My Previa going to heaven

My post title is a lyric line from my most recent song “Music Saved Me.”


I do have a strong attachment to memories. My memories might involve “objects,” but those objects only serve as a way to remind me of memories filled with special people whom I’ve loved. Some of those memories are sad.


Currently, I’d like to think that I am creating happier memories. There are many “firsts” in my life, as I am now living on my own at the age of 53 for the first time in my life.

A picture from when I was 17.

A picture from when I was 17.

I understand why exciting things in my life can cause me to feel sadness. For decades, I relied upon my parents to cheer me on. Sadly, I didn’t share much with my husband.


Somehow, simply knowing that I can write freely has allowed me to dispel much of that sadness. Finding the courage to change my life, gave me the clarity to know that I was alone for far longer than I realized.


Not being able to express myself was far lonelier than anything else.


Now I can share my insights by writing. But my true expression has been through my music. I am joyful and dancing along to exquisite new songs arrangements that I work on weekly.

This image is from a video of one of my performances at Kulak’s Woodshed. Sometimes the video has images that overlap, and I can see myself playing in the refection.

This image is from a video of one of my performances at Kulak’s Woodshed. Sometimes the video has images that overlap, and I can see myself playing in the refection.

Recently, I told a good friend that my music has allowed me to “keep my sanity.” Later on, it dawned on me that those were not the best choice of words.


Even though I’ve written that “music saved me,” the fact is that I survived the death of my child without any music to help me. I wasn’t insane then, just sad. I see a far more positive way of looking at what my music does for me.

My beautiful music inspires me and gives me tremendous appreciation for life.

D.D.'s Blog

After I wrote of my memories related to my old Previa, I read a post on another blog that really spoke to me. I share an excerpt below. The author is D.D. Wood and her blog always carries such insightful words and beautiful photography (the image above, for example). D.D. is also an established singer/songwriter who has performed in various Disney films. Her blog can be found by clicking this link: Daily Divorce Meditations


“When I first went through my divorce, my feelings and my memories were so intense that they often hindered my progress in the present.

I spent so much time examining what had happened in my past, turning over each and every memory to see if it held the answer to what went wrong, that I wasn’t living in the moment.

I found myself unable to recover from my pain because I was constantly reliving it.”

My last picture of my minivan



I created a rendition of my old Previa going to heaven, which begins my post.


I ended up giving my car to my former housekeeper, Rosa who worked with our family for 23 years. Certainly, I was happy if she was able to get a little extra money at the junkyard for it. She was over this evening and I was able to show her my “dead minivan going to heaven” image. Then she told me something interesting.


She told me she gave the minivan to a neighbor with a large family who planned to fix it. It turned out that it would actually benefit two families. The husband’s sister had cancer. His wife’s sister was recently diagnosed with cancer also. The van would help them transport all of their children during this crisis. I was touched hearing this and imagined I might see my old car on the road someday; something I didn’t expect!


Now, I want to share some memories about the very first new car I ever owned. The excitement about my 1993 Previa lasted only a few months. The Northridge earthquake came along and my car became dented in many places because so many items in the garage fell on it.


I took that as a sign to get over keeping it like new. It was the perfect “mommy van” and later on “elder van.” It survived two major accidents and worked great for all the years I needed it to. The first accident happened when my daughter was a toddler. Five years later when my youngest son was born, my husband had an accident due to his fatigue.


Both times the car could be repaired.


On family vacations, our mini-van was packed and there was no end to fighting between our three children. There never was a pleasant car ride. I am traumatized remembering my husband’s booming voice yelling at them, as well as my own shrill pleas for them to stop fighting.


My children continued to grow. When they were older, I was buying huge amounts of household items and food every few days at Costco. My minivan was very useful for that.


But I had no pride in my vehicle. It attracted shopping cart dents. Eventually, none of the seatbelts retracted well and my husband would curse trying to put one on. I gave up trying to clean it. I even made a note of how long I could go between car washes. My last car wash was two years ago.


When my parents became infirm, the back area that once stored strollers was excellent for wheelchairs. In the beginning, a wheelchair was very heavy for me to lift. Later on, I learned how to easily fold it up and heave it into the trunk area.


My Previa had 215,000 miles on it. Only a year ago, I endangered my life when the drive shaft almost broke apart while I was driving on the freeway. I knew I deserved a newer car, but didn’t care. My car got me around.


I was slightly ashamed at how dirty my van was and decided the end was coming. I began to curse at it when the seatbelt continuously got caught as I closed the door.


My Previa didn’t even have a decent radio, so I listened to my iPod while driving with ear buds. I knew that wasn’t a good idea and I might even get a ticket.


I dreamt of listening to my music through speakers someday.


The beginning:

It was a summer evening and my parents came over for dinner. I was so excited to show them my new car. It was the first new car I had ever owned in my life.


I was able to buy it with cash, because that year my art career provided a good income.


I went to meet my parents outside. My mother gushed over my new car. She was enthusiastic while my father was quiet. He stayed outside with me and she went inside to see her grandchildren.


I recounted to my dad how the car salesman would not give me the price I wanted, so I went home. Two days later, the manager of the dealership agreed to my price and the car was delivered to my doorstep with the papers to sign.


Suddenly, my father started sobbing uncontrollably. I hadn’t expected this. I said, “Dad, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” I was shocked.


He caught his breath and said hoarsely, “I am crying because I am so very proud of my daughter.”


Then I began crying!


When I wrote this, I cried again remembering how wonderful it was that my father loved me so much.


A picture from a family vacation. My brother, Norm is on the right.

A picture from a family vacation. My brother, Norm is on the right.

A few months later:

It had been ten years since I had last seen my friend, Cheryl. She lived far away and was in town for a brief visit. We had been so close in college, and now this was our first visit after ten years. We had finally reconciled, and didn’t discuss our rift.


A long time ago, we were single woman and now we were mothers. Cheryl’s two young children played in the backyard. I held my infant daughter in my lap and my 3-year-old son sat next to me.


Cheryl's visit


It was a lovely afternoon. We sipped iced tea and reminisced in-between tending to our children. It had been a little over a year since Jason had died. I was very sad and overweight. Rather than avoid bringing up grief, Cheryl asked me if I could show her pictures of Jason. She said, “Judy, he was so beautiful,” I cried and was very touched.


When it was time to go, I followed her outside to say goodbye. I had just gotten my new Previa and when she saw it in my driveway she said, “Oh my God, Judy, we wanted a Previa, but couldn’t afford it. You know, it’s the perfect family car, the absolute best! You are so lucky!”


I beamed at Cheryl. She always knew how to make me feel great. I hugged her tightly; I had missed her over those ten years. I also knew that it might be many years before I’d see her again.


I miss my good friend, Cheryl, who died from breast cancer in 2009.

Not sure if this was the illustration in my anecdote below or not. But it was one of dozens that were commissioned through my San Francisco agent, Barb Hauser.

Not sure if this was the illustration in my anecdote below or not. But it was one of dozens that were commissioned through my San Francisco agent, Barb Hauser.

2 years later:

My illustration was due the following morning in San Francisco. My agent wanted to give me as much time as possible and agreed to pick the artwork up at the airport. I simply had to drive half an hour to a local airport and send it as a parcel on a flight. It wasn’t cheap, but the client had agreed to pay for it. I felt exhilarated to be able to pull off such a challenging assignment so quickly.


My eyes were bleary and when I finished my painting at 2 a.m. Fortunately, there was a 7 a.m. flight and my agent would be able to pick it up and still get it to the client in the morning. It made sense for me to drive to the airport and be done with it.


But at 3 a.m. when I arrived at the airport, it was closed. I didn’t know this airport wasn’t open all night.


I curled up in the trunk area of my Previa and was thankful for the room. I slept a few hours until the airport opened, so I could put my artwork on that flight.


After that, I always kept a pillow and blanket in my car.

Flower Flats

3 years later:

My daughter was in preschool and I was on my way to pick her up. As I exited the freeway, I saw a car careening toward me through a red light. I couldn’t stop in time. I braked as the other car clipped the front of my car. My head lightly bumped the side window, but I didn’t feel any pain.


I could see the other lady was bleeding and her windshield was shattered. I sprinted out of my car to the nearest house across the street. I banged on the door, and shouted that there was an accident nearby. How wonderful it would have been if I owned a cellphone then!


I ran back to my car and a moment later there were sirens. The paramedics immobilized me with a large brace upon my neck. They told me that I should not have moved at all after the accident. But all I could think of was how my daughter was waiting to be picked up and I wasn’t there.


At the ER, I begged a nurse to bring me a phone so I could call the preschool. Finally, I was able to call, and was relieved to know that another mother would bring my daughter home. The preschool receptionist was concerned about me, but I reassured her that I was fine and the hospital would release me soon.


At that moment, I had to put the phone down because a doctor came to examine me. I was taken out for x-rays and when I came back into the room, a nurse told me my husband had called.  It turned out that the preschool had called him. He did not know if I was injured and had frantically searched to find out which hospital I was in. I picked up the phone and my husband’s voice was angry when he asked me why I hadn’t called him right away.


An hour or so later he arrived to pick me up. I tried to explain how I only had time to call 911. After that, I was so worried about our daughter being picked up that I hadn’t had time to make any other calls. My words did not ring true for him and his eyes were filled with disappointment.


The ER said I was fine and I was allowed to go home after four hours. I went to bed exhausted.


I could not let go of how disappointed my husband was with me. I told myself that his reaction was because he was so worried. But I had such an ominous feeling.


I also missed my parents who were out of town on a cruise that week. They were the ones I really wanted to call; my husband was right. As I was dozing off, I heard him shrug his shoulders and ask me to give him a back rub.


I felt such a stabbing pain in my heart, and I pushed it back down.


I just knew my husband would never forgive me for not calling him immediately. And at that moment, I knew I would never forgive him either. It was the beginning of my heart growing cold.


I wished instead that he had offered to give me a back rub.

I named my photo “No Longer Lovebirds.”The bird on the left looks angry and the bird on the right has her head somewhere else.

I named my photo “No Longer Lovebirds.”
The bird on the left looks angry and the bird on the right looks withdrawn.

Eighteen years later:

It was outing day for my 87-year-old father. He always looked forward to coming to my house so he could “putter” around. I arrived at his nursing home to pick him up and pushed his wheelchair to my car. Even with a scarf and blanket, he still shivered. He gripped his catheter and hose in a shopping bag, which he thought cleverly concealed it.


A nurse urged me to wear gloves when handling his bag because my father had rampant infections, but I never did. When we reached my minivan, my father slowly stood up from his wheelchair. I gently lifted his leg into my car while he gripped the door handle. He moaned loudly and then grunted, “I need you to move my other leg over now.”


It was always the same routine. I moved his other leg over. Then I reached around to put on his seatbelt. His voice was gruff when he said, “You don’t need to bother with a seatbelt.”


I ignored him. He was like my child now. I actually enjoyed reaching across his body to snap him in securely. I felt like I was a “good mommy,” even though he flinched when I touched him. I still remember his soft flannel shirt and skinny body under it.


After that, I felt confident as I put his wheelchair in the trunk. The car ride to my home was interminable because he cried out loudly with every bump I went over. During the rest of the drive he softly moaned.


I could not stand to hear his suffering and cried tears inside while I drove. I felt so helpless when he cried.


I decided I was just not a good enough driver.

Dad in his wheelchair

dark sky 2

“Getting Up Off the Ground”

It was Sunday morning and the sky was gray. I drove in the misty rain half an hour to attend my first voice lesson with a new teacher.


Her name was Kimberly. A year earlier, I had heard her sing at an event for a good friend of mine. When I heard Kimberly’s voice, I was envious and wished I could sing that way. When the moment was right, I introduced myself and told her what a beautiful voice she had. Later on, I found out that Kimberly taught voice lessons and I wrote her last name down on a piece of paper.


My first vocal coach, Peaches Chrenko moved away two months ago. Peaches had worked with me for over two years and I sure missed our joyful lessons.


Last week, I decided it was time for me to sing again. Just like with George, the day came when I was ready and I remembered in my drawer there was a piece of paper with Kimberly’s last name on it. I searched her up on the Internet and contacted her. I was amazed when she emailed me back and said that she remembered me.


On Sunday our lesson went beautifully. I brought my guitar and played one of my favorite songs for her called “Alabaster Seashell.” She understood exactly what I wanted.


I just knew Kimberly was special. There was a paper list taped on the wall above her keyboard. It was a list of vocal reminders. I asked her if they were written specifically for me and she smiled and said they weren’t.


Her technique was exactly what I needed. I drove home singing. Life was definitely improving.


It was all about giving myself permission to be happy.

My two older brothers, Howard and Norman

My two older brothers, Howard and Norman

“My second new car”

I came home from my lesson and twenty minutes later I drove to meet my brother, Norm and sister-in-law, Jo at a Honda dealership.


My brother said he’d help me when I leased my first car. The entire process took five hours. It was exhausting and I kept looking at Norm and Jo with intense gratitude.


They had given up their Sunday just to be there for me.


At one point, the negotiations were getting frustrating. Hidden costs kept popping up, and Norm questioned each one. The fact that Norm was a CPA became easily apparent to the salesman because Norm understood every ploy.


Finally, we all had had enough. It turned out that the car I was negotiating for wasn’t even available in the color I wanted. They had another Civic in that color, but it had a more expensive accessory, a spoiler, which I didn’t care about.


It was time to go.


I picked up my purse. We were all tired. I told my brother there was no hurry. It had been 19 years since I’d had a new car and I could wait a little longer. But just as we began to step outside, the salesman came running after us. He said they would give us a better offer on the Civic with the spoiler.


Two hours later, I was driving home my new Honda Civic.


I felt so blessed that I had so much love from both my two brothers.


With Norm and Jo’s help, I returned the car I had borrowed from my middle brother, Howard. Howard’s generosity allowed me to take my time while shopping for a new car.


It was still drizzling as I drove home. I was overcome by the overpowering odor of my brand new car. In the darkness, it maneuvered so easily.


I pretended I was piloting a rocket ship through space. As the drizzle became a steady rain, I was pleased that I figured out how to turn on the windshield wipers.

I decided the rain held my father’s happy tears from above.

To the dearest brothers

My childhood artwork that my father saved was especially meaningful.

I love the childhood artwork that my father saved.

My parents would have been so proud of my brothers for helping me. Sadly, my dad died this past May and my mother has severe dementia.

My parents would have been so proud of my brothers for helping me. Sadly, my dad died this past May and my mother has severe dementia.

Judy with her mom and brothers

Humor Moments:


I received an email from my old boyfriend, Dr. Sam congratulating me on my new car. We reconnected when he found my blog and left a comment (#137 YOU’RE NOT THE ONE) Sam and I love puns very much. His words are in brown.


On Dec 19, 2012, Dr. Sam wrote:

Hi Judy!…Mazel Tov on the car…use it in good health!


Thanks, Sam – It’s new and that’s so cool for me. I’m really enjoying it. I’m actually writing a farewell story about my Previa at the moment. Hope you’re well.


A farewell story? How about a car-toon?


I love that pun! It would be a car-tune if I wrote a song! Thanks, Sam.


You are right…so make it an auto-biography!

Your puns are driving me crazy!

I thought that I had the last word, but I was wrong. I received an email from my good friend, Carol. Carol and Sam were together many years ago and I reconnected with Carol at the same time as Sam.


Her message was:


On Dec 20, 2012, Carol wrote:

Keeping up with these puns isn’t just tiring, it’s exhausting!

my mom and my civic 4
my mom and my civic 3 my mom and my civic 2My mom and my civic 3My mom and my civic 4

© Judy Unger and 2012. 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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