A picture of my parents that was taken before the ravages of old age took over.

I was definitely moving slower and I couldn’t bend my arm much. I wished I wasn’t so irritable and had more patience with my youngest son this morning. It was especially painful knowing that I yelled at him before he left for school.

I put on my iPod as I left my house. My music played and was soothing for me. My first stop was to see my father. I had learned this morning that he would be having some procedures done in the afternoon. He had some blood clots in his lungs and a “filter” would be permanently placed in a leg artery to prevent any more clots from traveling upward. A stent needed to be placed into his kidney to drain fluid before he could have surgery to remove two, large kidney stones. That surgery would happen in a few weeks, I was told.

Those details are important information I must share to update my family members, but certainly not what I wanted to write about.

When I walked into the room where I was told my father would be, I was startled to see he wasn’t there. I walked out because there was someone else in the room. I went outside again and looked at the number on the door as I shook my head. Where else could he be?

I went back into the room and felt shock wash over me. The old man in the bed with his mouth open and eyes closed was my father. I hadn’t recognized him!

Without waking him, I sat in a chair next to his bed listening to music and just thinking. I took a picture of him, but wasn’t sure whether I would share it.

A nurse came in and put on the light. My father opened his eyes. He looked glad to see me. He asked me if I had brought him the Chapstick he wanted for his parched lips. I had only remembered when I parked, and bought some at the hospital pharmacy before coming to his room.

I gently applied it, painfully aware of how weak he was, because he was not able to do it by himself.

In a gravelly voice my father lectured me. He repeated the same instructions to me about my children and their “responsibilities.” I was patient, because normally I would have gotten angry and told him to reduce my stress and not add to it!

I wondered if he was nervous about his surgery and his “mortality.” He said, “When I’m better I am going to start throwing things away where I live!” It left me imagining that his current room was probably uninhabitable.

When I was growing up, he and my mother would fight over his hoarding problem quite often. My mother would cry and beg him to “clean up” an area of the house that he had “taken over.” He would always promise he would but he was such a serious hoarder that he could never part with anything.

He started to tell me where to find things that might be valuable. I got upset when he told me about some savings bonds that were in my brothers’ names. His instructions were complicated and I needed to gather them from different locations. I felt my voice tighten as I said, “Why haven’t you just told them? You could give me one less job!”

My father’s eyes flashed at that. He said, “Don’t start in with that! I’m telling you because I know you’re the one who will follow through with these things.”

I felt angry but held it in. I had to leave. It was time for me to go see my mother.

Receiving cards like this one from my friend, Marge, was definitely uplifting!

The burn was tightening and aching. I had several, big bags to carry. I had bought a deli lunch, and had some other bags with new blouses and makeup for my mom. There was no question I was her hero again today.

Her caregiver, Miriam had set up an area for us to eat lunch in a separate room at her facility. As the three of us ate, I could see my mother was confused about many things, but she was happy. That made her confusion bearable for me. I didn’t taste the food I had brought, and ate way too much. It was understandable because I could feel that I had stuffed too many feelings.

It was Miriam that gave me comfort. She was so helpful, kind, and loving. I felt like I had another, new friend in my life.

I had an appointment to check my burn after lunch. I was very tired, but glad that I would find out how it was healing. I spent over half and hour with a male nurse. He took pictures of my arm from many directions, and told me, “Oh, I’ve seen much worse burns than yours. Sometimes the blisters are bouncing like jellyfish!”

I told him that my arm was that way only two days ago. However, now it really was hurting me – I even had trouble playing my guitar. I was told to come back in a week and given the same steps of instructions to care for my burn. He said that I had done a good job; there was no sign of infection. It was a relief.

I came home and called the hospital to see how my father’s procedure had gone. I was told that I needed to call again later, because he was in recovery and his nurse was not available to speak with me.

I opened my mail. There was a letter from a song contest I had entered. It had cost me $30 per song, and I had entered four of my songs.


Clicking on this makes it larger.

As I read the letter, I knew right away I hadn’t won. I admonished myself for allowing my “dream” to give me false hope. Each of my four songs was critiqued, and I read carefully what was written. I could feel the disappointment inside of me.

I decided to rest for a bit. In my darkened bedroom I was sad. I needed to digest all the things that had happened to me over the past week.

I called the hospital again and was told my father’s procedure went fine. I thought I’d try his cell phone and was surprised when he answered it.

As we spoke, I realized how grateful I was that he was coherent and aware of everything – unlike my mother. He was truly a brilliant man. I asked him how he was feeling, if he had any pain.

He surprised me when he said with his voice full of emotion, “I am still here. I survived!”

I got off the phone and went to play my guitar. I could not sing anything. I played the chords and tears streamed down my cheeks.

I could taste their saltiness. I began to softly sing a few of my songs.

It was then that I decided I had indulged my “self-pity” enough. I knew I would write and tried to find clarity about everything I was feeling.

It was easy.

I was successful in my first career as an illustrator, though I was not wealthy. I have touched many people with my writing and songs, and certainly I have not made any money.

I didn’t need a song contest to prove the worthiness of my musical compositions.

There was only one thing in my life that truly counted. And there was no rating that I needed from anyone else for that.

That would be “performing as a good person,” as a human who had made a difference on this earth.

I decided to give myself a ten.

I don’t think the judge realized this was for my dead child, though I wrote it was in his memory on my entry form.

The judge thought my song was to a lover. I wrote it to be relatable and didn’t put that it was truly about losing my mother to dementia. 

I’m glad the judge liked the fact that the lyrics and music went well together! 

This is funny – my song is FAREWELL, not FARWELL! How could they give the title such a good rating with it misspelled?

© 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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