Finalist: 2016 San Francisco Writer's Conference Memoir Contest
Finalist: 2016 Writer's Digest Writing Competition
Finalist: 2017 New Millennium Writings 43rd Literary Awards Competition: Nonfiction


Above all, I have been a sentient being,
a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet,
and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
 Oliver Sacks


A Mother's Diary

by Dede Ranahan


Welcome to my world.

My story is written in diary format. I wrote it from June 15, 2013, to June 15, 2014. I’ve always wished I’d uncovered a diary or letter written by one of my relatives a hundred years ago. With so much interest in ancestry right now, I decided to pay it forward for my children and grandchildren, and leave a time capsule for them from the deep, dark past of today.

What I didn’t know, as I was writing, was that I was capturing the last year of my son’s life. Pat died, unexpectedly, on July 23, 2014, on a hospital psych ward where I thought he was safe. Suddenly, my diary morphed into a more poignant record than I’d anticipated.

I like stories where I can extrapolate from the singular to the universal — that is where I can identify with a common denominator in another person’s experience. One early reader of my diary said, “Your story is so relatable.” That’s what I hope other readers will say.

You may relate to my story if...
    You have a child (children) you love more than your own life.
    You have a child who suffers from serious mental illness.
    You’ve lost a child — no matter what age.
    You're a member of the sandwich generation.
    You’re trying to live more in the moment, be more observant, and find joy in each day.
    You treasure conversations with children — especially when they’re your grandchildren.
    Your cat or your dog is in charge of your household.
    Your bones are beginning to creak. 
    You wake up each morning with a huge hole in your heart but you know, somehow, someway, you have to get up and put one foot in front of the other.
    You enjoy reading the other side of history — about ordinary people and their daily lives.
    You're struggling to align the happiness and sadness in your life.
    You’ve been thinking of leaving something for your descendants — a letter, story, diary, song, painting or poem — but you haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe my diary will spur you on.

More notes about format:
    I've added a Before section (Scenes from the Trenches). Going in, I want the reader to know “Yes, Houston, we really do have a problem.” 
    After he died, I discovered Pat had been making regular posts on Facebook. I decided to add his comments to my own.
    I’ve divided my diary into quarters - Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. I introduce each with one of Pat’s poems.
    I end with an After section that I didn't see coming.

As I was writing, I didn't know, from day to day, what stories were unfolding. I learn, right along with the reader, what will happen next. We're all on a journey. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

Akamai (ah-ka-my) is Hawaiian slang for wit and wisdom. In spiritual numerology, 777 is a lucky number, a number of God. “Akamai777” meaning “Wit, wisdom, and a big hug from the universe,” was one of Pat's favorite salutations. I don’t know if he made it up or found it somewhere.

Pat, in your honor, I’m noting your phrase and passing it on. I love you forever. Mom          




 The Jazz

The Jazz

Dede/Mim - Me
Patrick/Pat - My son
Pop - My Pop
GG - My Mother
Megan (Britt) - My Utah daughter
Marisa (Keith) - My Washington daughter
Kerry (David) - My California daughter
Aidan, Ashton, Sam, Elise, Regan, Ayla - My grandchildren
Jim (Sharon) - My brother
Annette - My Kansas City cousin
Michael (Karen) - My nephew
Jazzy/The Jazz - My black kitty cat
Lexi - Pat’s Black Forest Hound

Grace, Joan, Irene, Helena, Kaye, Deanne, Jan & Jim, Scotty, Bill & Betty, Rose, Jean, other mothers like me.

Prince George, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Vladimir Putin, Linda Ronstadt, Pope Francis, President Kennedy, Batman and Batkid, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Seuss, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Wolf OR7, California Chrome, Maya Angelou
Special Guest Star - George Clooney

Northern California - My home
Seattle, Washington - Marisa’s home
Bend, Oregon - A weekend get-away