EVERY TIME I SEE A SMILE

A recent photo of me with Miriam, my mother’s amazing caregiver. I usually bring lunch for my mother and both of us every other week.

I aspire to make each day of my life precious. Every story of mine is honest as I express the beauty and pain of life as I experience it.

I want to write about what was truly meaningful for me yesterday.

“The appointment”

It seemed like a long time since my father had seen his urologist. I called his urologist’s office last week to see when my father’s next appointment was.

It turned out that my father had had an appointment the week before, but had not shown up. I was heartsick, because I didn’t even know about it and wondered why his facility didn’t keep the appointment. The receptionist then told me that only his facility could reschedule his appointment. Over the past week, I pestered his facility to make a new appointment for him.

It was getting harder and harder for me to witness my father’s discomfort and pain. I became tired of waiting. I called his doctor on Friday and demanded an appointment for him.

I was pleased that I got him an appointment for Monday. Otherwise, his next appointment was scheduled three weeks later.

Yesterday, I attended that appointment with his urologist. I packed some items for my father to eat since his appointment was close to lunchtime. I brought some tea in a bottle and my father’s favorite food item, which was pizza. I cut the slice of pizza up into small pieces and put it in a thermos to stay warm.

It was a humorous moment when my father told me to feed him. As I listened to the urologist explain my father’s condition, my father kept barking at me, “Please! Another forkful! And after that, my tea!” My father was intense; he was always that way when he became hungry.

What the doctor was saying was very important for me to hear. I fumbled with the thermos and kept trying to fork pieces of pizza into my father’s wide-open mouth, but they were all stuck together. I broke apart the pieces with my fingers while the doctor continued speaking. Thankfully, his doctor was understanding and kind.

I wasn’t surprised when the doctor said my father clearly had another infection; it made sense. On Saturday during my mother’s birthday lunch, the entire table of twelve people became silent as my father groaned so loudly that it became embarrassing. Everyone looked away in silence for well over a minute; no one was sure of what to do.

I looked at Miriam and both of our eyes locked together with deep sadness. She handed me a tissue. Tears equally rolled down both of our cheeks at the same time.

I was never so excited to see a box!

“Treating myself”

On Sunday, I picked up a brand new Mac computer! 

My childhood friend, Steve, helped me decided which one to order. I had the computer shipped to him first so he could prepare it for me. I sent him a backup drive to work with. When it arrived, he sent me a message and a picture. His message was simply; “Here she is!” 

Steve set it up and added significant and fantastic music software for me. There was no way I could ever repay him for all the extras he added for me.

I would not have gotten a new computer, except that the screen on my old one was increasingly becoming dark. A month earlier, I had paid $50 at a repair store to find out it wasn’t worth repairing. Two days before getting my new computer, my old one began to shut down unexpectedly on me. It was frustrating. 

It was so interesting for me that the day I picked up my new computer, my old one quit completely. I couldn’t have waited any longer. 

Today, I typed with a large, bright screen in front of me. I was overwhelmed as I searched for words to express my delight. I was especially thrilled that I allowed myself to buy a new computer; originally I had planned to find a used one. 

I had some anxiety about the cost, but let go of it. My journey has been about making sacrifices and not worrying about my lack of income.

My new baby.

“The older woman”

She reminded me of a younger version of my grandmother. Perhaps it was because she looked eastern European. Her accent was very thick.

It was still warm outside, and I had twenty minutes before I would perform at Kulak’s Woodshed, an open mic venue where I regularly played on Monday nights. In the twilight, I sat in the backseat of my van with the door open. I tuned my guitar and began to practice my song when she appeared in front of my car.

She listened as I continued singing. When she spoke, I didn’t understand her too well because of her accent. But I did understand when she told me that I was beautiful.

She looked very sad and poor. I knew she had a lot of stories to tell as she pointed to a bandage on her arm. It was then that I saw she was asking if I wanted to buy something. Clearly, she was down on her luck.

I asked her how much the item in the plastic bag was, and she told me it was three dollars. I gave her more than that and she thanked me profusely. I told her not to give me the item, that she could keep it and give it to someone else. She insisted, so I took it. I didn’t even know what it was. Later on when I opened it, I saw pajama bottoms; they were a perfect fit for my mother and I looked forward to giving it to her.

As I left my car to go perform, the woman grabbed my hand. Her eyes were shining as she hugged me. I would never forget her eyes or her face.

My new computer with a nice desktop!

I don’t usually put an image on my desktop because it is distracted. But I do for my screensaver.

“All the songs I’ll long to play”

I waited and checked my cell phone before my turn, which was approaching.

I was excited when I received a message from Nancy, my good friend and former illustration teacher who lived on the east coast. She said she would be watching my performance. The show at Kulak’s was always broadcast on the Internet. I quickly texted a message to her: 

I’m next and i’m nervous! i love u nanc!! 

She wrote back: 

You’ll do great!!!

XXX 

I sang my song and poured out my heart. The audience was very warm and receptive to me. The music lifted me higher than I could ever find the words to describe. When it was over, I saw a message from Nancy. She wrote: 

Clap clap clap clap clap!!!!! You’re soooo beautiful Judy!!

Love, Nan

I received another message. It was from Peaches, my voice teacher. She wrote: 

I am absolutely blown away by the beautiful vocal tone you now consistently produce. It is becoming 2nd nature for you. 

As I drove home, I reveled in how my day had indeed been precious. 

Emotion overwhelmed me and I allowed myself to express a few tears. 

My tears were about happiness and how meaningful my life was for me.

Message to my brothers after my appointment, yesterday: 

The urologist did a few tests on dad to see if he could urinate. He could not. His prostate is beyond enormous. 

The catheter needed to be replaced. IT WAS A GOOD THING I GOT DAD AN APPOINTMENT FOR TODAY!!! He already had an infection going on and looked sick. He was given an antibiotic injection. His doctor is growing a culture to see what bacteria he has before ordering any more antibiotics. I pray it isn’t something where he’ll need another pic line put in. 

His doctor wants to try one more procedure that might shrink his prostate using a “microwave technique.” I told him that I don’t have a lot of faith in his “non-invasive” procedures now. He told me that 99% of the time he has seen them work. It is currently scheduled to happen a week from Friday. 

It seems that we have been unlucky with dad being in the 1% that didn’t have a successful result so far. Maybe we’ll luck out on the next procedure. 

I packed dad a lunch and he was so glad I did. He was very hungry and ate a slice of pizza while we conferred with the doctor. 

Love, Jude

A message from my doctor friend, Sam: 

Same story all over again…your dad gets a urinary infection…he’s placed on antibiotics, gets better…then you’re told he’s too ill to do anything else, then two weeks later…your dad gets a urinary infection, etc. etc. This urologist needs to do something definitive…it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep your dad on a small dose of a daily antibiotic after the infection is cleared just to see if you can break the cycle…sometimes this just breeds a resistant organism, but other times it does work…still would get a second opinion on this…agree that the approach at this point should be more aggressive!…Sam

My reply:

Hi Sam, 

Thanks so much for writing. 

I agree with you 100%. My dad is against going for the second opinion, but I’m just going to follow through with making an appointment today. 

The thing is, his urologist says the surgery is pretty invasive and that there is nothing to lose by doing the microwaving procedure. He wants my dad to clear up the infection (and find out which bacteria he has) and give it a shot. I’m with you, though. I feel like with time marching on, my dad’s chances are less. 

I also think his urologist feels my dad won’t survive this surgery (he called it a “bloody mess”). Certainly, I heard that they usually don’t like to do two procedures at once – prostate and kidney stones. But of course, they’re in close proximity and it makes sense to take care of both things together. 

I do think the surgery will kill him. But he does not know I feel that way. He actually told the doctor he is so miserable that he wants something done as soon as possible. I think surgery is imminent, but only if he doesn’t succumb to infection. The microwave thing is a week from Friday. Surgery will be scheduled after that. 

Judy 

I think the microwave procedure is a reasonable choice, but still would get a second opinion to see if there are any other options. It is true that a major surgical procedure in an 86 year old is difficult under the best conditions, let alone when he keeps having recurrent infections…but I do think that these recurrent infections can be prevented, or at least watched for more closely! And I think the reason to be aggressive is because your Dad appears to otherwise be in good health, right? He is mentally sharp, and a lot of the changes in his condition can be explained by pain or infection. Prostate enlargement and kidney stones should not cause his demise! You should continue to strongly advocate for him (you are the best advocate anyway, from all of your experience!), and make sure that his docs are paying attention to him! It’s really hard to have an ongoing daily challenge like this, and it can wear you down, but know that you will handle it well!…Sam

A picture from one of my last shows at Border’s Bookstores, which went bankrupt.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 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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