A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan - OCTOBER 19, 2013 - NOVEMBER 2, 2013

One Day * Stories Inside Stories * Fashion Shows * Distractions * Damsel Braids and Inchworms * Ode to Cleaning * Busy Day * Gravity * Animal Sanctuary * Elder Ride * Halloween * Obsession * A Calling to Write

To read A Mother's Diary from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."

 

OCTOBER 19, 2013: ONE DAY

Kerry and Marisa are walking a ten-mile Nike marathon for breast cancer in San Francisco.

Megan's hiking with her family in Utah's Kolob Canyon.

Pat's working the sound system at Unity Church in Roseville.

GG's attending a tea party in her assisted living facility in Roseville.

I'm playing duplicate bridge in Lincoln.

Four kids.

One mom.

And me.

One day.

 

OCTOBER 20, 2013: STORIES INSIDE STORIES

I'm taking my Prius in for its 60,000-mile service. The dealership shuttle drops me off at the Galleria Mall while I wait for my car. The shuttle driver tells me to call her when I'm ready to be picked up. Sounds like a plan. The mall doesn't open until 11:00 a.m. and it's 10:30. I find an open entrance next to Pottery Barn. A woman is letting someone inside the store.

"Are you open?"

"No, but we're giving a decorating class and you're welcome to attend."

A sales associate carries a water canister filled with ice, water, and lemon slices out to the desk by the cash register. This is an item I've been thinking about for a while and here it is, right in front of me. And because I'm attending the decorating class, I get a coupon for 10% off anything I buy today. I ask the salesperson to put a water canister and its white porcelain base aside for me while I look around. I love browsing in this store. I enjoy the displays of pillows, candles, artificial flowers, and baskets. As if every home in America looks like this. It's a Norman Rockwell marketing strategy.

I scoot over to Crate and Barrel, which is right next door, to check out their water servers. They have more expensive models but they're not as nice as the one I have on hold at Pottery Barn. This is a shopper's dream. I've found a better buy and I get 10% off. The devil's leading me on. Before going back to pay for the water server, I see white dishes. I'm not looking for white dishes. I don't really need white dishes. But dishes and serving ware are two of my guilty pleasures. These dinner plates are labeled a "Best Buy." They're $5.95 each or eight for $41.95. They're oven, microwave, and dishwasher proof. They'd look perfect on my table at Christmas. To be an equal opportunity consumer, I buy the plates at Crate and Barrel and head back to Pottery Barn to purchase the water canister. This is turning into a successful shopping trip.

The dealership calls to say my car is ready. They've found some suspicious looking bubbling around the water pump seal. It should be watched.

"How much is the water pump replacement?"

"Four hundred fifty-seven dollars."

"No way."

They're not telling me I can't drive my car off the lot without repair. And a water pump isn't nearly as much fun as a water server and white dinner plates. I call the shuttle driver to tell her I'm ready to be picked up. I get a recording that says, "The shuttle will get to you in the order of your call."

I head over to Nordstrom's and sit down on a bench in the entry way between the parking lot and the store. This Nordstrom entrance is where the shuttle driver said she'd pick me up. Half an hour goes by. I call the shuttle service again and get the same recording. I leave another message. I'm in my people-watching mode. A lanky man and a lumpy woman walk through the door.

"I won't wear something like that," she says, "I'm too chunky."

I make up a back story. They're dating. They haven't slept together yet. She's trying to prepare her guy.

Three teenage girls run out the door. One shouts, "There he is. Hey, dude!"

They sprint and scramble into a car. Back Story: The "dude" is the girl's older brother who just got his driver's license. In return for getting to drive the family car, he has to drive his little sister and her friends to the mall.

A Russian family of five charge through the entry way. The mother barks something at the father. Sounds like "$%#!(***." Back story: The husband and wife are fighting over how to spend their money at the mall. She wants to buy a pressure cooker. He wants to buy boots.

A bald man and a long-haired woman enter from the outside door. She races ahead and opens the inside door to the store. "People don't have to open the door for me," she says, "I do it myself."

Back story: The woman asked the man to take out the trash this morning and he said, "Do it yourself." She's pissed.

It's two-and-a-half hours since I called the shuttle service. Something's amiss. I call the service tech. I get his cell phone and a recording. I leave a message. I'm tired of people-watching and I'm losing my sense of humor. I call an office number. A perky girl answers.

"Can I help you?"

"I hope so."

I tell her my back story. She puts me on hold. Several minutes later, she comes on the line again. "We're very sorry. The shuttle driver never got your message. She'll be right there."

The shuttle arrives. The driver's apologetic. "It's my third day on the job. I'm so sorry." She apologizes all the way back to the dealership. Inside, the service technician apologizes.

All's well that ends well. I drive back to the mall to pick up my packages. At home, the water server and the white dishes look even better than they did in the stores. I usually hate shopping, but today felt spontaneous and in-the-zone. Next time I go shopping, I'll probably end up buying a new water pump.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I spent a week in my car yesterday. Accepted a ride-share gig to drive a guy to Oregon to bring his daughter to her mother as part of his custody agreement. The ride up, starting at 6 a.m., was narrated all the way by a three year old demanding food, water, hand-holding, song-singing, and frequent bathroom stops. 

The way back was narrated by a guy (who had a gleam of danger in his eyes) who could not stop talking and would become emotionally agitated every time we saw a policer officer on the road. He pontificated endlessly on how much he hated cops, government, "anything related to social control."

I still hear him babbling. Didn't get home till after 9 p.m. What horrors I have to subject myself to in order to put a few bucks in my pocket. Beware of babblers who can't tolerate silence and who begin almost every thought with, "You know, a lot of people don't know this, but..."

If nothing else, the creative material is piling up. I feel a book of short stories coming on.

 

OCTOBER 22, 2013: FASHION SHOWS

It's been 30 years since I've been to a fashion show and, today, I'm at a fashion show put on by community volunteers. Three stores are providing the outfits. The models wear lots of palazzo pants that make everyone look shapeless. Baubles, bangles, and beads remind me of the sixties. Very Bohemian.

Ten women are sitting with me at a round table. Four are in long-term marriages. Four are long-term singles. One, who is 70-something, is newly wed. One, who is 70-something, is newly widowed. The circle of life on display in a circle of women.

The woman next to me says, "I hope the show ends soon."

Me, too. I'd like to see a few ensembles put together from the clothing at Snap it Up. At intermission, I ask the woman in charge if they've ever used outfits from a thrift store.

"We don't do that here," she says.

Another 20 minutes and this fashion show will be over and, then, I'm good for another 30 years.

 

OCTOBER 23, 2013: DISTRACTIONS

This morning I woke up to the sound of someone walking on my roof, the gutter cleaner guy. Talked to a plumber about the faulty garbage disposal in the house GG rents to Pat, and told him to replace it. Now I'm getting ready for the carpet cleaner. I'm moving floor lamps and small tables into the kitchen.

With all this home maintenance, my focus is on materials. I'm feeling out of touch with my spiritual side. I take deep breaths and think about how to make cleaning and repairing a meditative exercise. Especially, when it's costing me money I'd rather spend on other things.

 

OCTOBER 24, 2013: DAMSEL BRAIDS AND INCHWORMS

Kerry and Regan are attending a Brownie meeting to pack Thanksgiving baskets for people in need so I'm babysitting Ayla. I pull into Kerry's driveway.

"Boo!"

A pouf of red hair pops out of the shadows.

"Look at the ghosts Mommy hung in our tree. Look at the scary pictures in our window. Want to come in and see our skeleton?"

Inside, Ayla's house isn't as scary as outside. Inside, we're reading books — a Bad Kitty book and a book about a chameleon. While we read, we wear damsel crowns and braids made of corn-yellow yarn and entwined with artificial flowers.

Ayla says, "We must wear them together, Mim."

She looks much prettier in her damsel braid than I do. "It will puff your hair up, Mim, but your hair is shorter than mine so it won't puff it up too much."

We're in the backyard, in our damsel braids, looking for bugs. Right away Ayla spies a tiny inchworm. "I love bugs, Mim. When I grow up, I'm going to work with bugs."

Ayla picks up the inchworm and cradles it in her palm. "This is Bumpy. He's the same worm I found last week."

"The same one?"

"Yes, but this is the real Bumpy."

We pick leaves and grass for Bumpy and throw a couple of pieces of bark into his plastic bowl. Ayla notices a pink flower on a small bush. It looks like a miniature camellia. "Isn't it beautiful, Mim?"

Ayla drops Bumpy on the flower. He's taking a nap.

Still wearing our damsel braids, we're back in the house and using Kerry's iPad. Ayla knows the password. She finds a screen of Halloween games. She's facile. Playing games on iPads is easy — like reading books and finding bugs.

"Show me how to play the games, Ayla."

"It's simple, Mim. Watch me."

I am watching you, Ayla. Watching you is pure joy.

The real Bumpy

The real Bumpy

 

OCTOBER 25, 2013: ODE TO CLEANING

The whole house is torn apart
The furniture's piled high
The ceiling fans whirr overhead
The carpets have to dry.

The cat can't find her litter box
The sofas are still wet
The more I try to clean my house
The messier I get.

 

OCTOBER 27, 2013: BUSY DAY

My busy day:

1. I refilled two bird feeders. They've been empty for weeks. The word in the trees is, "Don't bother with that house on Periwinkle Lane. Food's good when you can get it but the management's unreliable."

2. I put the house back together from the carpet cleaning.

3. I took my evening walk early since it's getting dark sooner. I was happy to note that most of the pumpkins are still where I placed them.

4. And finally, I bought it. Something I've been thinking of buying for a long time. I'll only use this item when it's pitch black outside. I have to work up my nerve and listen to my give-a-shit self and then maybe, maybe I'll say what I've done. Stay tuned...

 

OCTOBER 28, 2013: GRAVITY

Went with my friend, Kaye, to see Gravity. My favorite line in the film is when Sandra Bullock's character says, "I hate space." She's having a really bad day in the universe.

I'm sore and out of shape. Kaye is older than I am and looks great. She gives me the phone number of her personal trainer, Deanne. She can show me what gym equipment to use and how to use it. Paying for a personal trainer isn't in my budget. But being out of shape isn't in my budget, either. This is preventative care.

I know I won't stick with a workout routine unless someone expects me to show up. Deanne will expect me to show up. The time's come. I'm out of excuses and gravity makes things fall. Improving my strength and flexibility is important.

 

OCTOBER 29, 2013: ANIMAL SANCTUARY

My friend, Grace, and I are at the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. The emphasis is on sanctuary. The animals, about 90 of them, are rescued. They're not forced to appear if they don't feel like it. An attendant says, "They can't choose their food or where they sleep, so we let them choose where they want to be within their space."

It's overcast today and some cages seem empty. Time to stay inside perhaps?

A declawed mountain lion, rescued from a family keeping it as a pet, strides back and forth.

A raven sits alone. The attendant explains. "The other ravens were picking on her so we had to isolate her for her own protection. She's very sweet. We talk to her and spoil her."

A tiger is sleeping A sign on the cage says, "There are more tigers in captivity in the US than remain in the wild."

Peacocks and  chickens roam about the grounds with us. A feral cat cage houses four residents. The information says,"An estimated 40 million feral cats live in the US. Their average life span is two years. An indoor cat can live 14 years or longer."

A bear is rooting on the ground for insects. He ignores the fruits and vegetables mounded nearby.

Two condors, a male and female, share an "apartment." Both were found injured and are retired to this compound. The male rebounded from his injuries but suffers from arthritis.

A restless coyote, Maggie, paces in circles. She's anxious. An attendant says, "She's too tame to survive in the wild. She's too wild to be in a cage."

A macaw monkey drinks from a pond. He sometimes has seizures and is on medication. The sign says, "Please alert an attendant if the monkey appears to be in distress."

I'm grateful to this sanctuary for its care of these animals. At the same time, I'm sorry many of them seem to have human-like afflictions and/or afflictions caused by humans. Our relationship with animals is such a mixed bag.

Guess who at the zoo.

Guess who at the zoo.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I just got home from a terrible Mexican dinner. I ordered the two- cheese enchilada plate and realized a couple bites into my first enchilada that the cheese wasn't even melted. I sent it back asked the kitchen to heat it up for me. They brought it back with a fresh, hot melted enchilada which was good but they returned the original second enchilada with unmelted clumps of cheese. I know, I know, first-world problems, but hell of an aggravation when you spend as much time as I did justifying spending money on dinner the first place.

 

OCTOBER 30, 2013: ELDER RIDE

Irene calls to thank me for the book on MS. "I received the package last night," she says. "I can't talk long. We have a meeting this morning with the hospice staff."

Hospice? When did Ed's brain tumor move from treatment to hospice?

"He's getting worse. We looked into a hospice facility near our daughter, but it's expensive and we've decided to use hospice assistance in our own home."

As usual, Irene sounds calm and resilient. She'll call me and give me an update when they have more hospice information. Another friend whose husband is dying. My new normal?

My cousin, Annette, calls. She's bubbly about the packages she's sending. "They'll drive Monday by UPS. Will you be home?"

"Yes, I'll be here."

Annette, my 75-year-old cousin, is putting lots of effort into gathering, organizing, and forwarding family history and heirlooms. I ask her how she is. "I was really sick in July and August with asthma but I'm better. My daughter-in-law has to have hip surgery and my son's asked me to come help."

My friends, Jan and Jim, have invited me to their home in the Bay Area in November. Jan goes to physical therapy for back and hip issues. Nevertheless, she's making plans to go to Yoshi's, a favorite jazz club in Oakland, on a Sunday night. She wants me to join her and Jim and a few of their friends.

I hate the drive from here to there but I have to go. This elder ride seems to be getting more unpredictable for everyone and we all need to stick together.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: What a morning! Met up with some regulars from the dog park and we drove up to Auburn to take the dogs to the river as a treat. My dog, Lexi, who hasn't had lot of experience off leash in the woods, took off in a mad sprint the moment I unleashed her and disappeared into the forest. Three hours of wandering around the woods calling her name, whistling, searching to no avail. Drove around the perimeter of the forest but couldn't find her. I had resigned myself to the fact that she was indeed lost and was dreading the long drive home without her when two guys showed up on the trail with Lexi on a leash. Thanks for the scare you damn dog!

 

OCTOBER 31, 2013: HALLOWEEN

I'm among that spooky percentage of people who don't like Halloween. I never have. Oh, sure, when I was a kid I went trick-or-treating. I hid my stash from little brother. But somehow, I never got into celebrating ghosts and goblins.

As a mother of four children, Halloween loomed like a gotcha test. Other mothers were creating clever outfits for their children. I didn't sew. I wasn't crafty. I hated the pressure I put on myself. "You must come up with original, complicated, over-the-top costumes for your kids. You can't use costumes from last year. You can't cut holes in sheets for eyes and drape them over small bodies. A black mask does't count as a costume. A witch's hat doesn't count as a costume. A pair of surgical scrubs? Absolutely not!"

As an adult, I don't enjoy costume parties. Don't ask me why. I don't know why. It's one of life's little mysteries. My best year, I made ladybug costumes for me and my husband. My worst year, I went to a costume party without any Halloween attire at all — not even an effing pumpkin necklace.

My daughters send me cute pictures of my cute grandchildren in their cute Halloween costumes. Kerry and her crew gather at an RV campground every Halloween with their friends. The campground sponsors contests for the best decorated camper and best costumes. The children trick or treat among the campers in a safe, controlled environment. My grandchildren are being gifted much better Halloweens than I gave to my children. My daughters, their mothers, get mega Halloween brownie points.

In this over-55 community, I don't get trick-or-treaters at my door. I miss them. I enjoy seeing their colorful costumes and their expectant, painted faces. I adore their squeaky little voices saying, "Trick or treat." I like to be the good guy and hand out candy bars. I don't do fruit.

To my credit, perhaps, I have a living, breathing black cat. She sits in my kitchen window every day all year long. Maybe the Halloween committee will give me one or two Halloween brownie points for her.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The last five years I have had like zero trick or treaters. This year I moved into a new house in a nice neighborhood so I wasn't really prepared for the gangs of ghouls on my doorstep. I ran out of candy with the last bunch. Guess I'm not answering the door anymore tonight.

 

NOVEMBER 1, 2013: OBSESSION

I'm online reviewing recipes — some new ones sent to me by a friend and some sent in a daily email from allrecipes.com. I check my recipe box on that site. I've saved 1,599 recipes. That's 4.38 years of recipes if I were to make a different one every single day.

Not only have I saved 1,599 recipes, I've scanned at least that many more and not saved them. I've read thousands of reviews by other users. I've studied a gazillion photos that accompany the recipes. What is this? It must be some kind of addiction.  Recipe insecurity? Recipe obsession?

I get dozens more recipes each week from Pinterest, more recipes than any one person could use in a lifetime. Sometimes GG says, "This recipe is very good. Will we ever get to eat it again?"

Good question. I'm always onto the next, yet-to-be discovered gem — the recipe to end all recipes.

This recipe thing, it has to be genetic. GG never cooks in her assisted living facility. She never shops, but she checks the grocery inserts in the Wednesday newspaper each week. She compares prices and looks for special offers. She doesn't pass the information on. She reads the ads and dumps them in the waste basket.

So what's that about?

I sent a recipe to my friend, Grace, a while ago. She keeps raving about it. She says, "Every time I serve it my guests love it."

I want to make it again but I can't find the bloomin' recipe anywhere — not in my online recipe box, not in my document file, not in my cookbooks. I have to ask Grace if she can send my recipe for zucchini ribbons back to me. When she does, I better print it and tape it to the inside of my pantry door. My pantry door is finite. When it can't accommodate one more recipe, that should be it. The pantry door collection will be my one and only recipe collection.

Maybe, then, GG will get something "very good" served to her more than once.

 

NOVEMBER 2, 2013: A CALLING TO WRITE

In her book, How the Light Gets In, Pat Schneider talks about writing as a calling. I think about Pat's words and sit here at my computer because, if I don't, I may miss something. Who knows, it could be something funny, sad or even brilliant. When I write, words appear on the page and show me things I wouldn't otherwise reflect upon.

To begin writing, Pat says to take whatever comes. Whatever image. Whatever words. Whatever first flashes into our minds. "It's a gift from the unconscious."

Each of us has a unique voice. There never was and never will be another voice like mine. Or yours. We need to find our voices and put them to work. I write so I might think and act with both mindfulness and exuberance, and to tell the stories that are mine to tell.

As I write, I recall Pat Schneider's "Blessing for a Writer," and sprinkle her lines on myself like holy water:

"...lost though you may be in the forest,
drop your own words on the path like pebbles
and write your way home."

 

Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

COMING UP THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2017:
NOVEMBER 3, 2013 -NOVEMBER 16 , 2013: High Tech low Tech * Spending Plan * Equanimity * Insignificant or Not? * Family Mental Illness Support Group * Missing Teeth and Too Much Hair * That's Italian * Snap it Up * There's the Rub * Perfect Day * Batkid

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the oldest

MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

Your story resonates strongly with me, Dede. Hugs for telling it. Anne

 I read your latest post, and it's beautifully written. I don't say that lightly. Rita

I copied your breakfast muffin recipe — and saw myself quoted in your October 11 "Getting it."  I keep a journal — and look back at it from time to time. It's amazing what we've been through. I feel like I'm in a pretty good place these days. You and I are roughly the same age. I'm determined to enjoy each day.  CB

 

Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

COMING UP THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2017:
OCTOBER 19, 2013 - NOVEMBER 2, 2013: One Day * Stories Inside Stories * Fashion Shows * Distractions * Damsel Braids and Inchworms * Ode to Cleaning * Busy Day * Gravity * Animal Sanctuary * Elder Ride * Halloween * Obsession * A Calling to Write

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

 

Pat and Me 1969

Pat and Me 1969

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan - OCTOBER 2, 2013 - OCTOBER 18, 2013

The Grandma Drawer * Naps * Courage * Paralysis * Good Enough for Guests * Age Calculator * In The Big Scheme of Things * Conversations * Getting It * Mission Accomplished * Always Something * Holy Moley * Under Control * Wild Women

To read A Mother's Diary from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."

 

OCTOBER 2, 2013: THE GRANDMA DRAWER

This morning I'm at the Snap it Up thrift shop which is opening October 9. I'm volunteering to work in the store once a week. Proceeds from the shop will benefit FieldHaven's kitty rescue organization. I'm in the back room pricing and tagging clothes. Some are ready to display and some need steaming. Stained and torn items go into a GoodWill bag.

Boxes of clothes and knickknacks are arriving faster than I can sort through them. I'll have nightmares about this. I have a recurring dream about stuff. I'm trying to get somewhere and clothes and toys, that I have to pack, fly at me from all directions and I can never finish. In this store, stuff is coming from every which way while I'm awake. I'll be glad when I'm working the cash register on the shop's out-the-door side.

Two leather purses, child-size from Mexico, catch my attention. They're $2 each. They're perfect for the Grandma drawer in my den. My grandchildren know this special drawer is for them. There they find games, crayons, coloring books, puzzles, hats, magnifying glasses, and stuffed animals. The Grandma drawer needs continual replenishing so it doesn't get boring. It may become one of Snap it Up's best customers.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Thank you Brandi for my first official Rapbay Urbanlife delivery. Enjoying the tasty treats. Delicious! You're so kind.

 

OCTOBER 4, 2013: NAPS

It's windy today and my allergies are kicking in. Antihistamines aren't helping my stuffy nose and itchy eyes. The pills make me sleepy so I'm about to take a nap on the chaise in my bedroom.

It feels decadent to fall asleep in a chair in the middle of the day — like I'm cheating or something. My neighbor takes naps. Friends come late to dinner because, "We fell asleep." Some couples I know take naps together every day.

I never used to take naps. There was no time with little kids and jobs. A nap is a perk of being retired. Or perhaps, napping is simply an innate part of aging. Teenagers take naps. Toddlers take naps. Babies nap all the time. I'm growing backwards.

As I drift off, I note my backyard. I think about the birds, lizards, frogs, bees, trees, and shrubs that share my private patch of earth. I give thanks for the sunshine streaming in the window, for the freedom to sleep without fear, for the black kitty purring at my side, for the air I'm breathing in and out, for the chance to dream in the afternoon...

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The love keeps pouring in. Thanks Lara for the generous and thoughtful surprise in the mail today.

 

Photo credit: Laura Lok/Flickr

Photo credit: Laura Lok/Flickr

OCTOBER 5, 2013: COURAGE

This week I've learned of four friends diagnosed with cancer — brain cancer, breast cancers, and lymphoma. Three of these friends are my age. One is in her early fifties. Their stalwart reactions move me — acceptance of the situation, determination to meet challenges head on, and energy focused on best possible outcomes. Another word for all this might be "courage."

My colleagues are showing their mettle. They're making preparations. They're reviewing medical procedures and options. They're being honest and humble. They intend to keep things as "normal" as possible. I'm sure they have their moments, in the middle of the night, when they feel overwhelmed and frightened. In the daylight, however, they're sending wishes for a beautiful fall season and for happy holidays ahead.

My friends are making me proud to be old, and showing the heights we can reach when danger looms large and nothing is certain.

 

OCTOBER 6, 2013: PARALYSIS

Back to square one. It looks like an annuity is out of the picture for my mother. At 95, we've decided we don't want to tie up her funds in a format she can't access right away if necessary. My brother asked his financial adviser for suggestions. He had no recommendations other than CDs or money market accounts.

Today's best money market rate is.90%. Today's best one-year CD rate is 1.05%. These rates are pitiful. Maybe this is a good time to stand still and not get caught in the middle of a Washington stalemate over funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.

Who knows how all this will fall out? It's beginning to feel like we're living in some kind of horror movie. No one can tell the good guys from the bad guys, or if any good guys are left. And no one knows how the movie will end. Maybe it's ending already. Maybe the ending is paralysis — like what I'm feeling right now.

 

OCTOBER 7, 2013: GOOD ENOUGH FOR GUESTS

It's fall. I'm thinking of my slow cooker and comfort food. Time for tomato basil soup, Father Greco stew, and garlic mashed potatoes. Time for the bouquet of cranberries simmering in brandy and allspice, and pumpkin bars just out of the oven.

Friends say they used to like to cook but, now, not so much. And they say, as a result, they're not eating nutritious meals. For myself, I'm collecting healthy recipes that require little fuss. This recipe meets that standard — good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

One English muffin split and toasted
Mustard - favorite kind
Canadian bacon slices
Fuji or Envy apple slices
Swiss cheese slices

Place toasted muffin halves, cut side up, on an uncreased baking sheet. Spread with mustard. Layer with Canadian bacon, apple slices, and cheese.

Broil for six or seven minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with grape garnishes or orange wedges.

My preference is for simple recipes good enough for guests. And good enough for me when I'm the only guest at my table.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Richard Quest is one of the most annoying correspondents on CNN.

 

OCTOBER 8, 2013: AGE CALCULATOR

According to an online age calculator, today I'm 69 and 139 days old. I've lived 25,341 days, 3,260 weeks and one day, and 8.33.03 months. Maybe that's why, this evening, I can hardly move.

I worked for four hours at the FieldHaven thrift shop this morning. Standing the whole time, I sorted, priced, and placed items on hangers and shelves. My feet were screaming, "What are you doing?"  When I got home, I took some aspirin and sat down.

Most days I tell myself I'm younger than I am.  Might need to rethink this. Next Tuesday, when I'm at the thrift shop, I'll be working the cash register. I'll find a stool to sit on and then walk around, in between sales, to stretch.  Don't want customers mistaking me for one of the antiques.

By next week, I'll be 69.40 years old. The age calculator doesn't stop.  I must alternately rest and move my muscles.

 

OCTOBER 9, 2013: IN THE BIG SCHEME OF THINGS

There's a message on my answering machine from the window washing folks. It's a woman's voice.

"Hi. We have a problem with your appointment tomorrow. I usually come and work with my husband but I have another job and the person who was supposed to take my place has called in sick, so I can't help clean your windows. I hope we can reschedule. We  have five children and, with this business and my other work, it gets a little hectic."

This husband and wife do a great job on windows, screens, tracks, and shower doors. They're running a special for $59 — about $40 less than what other's are charging. I call the woman back. We reschedule for a week from tomorrow. I hear children in the background. I hear fatigue in this mother's voice.

"Thank you for rescheduling," she says.

"No problem," I say.

"See you next week."

It seems moms and dads are stringing multiple jobs together to take care of their families. In the big scheme of things, my dirty windows are insignificant.

 

OCTOBER 10, 2013: CONVERSATIONS

I call my friend, Irene. Her MS is progressing. Eddie, her husband, is undergoing radiation treatments for a brain tumor. He also needs a kidney transplant. As usual, Irene is philosophical and upbeat.

"We're doing what the doctors tell us and trying to enjoy each day."

Pat calls. "I can't come over to do laundry because I don't have enough gas. Have you made a payment to the bankruptcy attorney for me this month?"

"No. I won't make another payment until the monthly bills I'm paying for you are under five hundred dollars. How's the job search?"

"Nothing."

"You made four hundred dollars a month last year dog-walking."

"I don't want to do that again."

"I have a couple coming out here next week to wash my windows. They have five children and need the income. They probably don't want to wash windows but they're doing what they have to do."

"I don't want to have this conversation." Click.

Some conversations go more smoothly than others.

 

OCTOBER 11, 2013: GETTING IT

Random comments at the Family Mental Illness Support Group Meeting:

"My son's an alcoholic but I think he has mental health issues, also. He won't see a doctor to get a diagnosis."

"My daughter was sentenced to eighty days of community service for a rear-ender. I wrote a letter to the public defender and the judge to explain that carrying out this sentence is beyond her capability. In court, the judge had my letter but said he couldn't use it because it hadn't come from the public defender. In the end, the prosecuting attorney and public defender agreed to sentence my daughter to ten days of house arrest. I can make sure she fulfills that sentence."

"My son's entering another cyclic period of his schizophrenia. He's less and less able to handle routine situations. We visit him for maybe thirty minutes and then he has to return to his residence. He won't eat with us. We go to the drive-through and get a hamburger and fries but he won't eat in the car and saves it for later."

"My son's coping. He's working again and his children are with him during the week. He says he's giving up alcohol. We've given him forty thousand dollars this year."

"My grandson and son both have schizophrenia and they're living together in an apartment. My son has a job and my grandson's taking classes but isn't working. He says he doesn't want to work. I don't know how long this arrangement will last."

"I've spent fifteen thousand dollars helping my daughter. I can't continue. I'm putting my finances in jeopardy."

"We know our ill children can be manipulative but it's hard to know when to help and when to say, 'No.' People who haven't lived with mental illness in their families, shouldn't make judgements about what I'm doing."

"I'm glad to have this group. I can talk here and know that the rest of you will understand and relate to the decisions I'm making."

 

Photo credit: Captivated Life/Flickr

Photo credit: Captivated Life/Flickr

OCTOBER 12, 2013: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Yesterday, after sundown and under cover of darkness, I delivered 20 miniature pumpkins — one each to the front door of every neighbor on my street. Today, seven are still where I left them. A few have disappeared. Eight or nine rest in more prominent positions in their yards.

I've done this before. In 1970 in Rochester, Minnesota, my family shared a back yard with eleven other families from all over the globe - Germany, Korea, Australia, France, Mexico, Massachusetts, and Texas. At 3 a.m., I crept from backdoor to backdoor and hung May Day baskets full of flowers, candy, and trinkets — jacks, balls, marbles and stickers — on each doorknob.

In the morning the backyard was buzzing.

"Who did this?"

"Do you know who did this?"

"Did you do this?"

That May Day caper still remains a who-dun-it. Now, the Great Pumpkin has struck on Periwinkle Lane. I hope the over-55 crowd isn't too old to enjoy this. I feel like Ayla and Regan. Sometimes, life is simply too much fun.

 

OCTOBER 13, 2013: ALWAYS SOMETHING

Pat leaves a phone message:

"Hi, Mom. A couple of house related things. It's time to put some foam insulation on the outside water pipes so they don't freeze this winter. I'll install it if we can buy it at Home Depot or Lowe's or something. The floor in the downstairs bathroom is bubbling up in spots and looks like water is leaking underneath it from the toilet. We should probably have someone take a look at it, but I don't think they'll be able to tell what it is without tearing up the floor. Would it be all right if I did laundry tomorrow?  Thanks. Pat"

 

OCTOBER 14, 2013: HOLY MOLEY

I'm at the dentist. With my mouth pried open and packed with dental equipment, the dental hygienist pokes and scrapes and relays pertinent information.

"Your premolars have a nice leaf shape. Your molars have all their bumps. As we age, our teeth move forward, except for a few folks whose teeth move backward. Your teeth are becoming more crowded. They're impinging on your tongue's space and making imprints on it. Have you noticed the change in the shape of your tongue?"

I shake my head. It's hard to talk with a mouth full of metal.

"There's also bone loss around the back molar on the left which is a wisdom tooth and wisdom teeth behave differently than ordinary teeth. I see from your last visit that the dentist would like to fill about four of your teeth."

"Huh?" I mumble. "I don't remember her telling me I have cavities in four teeth."

"Well, they're not really cavities. They're teeth showing maintenance abrasion, in other words, too much hard pressure brushing. The procedure's to keep the abrasion from getting worse."

"How much is the procedure?"

"Twelve hundred dollars."

"Is it covered by insurance?"

"You'll have to check at the front desk. Also, it looks like you're snapping your dental floss. You need to slowly insert the floss between your teeth and move it up and down in a zig-zag fashion. Do you sleep with your mouth open?"

"I don't know."

"Well, that probably explains the apparent resistance of the bacteria in your mouth. Saliva pushes bacteria around so they can't do too much damage. But if you're breathing with your mouth open, your mouth is dry and the saliva can't do its job."

I'll try to remember, when I'm asleep, to keep my mouth shut.

"You know, we have an orthodontist here if you want to discuss your teeth moving forward to see if you need orthodontic treatment."

"You're kidding. Braces? At sixty-nine?"

"The consultation is free and she won't push you into anything you don't need."

"I'm not interested. Anything else?"

"Yes, I recommend you use an over the counter mouth wash without alcohol because alcohol is drying and we don't want to dry out your mouth more that it already is. And don't use one that will turn your teeth brown like prescription mouthwashes do. I can get the brown color off in your cleaning except in between the places where your teeth are too crowed because you know..."

"Yes, I know. My teeth are moving forward."

"See you in six months."

Maybe. I'm heading home. Sooner, rather than later, I'll probably put alcohol in my mouth. And I'm not talking about the alcohol in my mouthwash.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: She sometimes shits on the carpet, pees on the floor and the couch, chews up and eats anything she can get her teeth on, jumps on me, scratches my face, wakes me up in the middle of the night after I've had three hours of sleep and absolutely has to go outside only to run around and sniff things and not do any business. And still I love her, my crazy dog, Lexi.

 

OCTOBER 16, 2013: UNDER CONTROL

The great government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis of 2013 has been resolved. Sort of. Jack Ohman's political cartoon in the Sacramento Bee today captures the situation perfectly.

"We've reached an agreement to create a framework to establish a timetable to pass a bill that allows us to restart talks that will permit this to happen again in a few months..."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my own house in order. Yesterday, I replaced cracked rollers in my garage door. Today, I had my windows washed inside and out. I'm looking for someone to clean my gutters. I'm getting estimates to refresh the bark in my front and back yards. Next week, the carpets and the sofa will be cleaned.

Not a fun way to spend money, but taking care of things, as a matter of routine, should limit bigger maintenance problems going forward. And my psyche rests better harboring the delusion that things are under control — which, or course, they never are.

 

OCTOBER 18, 2013: WILD WOMEN

Yesterday a 96-year-old woman, living here in Sun City with her daughter, locked herself in her bedroom. Her daughter called the police. When they arrived, the elderly woman fired a shot through the bedroom door, missing an officer by inches.

A SWAT team and helicopters were on the scene for thirty minutes. They were able to talk the woman out of the house. She appeared with one hand on her walker and one hand in the air. The  38-caliber handgun was recovered and the woman was taken to the hospital for observation.

Today, a neighbor approaches me for information about my mental illness support group. Her 33-year-old grandson is spiraling out of control and threatening suicide. He can't keep a job, uses drugs and alcohol, and isn't able to abide by the rules in his group home. His family is afraid of him and his mother is caught in the quagmire.

In my experience, mothers are often the one and only hope for their mentally ill children. They hang in with them when the rest of the world writes them off. I have no answers for my neighbor. Our mental health system sucks.

My friend's tragedy is a tragedy for her entire family. If you've not walked in the worn-out shoes of those who are impacted, and if you're judgmental, advise tough love or hint of enabling, you'll see another wild woman — me  — go on the rampage.

 

Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

COMING UP THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2017:
OCTOBER 19, 2013 - NOVEMBER 2, 2013: One Day * Stories Inside Stories * Fashion Shows * Distractions * Damsel Braids and Inchworms * Ode to Cleaning * Busy Day * Gravity * Animal Sanctuary * Elder Ride * Halloween * Obsession * A Calling to Write

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

Hey Dede, just want to let you know that so many of your posts are meaningful to me.  I get a little (only a little) envious when you write about time with your granddaughters -- my grandchildren are just too distant for visits or for casual babysitting.  But I always recover from my spells of envy very quickly.  Susan

I love your writing. Please keep it up! Erin

I've been reading your diary, Dede. I love Sooner Than Tomorrow. Love it even though sometimes it makes me cry. But then everything seems to make me cry anymore. Jean.

 

Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

COMING UP THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2017:  

OCTOBER 2, 2013 - October 18, 2013: The Grandma Drawer * Naps * Courage * Paralysis * Good Enough for Guests * Age Calculator * In The Big Scheme of Things * Conversations * Getting It * Mission Accomplished * Always Something * Holy Moley * Under Control * Wild Women

To subscribe and receive email notices of new book posts every other week, enter your email address in the box on the right at the top of the page, and hit the Sign Up button. If you have any trouble subscribing, send me an email and I'll sign you up from my end :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

Pat and me 1969

Pat and me 1969

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan - FALL 2013 - SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 - OCTOBER 1, 2013

FALL 2013

Fall is an earnest season.
In fall, nature reflects on itself and summons acceptance.
 Dede Ranahan

 

Photo Credit: Linda D/Flickr Silver & Sugar Maple Leaves

Photo Credit: Linda D/Flickr
Silver & Sugar Maple Leaves

When Pat was in college on the east coast, his friend, Gary Thompson, was living on the west coast. Gary was homesick for the fall colors of his native Michigan so Pat mailed him a package of New England leaves. After Pat died, sorting through two cardboard boxes that contained the sum of his earthly possessions, I found Gary Thompson's book of poems. Suddenly, perusing Gary's work, I stopped breathing. In 1999, he'd dedicated the poem on page 49 to Pat. Slow-streaming tears tempered the rest of my day.
 

"FROM CALIFORNIA"
by GARY THOMPSON
ON JOHN MUIR'S TRAIL
Bear Star Press 1999
FOR PATRICK RANAHAN

Your  package of east coast
autumn leaves arrived
just as my life
needed connection to the seasonal
reds of my earliest falls
in Michigan.
I confess, young migratory friend,
the western dogwood beside my porch
is a stunning welcome
flame,
but I miss the maples more
each November spent
here where mostly oafish yellow bigleaf
and viny imitations
drop their uninspired leaves.
I like to say maple,
my grandpa's eastern kind: mountain, silver,
red,
and best of all — the sugar
he coddled as a seedling
and loved until the budless spring
he died. Later, in forbidden Snow
Woods, I gathered red leaves
in my lunch box, afterlives
I spirited home
in the childhood dusk.
Your airmailed leaves spill
from a basket on my desk; my thoughts
blow east. I'll send
along a single heart-
shaped California
redbud leaf I've kept around
to ignite a day,
a fragile western find I found
might make me cry.

 

SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 - OCTOBER 1, 2013: Aging Can Wait * Real Change in the Air? * Who's on First? * Silence * Old and Cranky * Off * Helena * A Pleasant Day * Today's News/Tomorrow's Rewrite * Before and After * Odds and Ends * Worth a Try * Too Much Fun

To read "A Mother's Diary" from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."* 

 

SEPTEMBER 18, 2013: AGING CAN WAIT

Morning:
I'm in the Orchard Creek parking lot. I'm looking for the blood bank's mobile van. I have a 9:30 a.m. appointment to give blood, but I see no mobile van anywhere. Do I have the wrong day? I call the 800 number for the blood bank. It's 10:00 a.m. and the message says, "It's after regular office hours."

I call another 800 number. A real person answers. "I'm sorry. I don't know the van schedule."

She puts me on hold to check the calendar. "You have the right day," she says. "The van had a flat tire this morning. That's why it isn't there."

Thank goodness. Glad to know it's the van and not me.

Evening:
I'd planned to attend a physician's lecture tonight about aging and what to expect. I'm not at that presentation, however. Something's come up. Earlier today I found a copy of Mockingjay in the library. It's the third and final book in the Hunger Games series. I'm already on page 58.

Marisa sent a text this afternoon. "Do you still have the copy of Catching Fire we gave you? Sam's decided he wants it back."

I send a reply text. "You're in luck, Sam. I still have the book and I'll mail it back to you. We Hunger Games fans have to stick together."

Aging can wait.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Well, I've been wrestling with my power cord for 45 minutes and it's not charging my computer. About to lose power so if you don't hear from me for a while, you know why.

 

SEPTEMBER 19, 2013: REAL CHANGE IN THE AIR?

Good news in the paper this morning. Pope Francis is making sense. I've not experienced this much emotion about the Catholic Church since the day I walked out of mass 37 years ago.

During the sermon that day, an 80-something Irish priest — from the old country — ranted on and on about birth control. In a thick brogue he declared, "Birth control is a mortal sin. Women are made to have children. Lots of children. Women cannot deny the will of God."

I glanced down the pew at my four tow-headed offspring -- Patrick Sean, Megan Kathleen, Marisa Elizabeth, and Kerry Colleen. Everyday I felt overwhelmed -- torn between being the mother I aspired to be, and being the mother I had the stamina to be. My husband was no longer attending mass. Finding four matching pairs of shoes and socks, blankies, the prerequisite stuffed animals, and getting four reluctant, little kids to the church on time, was a struggle week after week. The old priest's blathering on about birth control was my tipping point. In that moment, I lost all connection to the church I'd been born into. I was done.

"Come children," I whispered. "We're leaving."

Alas. A quiet exit was not to be. My little kids toddled down the aisle, bobbing like ducklings behind their mother duck. They chattered in chirpy, high-pitched voices.

"Mommy, why are we leaving?"
"Mommy, are we going home?"
"Mommy, can we go get donuts?"

I've not been back to mass since. Today, however, Pope Francis delivers a different kind of sermon. He says, according to the Sacramento Bee, "The Catholic Church cannot focus so much on gay marriage, contraception, and abortion. The moral structure of the church will fall, like a house of cards, if it doesn't find a better balance.

"Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God, in creation, has set us free — it's not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question. 'Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."

When asked who he is, the Pope says, "I am a sinner."

Whether the Pope's humanity will filter down to the diocesan level, remains to be seen. Whether rigid church doctrines will catch up with the human condition, isn't clear. But, for the first time in years, I feel a God-like presence in the Pope who's leading the Catholic Church.

I'm not returning to the church or to mass, but I'll pray that real change is happening. And I haven't prayed, in the Catholic sense, in a long, long time.

 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013: WHO'S ON FIRST?

A woman from the blood bank leaves a message on my answering machine. "We're sorry for the mix up the other day. Thank you for your donation a few months ago. We have a location in Roseville. We're hoping you'll come in there. We won't be in Lincoln again until December. Thank you and have a great day."

My confidence in this organization is not as strong as before. Are they good stewards of blood donations? Are there problems in management? Is our misconnect a random occurrence? I'll give them another chance in December.

Meanwhile, the ladies' bridge group is here. It's my turn to hostess. We're waiting for a member who's always on time. I call her to see if she's coming.

"Is this you, Dede? I went to the wrong house. I had to come back home to find your address. I'll be right there."

Jazzy strolls through the living room. One of the ladies pulls a small, smooth stone out of her pocket. "I don't like cats," she says, "especially black cats." She rubs the rock until Jazzy disappears into my bedroom.

Another woman, whom I've met a half dozen times, is calling me "Betty." I'm embarrassed to correct her. We haven't started playing bridge, yet. When we do, I know we'll forget which suit is trump, whose turn it is to deal, what our partners bid, where we're supposed to sit - Table One or Table Two - and where we left our drinking glasses.

Good thing representatives from the blood bank aren't here. They might begin to question the quality of my blood donation. They might decide to give me one more chance in December.

 

Photo credit: Jessica/Flickr

Photo credit: Jessica/Flickr

SEPTEMBER 21, 2013: SILENCE

A quiet, rainy day.

If someone were to walk into my home right now, they'd hear silence. The tv's turned off. The radio's turned off. The washing machine and the dishwasher are idle.

When I left my marriage, I felt uncomfortable with silence. No one in my house, besides me, made noise. No one said, "Let's go to a movie," or asked, "What shall we do tomorrow?" No other voice responded to mine.

At first, I felt lonely, very lonely, even when I was out and about. In the grocery store, for example, I'd hear other people talking to each other.
"Shall we get apples and bananas?"
"Does that recipe need basil or oregano?"
"Let's have soup on Monday and fish on Tuesday."

No one was asking me about menus for the week or about having pork chops versus lamb chops. All I heard were my own thoughts. Shall I have salmon for dinner? It's on sale. Sounds like a good idea.

Over time, however, something unexpected happened. I grew used to silence. I welcomed it. I craved it when I found myself in angry gatherings filled with too many grating voices and too many clashing opinions.

I'm sitting at my desk in my small, quiet haven. I'm watching rain drops slide down the window pane. I'm thinking. I'm reflecting. I'm listening to the inner core that is my soul.

Stillness swaddles me like a warm blanket as I soak in the hush of a soft, rainy day.

 

SEPTEMBER 22, 2013: OLD AND CRANKY

Wow. I'm getting old and cranky. I turned off the Emmy Awards. One half-hour was all I could take. What other profession, outside entertainment, has so many narcissistic award shows? Shows that are too frenetic, too cheesy, too political, too much run by the "good old boys." I don't watch television often so I don't know most of the actors receiving awards anyway.

This afternoon, I started reading Sally of Monticello by N.M. Ledgin. The author recounts the 38-year love affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.

A quote on the title page: "In reality, the nation should recognize Sally and Thomas as its founding parents and abandon the idea that the United States was a white nation from its inception." Clarence E. Walker, Mongrel Nation

This will be an interesting read. Sorry Emmys. You've lost out to a low-tech competitor — a 363 page book. No sleazy jokes. No rambling acceptance speeches. No in-your-face commercials.

No way around it. I admit, without any self-judgment, I'm of another time.

 

SEPTEMBER 23, 2013: OFF

Ugh. Worst day. I've been at this computer for four-and-a-half hours doing — what else? — paperwork. Paying my bills, Pat's bills, and Mom's bills. I forgot some of my online passwords, ID's and pin numbers and had to jump through hoops to get into my own accounts. I needed to get info from my dear brother, Jim, in order to add him to a Power of Attorney document.

He calls. He's not happy. "I don't like giving out my Social Security number, my address, my work address, or any of the rest of it. Why do they need this information, anyway?"

Like I know. I'm simply trying to fill out the damn forms. "It's for our mother," I remind him. "Also, what do you think about an immediate annuity for her? Any thoughts?"

"I want a day or two to think about all this," Jim says. "And I'll research annuities."

This is good. I have a two-day reprieve from filling in the blanks on the POA documents. Maybe Jim will come up with a better idea than annuities.

Pat's here to do his laundry. He needs 10 dollars to buy dog food for Lexi. I ask, "How long will I be paying for dog food?"

Pat shrugs. He's trying to get a restaurant job. His dad is providing the $600 for the dental work he needs.

That's a relief. Do I sound crabby? I do. I am.

I look at all the papers on my desk. I'm shredding some of this stuff. I'll probably shred something I shouldn't. I don't care. Shredding is therapeutic. Shredding is good for my mental health. I'm turning this computer OFF.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I used to enjoy a can of pork and beans but when you've been staring down a lonely can for two weeks, as a last resort meal, they really lose their appeal. Thanks to my sister, Marisa, for gifting me a new power cord for my computer so I'm back online. And thanks to all my generous friends who have offered to send food, money, cook me dinner, send uplifting messages, etc. Feeling Grateful! I get by with a little help from my friends.

 

SEPTEMBER 24, 2013: HELENA

I'm having lunch with Helena, the woman who came in anguish to the last family mental illness support group meeting. She's invited me to her home. Helena's whole house is shades of white — white carpet, white furniture, white pillows, white floral arrangements, white artwork, and mirrors suspended in white frames. Her Himalayan kitty is white and sleeping on a white crocheted throw on a white chair.

I'm feeling underdressed in my jean capris and t-shirt top. Helena is dressed in a white jersey top and white slacks with tasteful jewelry. She's wearing white flats. She's proud of her home and shows me around.

"Everything's beautiful," I tell her.

"Thank you. When I lived in Europe, I decorated all my friends' houses."

We sit down at the dining room table which glitters with white candles and crystal and white floral napkin rings. Helena serves a chicken and rice main dish and a salad artfully arranged on a side plate. She begins her story.

"I'm an orphan. My mother suffered from complications of childbirth and bled to death. My father didn't know how to care for an infant and he placed me in an orphanage. It was 1940 and he left to join partisans in the mountains. Later he was captured and forced to work underground for four years without seeing the light of day. In 1944, he was released but he was frail and didn't survive.

"I hoped one day the door of the orphanage would open and someone would enter and call out my name. But no one ever came for me. I remained in the orphanage until I was fifteen. Then, I was sent away to a dormitory to be schooled as a nurse focusing on sports medicine.

"I didn't own anything but some money from my grandfather allowed me to buy a bicycle. I was so happy. I was rich because I could ride my bicycle and not have to walk everywhere. I was also naive. I couldn't afford to buy a lock and someone stole my only means of transportation."

In her early twenties, Helena met the handsome young man who would become her husband for twenty-four years. "He was an artist. People thought he was eccentric as many artists are. After a while, I realized something was wrong and, as time progressed, his voices became more disquieting. It was clear that he was suffering from schizophrenia.

"When I was forty-seven, I finally got permission to take a vacation to Italy with my teenage son and daughter. It was our secret for six months that we planned to defect. I needed freedom from communism and freedom from my husband. When we crossed the border into Austria, we knelt on the ground and gave thanks. I went immediately to the authorities and asked for political asylum. We lived in a refugee camp, sharing one room with twenty-seven other people. After three years, I was considered legally divorced.

"I went to the American embassy several times to ask for permission to emigrate to the United States. I always wore my one dress and makeup — to look nice. At first, I was denied because I didn't speak English and didn't appear to be employable. But I persisted and, at last, we were allowed to come here. I came with my two children, our few clothes, and not a penny of my own."

In time, Helena learned English and procured employment in an assisted living facility. She pauses. She looks at her surroundings. "I wanted quiet and peace for myself. A place to feel free and to be who I am. I've always known who I am inside — even when I was in the orphanage. I enjoy each day here. Each moment. I never close the shutters because I've had enough darkness in my life. I'm calm today. Not like I am when my son is here."

Helena doesn't understand why, after everything she's lived through, she also bears the sorrow of having two adult children ill with schizophrenia. "It's better in Europe for people like my son and daughter. They give them medicine and allow them to work. Here, a diagnosis of mental illness makes it extremely difficult to be hired and remain employed."

Helena's son lives in low-income housing. He comes to her home for a week once a month. He can be troublesome and abusive, and sometimes she's afraid of him. 

"Should you allow your son to come here?"

"I have to. I'm all he has and I know how it feels to have no door open to you. I can't close my door to him."

Helena thinks she may have enough money to stay in her rented home for a couple more years. "I may have to move and find a two-bedroom apartment for my son and me to live in. I may have to look for a job. I could hostess in a restaurant."

At 73, Helena's a beautiful woman proud of maintaining her figure and her appearance. She shows me several photos of herself, spanning 20 years, wearing the same white dress. "I love that dress and that I can still wear it. I made it myself. Maybe I'll ask to buried in it."

Two hours fly by. Helena has an appointment at the bank in half an hour. Her investments aren't doing well and she's not happy. "I'm asking for some changes," she says.

I hug Helena goodby. "You're a strong, brave, wonderful woman."

As I walk down the steps to my car, I blink back my tears.

PATRICKS' FACEBOOK POST: Thanks Dad for helping me out with a dental appointment. This morning, I  pulled a piece of tooth from the inside of my lower gum. Guess this is what they mean when they say "getting long in the tooth." A huge thank you to Daniel Pettegrew for a very generous gift in a time of extreme need. Hard to ask for help but blown away when it arrives.

 

SEPTEMBER 26, 2013: A PLEASANT DAY

Got a haircut and bought a little table at Home Goods for twenty-nine dollars. At Trader Joe's, I purchased two jars of their Lavender Salt Scrub. It's made with apricot kernel oil, almond oil, green tea leaf, avocado oil, Vitamin E, and lavender oil. Love the stuff.

Now, I'm delivering groceries to Mom. I climb over a three-foot patio wall to stack the groceries on her patio and then walk around, through the back gate, to let myself in her front door.

"Some new people moved in," she says. "They're from Lincoln Hills. They play bridge. Do you know them?"

I don't recognize their names.

"He's an interesting fellow. He always sits next to me and pats my hand. If I move my hand, he pats my leg. Yesterday, he stopped me in the hallway to tell me what beautiful white hair I have. He's making me nervous. I don't think he knows how old I am. Next time I see him, I'll tell him I'm ninety-five. That should do it."

I stop at Kerry's to see her newly painted house. Every room is grey except for two special rooms. Regan's room is pink. Ayla's room is lavender. Fresh paint is comforting, clean, and neat. Now Kerry wants to change the carpet and the tile floors. That's the problem with new paint. One thing leads to another.

Home again. The little table works perfectly next to the chaise in my bedroom. It fits under the shutters when I open them with 1/8 inch to spare. I'm settling in to watch a documentary on tv about wild turkeys and enjoying a bowl of my own homemade chili.  It's a slow cooker recipe using ground chicken instead of beef. 

All in all, a pleasant day.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Went to Walmart at 5:30 this morning to avoid the usual demographic and had a fairly pleasant shopping experience. Clerk who rang me up said, as he handed me the receipt, "Survey on the back. Be sure to tell them how badly we treated you today." And he said it perfectly politely with a huge smile but as I walked out to the parking lot and the lights suddenly went off, I thought to myself that there was something sinister about that.

 

SEPTEMBER 27, 2013: TODAY'S NEWS/TOMORROW'S REWRITE

NASA's Mars Rover, Curiosity, finds no signs of life on Mars because it finds no methane, a gas that is considered the possible calling card of microbes. On the other hand, it's found unlimited supplies of water. The surface soil is two percent water meaning every cubic foot contains around two pints that could be extracted to sustain earthling pioneers.

Voyager I, launched in 1977, is the first spacecraft to exit the solar system and enter interstellar space. It's 11.7 billion miles from Earth and hurtling away at 38,000 mph.

On the ground, in a meeting at the United Nations, there's a motion to oversee the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. The President of the US and the new President of Iran speak to each other for 15 minutes on the phone — the first high level contact for these two countries since 1979.

Knowledge of the universe, like the universe itself, is expanding. Historical events keep unfolding. We may not really know what's happening today until 50 years in the future with a contextual look back. Today's good guy is tomorrow's bad guy. Today's hero is tomorrow's fallen hero. What we deem factual this moment may be upended the next, i.e., eggs were bad for us and then they weren't.

At 69, there's one thing I know. The older I get, the less I know for sure.

Patrick's Facebook Post: Needles in the mouth, power tools in the mouth, $625 out of pocket, whole face completely numb. A day at the dentist.

 

SEPTEMBER 28, 2013: BEFORE AND AFTER

You never know what a day will bring. I'm at duplicate bridge. There's a commotion on the opposite of the room. I see an elderly man on the floor. People are clustering around him. The club president, a retired doctor, is bending over him.

I don't know this man's name. I'm guessing he's in his late 80s or early 90s. Reports are making their way across the room. He tripped on the back leg of his chair and fell. The paramedics are coming. Everyone seems calm, including the gentleman and his wife. Caution is the order of the day. You have to be cautious at this man's age. You don't know when a little injury might turn into a big deal.*

The paramedics arrive. They're taking their time checking the man out. He has a broken shoulder and a broken hip. They're loading him onto a gurney. We all applaud as they push him out the door. He smiles and waves. His wife follows.

The rest of us resume our bridge game. That's what you do, living each day in a retirement community. You get used to people falling, ambulance sirens, and paramedics. You get used to watching friends and acquaintances, who are fine one minute, being transported to the hospital the next.

One day, you know it will be your turn. Something will happen that alters your projection. There's a major shift and then events will be referenced as "before" or "after." Your life, as it was, versus the way it is now.

I'm trying to get my ducks in a row. I've got my prepaid cremation plan. I really, really need to update my living trust. And mom's living trust. Today is Saturday. Tomorrow, Sunday. Mine might be a whole new story.

*Several months after this incident, the man died from complications due to his injuries. 

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Every once in a while, you meet someone who shakes you to your core with their authenticity and beauty. And the more you get to know them, the deeper your affection grows. And time goes on, and the mystery continues to surprise you and delight you. Hold on to these people. Cultivate these relationships. They are rare and priceless.

 

SEPTEMBER 29, 2013: ODDS AND ENDS

I'm updating my library list with new additions:

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog by Delia Ephron
David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Zealot by Reza Aslan
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Still Foolin'em by Billy Crystal
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Weather reports say there's a 40 percent chance of light rain this evening. I'm fertilizing the front and back yards with a shake-and-feed granule fertilizer, the third time this year I've fertilized and I think it's making a difference. The trees and shrubs are looking greener and fuller.

This evening, I'm having dinner with Joan and checking in to see how she's doing since Beryl passed. She thinks she's going to be okay financially. She's taking pleasure in her pet-sitting business. " I love being with the animals."

I show Joan how to download the Instagram App onto her cell phone. We hover over our smartphones like two techies. Like two techie who know what they're doing.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Got my inner Chicano on at the Latin Food and Music Festival with old friend Carlos Elizalde and Ruckatan, Latin Tribe.

 

SEPTEMBER 30, 2013: WORTH A TRY

Here we go again. CNN has a clock counting down until the government shutdown tonight. And, in two weeks, we'll be facing another standoff over the debt ceiling. 

This is a dangerous routine. When the government cries "wolf" too many times, the public tunes out. Then really irresponsible government actions take place. The media, of course, doesn't help. Everything is reported at high decibels. Viewer crisis-fatigue sets in.

The true bad news is that it didn't rain today. No rain is expected in the next 10 days, either. My fertilizing efforts languish in the warm fall sun.

Meanwhile, i'm making plans for babysitting Regan and Ayla tomorrow evening while Kerry and David go out for an anniversary dinner. I'm thinking up a recipe for gummy worm cookies in honor of October and Halloween, and in honor of the fact that Ayla loves gummy worms. I think we'll put green sprinkles, for grass, on warm sugar cookies. Then we'll add gummy worms inching through the grass, as many per cookie as we want. We don't have to negotiate. We don't have to compromise.

Maybe we should send these cookies to congress and to the president. Then everyone would be happy and would agree to work together. It couldn't hurt.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The Latin Food and Music festival yesterday in Sacramento was being patrolled by a cute officer with a ponytail and her partner, Officer J. Walker. I kid you not. His name was J. Walker. Can't make this stuff up.

 

OCTOBER 1, 2013: TOO MUCH FUN

I'm with Regan and Ayla. First, we eat hamburgers and fries. Then Regan does her addition and subtraction homework and I check. Now, we're into cookie making. Sugar cookies are baking and we're waiting to decorate them with sprinkles and gummy worms.

While the cookies are baking, Regan and Ayla are eating the sprinkles. They have to test all the colors. In between, we talk about whatever comes to mind. There are no filters.

Regan says, "I call my father 'Dad' or 'Daddy.'"

I ask, "What do you call your mother?"

Ayla answers, "Muba."

"No," I protest. "You don't call your mother, 'Muba.'"

"Muba, Muba, Muba." Ayla's laughing. This is very funny.

Regan has a question. "Where are your mommy and daddy, Mim?"

"Well, you know GG. She's my mother."

"Where's your father?"

"My father's passed away. He's in heaven."

Regan pauses. "I wish I'd met him."

"You'd have liked him and he'd have liked you. I called him 'Pop.'"

Regan pauses again. "Some Grandpas are Papa and some are Pop."

Ayla's into it. "Papa Poppy Papa Poppy Mim Mimmy Mim Mimmy." This is very funny.

The first tray of cookies is out of the oven. We let them cool a few minutes but it's hard to wait. Time to put on the sprinkles. Time to pour on the sprinkles. You can't have too many sprinkles on one cookie.

My vision — gummy worms wriggling though green grass — appears to be rather pedestrian. Instead, these gummy worms are cavorting in green, blue, pink, yellow, and orange grass. Some are doing back bends on their cookies. Some are standing on their heads. Some are burrowing through cookies and coming out the other side.

We're making a big mess. We see sprinkles on the floor. Sprinkles in our hair. Sprinkles on the dog. And when we're in our pajamas and reading Duck Duck Goose, we find sprinkles in our bed. This is very funny.

"Good night, Ayla."

"Goodnight, Regan."

Sometimes life is simply too much fun.

 

Please share my blog/book with "other wayfarers who might catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods." Thanks.

COMING UP THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2017:  

OCTOBER 2, 2013 - October 18, 2013: The Grandma Drawer * Naps * Courage * Paralysis * Good Enough for Guests * Age Calculator * In The Big Scheme of Things * Conversation * Getting It * Mission Accomplished * Always Something * Holy Moley * Under Control * Wild Women

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dede@soonerthantomorrow.com