so I handed the phone to Dave. I remember looking at that scrape after Matthew had died and knowing it would never heal. It haunted me for many months after he died.


  2. Karyn @ kloppenmum says:

    Hi Judy,
    My heart is with you.


  3. Janet says:

    My heart is breaking… again. Your positive attitude is so inspiring. You certainly have more than your fair share of challenges. Hang in there, my friend.


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