MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

 Dede, I am so enjoying your story. So rich and naked. Linda

I read this blog. It's terrific in every way. I see the intelligence and the illness in Pat's posts. He made me laugh — but also evident is the stress on you. I also love Mary Oliver's poetry and I won't shop at Walmart (love Blue Bunny ice cream). I could really identify with how Bridge takes your full concentration — a real diversion from the "family" issues. My go-to diversion is golf. I could go on and on — your writing style is really special — take my word for it - UC Berkeley English major and avid reader. Now I will go back and read your previous blogs. I hope you realize what a gem you have in that diary you kept. Pat really comes alive. (is that terrible to say?) I can hear his voice. Kudos to you. Chris

 Thank you for sharing this difficult journey. Stay strong! Dori

 

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2017: AUGUST 30, 2013 - SEPTEMBER 7, 2013

Beautiful Feet * Quandaries * Cookies I * Cookies II * A Teacher's Tirade * Which End's Up? * Homemade Books * Tournaments and Wars * Getting Real

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

 

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan: AUGUST 18, 2013 - AUGUST 29, 2013

Making Amends * Bridge and Bill Gates * The Morning News * Race * Last Steps * Overstating the Obvious * Happy Birthday, Patrick Sean * Part of the Universe * Russian Dolls and Blue Dragons

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."* 

 

AUGUST 18, 2013: MAKING AMENDS

Home again. I'm doing laundry and reading Catching Fire. The book belongs to Sam. He says, "You should read it, Mim."

I have to hand it to Suzanne Collins. She's written a page-turner. Age doesn't matter. Young and old are among the book's raving fans. I plan to see the movie.

Jazzy's sitting in front of my computer screen with her back to me. She's swishing her tail on my keyboard.

"Stop typing. You left me for five days. Five days. You went to visit Butters. I hate to be a bad news bear, but Butters is a dog. A yappy, little, froufrou dog. What were you thinking?"

"Sorry, Jazz. Let's go outside and explore the back yard. For the next hour, I'll watch you chase lizards."

Once in a while, I'll look away and read book number two of The Hunger Games.

BUTTERS

BUTTERS

 

AUGUST 19, 2013: BRIDGE AND BILL GATES

It's Monday and I'm still basking in my Saturday duplicate bridge score. My partner and I came in first in our section with a 60.74 score. We earned 1.69 OA BLK points.

I'm not sure what those points mean — they go toward life master points. To be a life master, you need 500 points. I have 25 points so life master status isn't happening for me in this incarnation. But this is my second best score and I'm trying to improve my game.

Bridge isn't easy. My partner and I review hands from Saturday's game. We talk about leads — leading the fourth down from the longest and strongest suit in a no-trump contract, and leading the top of a two-card sequence in a suit contract.

Warren Buffet plays duplicate bridge. So does Bill Gates. Sometimes they play together as partners. When Bill showed up at a youth bridge tournament, the kids asked him why he likes playing bridge.

He said, "Because I think I'm getting better at it."

If that's a good enough reason for Bill Gates to like bridge, it's a good enough reason for me. Today, after my Saturday game, I think I'm getting better at it.

 

AUGUST 22, 2013: THE MORNING NEWS

Horrific news in today's paper. Photos show bodies of small children in white shrouds lined up on a street. They look like they're sleeping. They're not sleeping. They're dead.

Parents point at small figures and claim their sons and daughters. Unbelievable loss in Damascus, Syria. It may have been a chemical attack. It's not yet clear.

Some people live in violent areas. Some people live in safe ones. Who gets to live where?

I'm sitting in a comfortable chair in my den surrounded by family photos, books, and my grandchildren's artwork. It's a small, quiet haven. Everyone deserves a small, quiet haven.

Pat calls. "Mom, Monday's my birthday. Can we go to that sushi place for lunch? I have a coupon for one free lunch if another person buys one."

"Yes, we can go."

It's Pat's 45th.

Mom calls. "I can't go to Regan's birthday dinner tonight."

It's Regan's 7th.

"I'm attending a fashion show. I signed up for it weeks ago. It's sold out and I don't want to lose my place."

"Who's putting on the fashion show?"

"One of the employees owns a wonderful collection of period clothing. One year the theme was the 1890s. That was when Pop was born. Another year it was depression era styles — flappers and stuff. The dining room staff model and serve us fruit salad, coffee, and dessert. It's a very good event."

"Guess we need to give you more notice next time."

"Yes, give me a month's notice so I can get it on my calendar. Bye."

"Bye, Mom."

Her calendar is busier than my calendar. She's my antidote to the morning news.

 

AUGUST 23, 2013: RACE

This morning I saw The Butler. This film presents an account of a black butler in the White House. He served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986.

In the car, on the way to the movie, I listen to Capital Public Radio and a discussion about a new school program in Oakland, California. Volunteers and staff, in the African Male Achievement program, mentor young black students to help them navigate the academic and cultural hurdles they face at school and at home.

In Oakland, in one recent year, according to the reported statistics, eight hundred black males were killed by gang and drug violence. In the same year, eight hundred black males graduated from high school ready to enter the California State University and University of California systems. In other words, in that year, black males in Oakland were as likely to be killed as to graduate from high school and go to college.

And tonight, I'm watching a television special about the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, DC. I was in college in California, removed from the march, and naive about race and racial issues. Growing up, I'd had limited encounters with African Americans or with any ethnic group.

My first African-American friend was a young man who worked at IBM, as I did, during our college summer breaks. We bantered when we found each other in the copy room. While he changed toner in one machine, I ran copies on another.

I believed in God. Michael wasn't sure. He bragged about his college, San Jose State. I bragged about mine, Santa Clara University. We were both sad about losing President Kennedy. We were both hopeful for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We each thought that interracial dating was okay, although neither of us knew anyone in a bi-racial relationship.

When we left the copy room, Michael opened the door and waited for me while I gathered up my copies. In retrospect, I think we had some chemistry.

Michael came to my wedding in 1967, our only African-American guest. I encouraged him to bring someone with him but he came alone. After my marriage, I moved to Chicago and lost touch. I wonder where Michael is today. I'd like to know his thoughts and talk with him again. But fifty years later, I can't remember his last name.

I regret that I haven't had close, longtime friends of color. I know my life would have been richer. I have a Japanese friend, now, who exposes me to a culture dedicated to the preservation of family history, respect for elders, and traditions that honor the deceased. She expands my world.

I hope it's a two-way exchange.

 

AUGUST 24, 2013: LAST STEPS

I'm at Beryl's Celebration of Life this morning. The room in Kilaga Lodge is packed — a testament to Joan and Beryl's impact on this community, and a testament to this community's supportive network.

Beryl was an artist. His stone and bronze sculptures serve as table centerpieces. A family friend presents a slide show. It's fun to see Joan and Beryl smiling and waving when they were young. It's inspiring to see them, older and heavier, with their arms still around one another. They were married thirty-five years.

Beryl's children are present and grateful for Pops. His daughter-in-law, Lisa, acts as mistress of ceremonies. She introduces each member of the family, including Beryl's daughter, Jennifer, Lisa's new bride.

Lisa moves across the room. "Among his passions," she says, "cars, art, bowling and football, Beryl loved rocks. So I've left the best introduction to last."

Lisa introduces Joan. "Joan was Beryl's rock."

I believe it. Joan is quiet and often stands in the background. When you talk with her, however, you find a person of substance.

Tonight will be Joan's first night alone without family present. She says reality hasn't hit her, yet. In a few days, I'll go for a walk with Joan - a walk without Beryl. Beryl's taken his last steps.

Footsteps and life end so soon.

 

AUGUST 25, 3013: OVERSTATING THE OBVIOUS

I'm starting out the door to go for a walk but it's too hot and, anyway, I'm stalling. I don't want to do what I have to do — complete the paperwork for my prepaid cremation. It's not that it's about cremation. It's that it's about paperwork.

Always there's so much paperwork, including online paperwork. I have a stack of bills to pay — mine, GG's, and Pat's. I have to start an Excel file for GG's rental house. It's time to update my revocable trust.

Mom calls to give me her grocery list. She's very specific:
   1 package 60 watt light bulbs
   2 packages dental tape, NOT floss
   3 packages super-maxi pages, 48 count, Safeway brand
   2 boxes Kleenex, 200 count, white
   2 24 count packages toilet paper, double ply

I add her list to the pile.

Now I'm staring at the Authorization for Cremation and Disposition form. A notice at the top, capitalized and in bold red letters, says:

CREMATION IS IRREVERSIBLE

This is not self-evident?

"All the information requested is required by the state in order to file a death certificate. Incomplete information could lead to delays in the processing of permits in time of need."

Oh-Kay. I'll give you guys complete information. Co-mingle my ashes with my pets' ashes and return them to my family.

Marisa asks me to forward the cremation information to her. My brother and his wife request the Webb address. My hairstylist thinks she should give a brochure to her parents. My mother's following my example. I must be good at this — selling cremation. Maybe I could get a referral fee :-)

FACEBOOK POSTS TO PATRICK:
Angie: Happy Birthday Patrick. Hope you  have a great day.
David: Happy Birthday!
Kelly: Happy Birthday to you. Hope you're having a great day!
Erin: Happy Birthday Pat! ROCK ON!
Chris: Happy Birthday! Have a great one buddy!
Dana: Happy Birthday
Steve: Happy Birthday Pat. Hope you have a great one!
Molly: Happy Birthday!
Jordan: Happy Birthday, Patrick!!
Cheryl: Happy Birthday!
Mark: Happy Birthday!
Annie: Happy Birthday, Patrick!
Geoff: PaRana! Hope you have a great day!
Cara: Happy Birthday, Pat! Enjoy!
Veronica: Happy Birthday Pat! Have some fun!
Alex: Happy Birthday!!!
Janet: Happy Birthday Pat! Have a great day!

 

AUGUST 26, 2013: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATRICK SEAN

August 26 is a complicated day. It's Pat's birthday. It's also my wedding anniversary. If I were still married, it would be my 46th anniversary.

I open one eye this morning, not two.  Before I'm awake enough to remember what day it is, I'm hesitant. What is this? Am I still not over my divorce?

I don't mourn the marriage. We were both young, inexperienced, and immature. If we'd lived together first, as all my daughters did with their spouses, I'm guessing each of us may have said, "I love you, but this doesn't seem like a good fit."

In our defense, we were trying to be "good, Catholic kids." And when it became clear how different we were, the wedding certificate had long been signed and the bed made many times.

We never know what goes on inside a marriage, but from outside appearances, my three daughters have solid partnerships. They and their spouses work as teams. They make joint decisions. They parent together. They support each other. When I'm visiting them, I sometimes get those pesky feelings like I did in Seattle.

I watch my daughters and their spouses interact and I experience opportunity loss. I touch base again with the loneliness I felt in my marriage. I'm sure my daughters wish their mother would find a new relationship.

I give myself a pep talk. "Get a grip. Get over yourself. Rejoice in your daughters and their families. Give thanks for them."

A therapist I saw, when I was first separated, kept telling me I was stuffing my feelings and pushing them down. What if I'm still doing that? What if that's why, this morning, my stomach's churning like an overloaded washing machine?

Maybe writing about my feelings of loss will bring them to the surface so I can dismiss them. "Go away. I have no need of you."

Maybe, next year, on August 26, I'll remember only that it's Pat's birthday. Maybe, next year, August 26 will be an uncomplicated day.

 

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: FORTY-FIVE AND STILL ALIVE!

FACEBOOK POSTS TO PATRICK
Ryan: Happy bday
Laura: Happy Birthday Pat! And many more to follow.
Brad: Happy Birthday Pat!
Robert: Yo Patrick! Happy Birthday brother. Hope you're doing well.
Donna: Happy Happy Birthday Patrick. Hope you had a good day.
Scott: Happy Birthday from Berlin, Mr. Ranahan! I send you an ever full stein.
Patrick: Thank you Mr. Shepard. Happy travels!
Lisa: Happy Birthday, Pat!
Merideth: Happy Birthday Pat from all of us! Pam, Dennis, Kevin, Mickey and me!
Urs: Happy Birthday Pat. Wishing you a useful B-Day & many more
Tiffany: Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Patrick!
Jay: Happy Bday!!!
Jen: Happy Birthday Pat!
Cory: Happy Birthday Patrick!
Lara: Happy Birthday Pat! Have a wonderful day.
Keith: Happy Birthday and many good wishes to follow.
Brandi: Happy, happy birthday to you!
Roger: Happy Birthday Pat!
Tanya: Happy Birthday!
Connie: Glad to hear it!
Kim: Happy birthday my friend. I hope this year brings you much happiness and good fortune.
Patrick: Thanks Kim, good to have reconnected with you on here.
Amy: Happy Birthday, Pat!
Kate: Sending more birthday love your way! Wishing you happiness today and everyday!
Kim: Happy Birthday Patrick!
Steph: Wish you a happy birth day/week/month!
Paul: Happy Birthday Pat!
Patrick: Thanks everyone for the birthday love and good wishes. All in all, a good day.

 

AUGUST 27, 2013: PART OF THE UNIVERSE

I'm picking through my mother's papers looking for the plot number of Pop's grave. Mom wants her ashes scattered there. I come across a poem I've not read before. I google the first line. The poem was written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932.

According to Wikipedia, a German-Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, was staying with Frye. Margaret's mother was ill in Germany, but warned her daughter to stay away because of Jewish persecution. When her mother died, Margaret said, "I never had the chance to stand by my mother's grave and shed a tear."

Frye composed the poem on a brown paper shopping bag to console her friend. She didn't published the poem but did share it privately. In 1995, the father of a soldier killed in Northern Ireland, read the poem on BBC radio. The soldier had left the poem in an envelope addressed "To all my loved ones." Requests for the poem began immediately.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

I email the poem to Joan. Joan emails back.

"I'm making a copy. It's something I want to remember as I think Beryl is now part of the universe."

 

AUGUST 29, 2013: RUSSIAN DOLLS AND BLUE DRAGONS

I'm at a meeting of a new group that's trying to get off the ground — the Lincoln Lollies - or Lovely Older Ladies Laughing, Loving, Interacting, Enjoying, Sharing. Fifteen women have joined so far. Nine are present this evening. We meet in the waiting room of a small counseling office. The organizer is a therapist.

I recall a scene in the Richard Dreyfuss film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. People are scrambling from every direction to get to a mountain top without knowing why.

The women here responded to an email and came from all over Lincoln to the first meeting of the Lolllies not knowing why. Obviously, the invitation tapped into some needs.

This meeting, as the others, is free form. We go around the room and each of us talks about whatever we want to bring up.

Yvonne, the therapist, has shelves in her office filled with miniatures — angels, animals, houses, cars, tools, rocks, children, grown-ups, and mythical creatures like fairies and unicorns. When everyone has spoken, Yvonne asks if we would like to try sand tray therapy. She rolls out a box of sand on wheels — three feet by two feet by two inches deep.

"Pick two figures from the miniatures on my shelves and place them wherever you want in the sand tray."

I can't decide at first.

Yvonne says, "Don't think too much, just choose."

I pick a Russian matryoshka, or wooden nesting doll, and a blue dragon.

"Why did you pick these?"

I'm not sure. From all the miniatures, they jumped out a me. I know the nesting doll has many dolls inside. It suggests the peeling back of layers. The dragon isn't scary. It isn't breathing fire. It looks protective and magical.

The doll, as I placed it in the sand tray, is gazing at the dragon with big, wide-open, unblinking eyes. She's unafraid and very close to the dragon.

What am I feeling when I look at the doll and the dragon? I'm feeling that they're telling me something. They're telling me to follow my muse.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: One year ago today I reported for brain surgery. One of the scariest days of my life. Today I can say that things are back to normal, going out to dinner with my dad to celebrate my 45th birthday.

Lara: Wow, Pat I'm shocked to hear this, and yet happy to hear you're doing well.
Patrick: Normal in a relative sense.
Keir: Awesome. Happy Birthday!
Donna: Glad to hear. Tell your Dad hi!
Julie: We are thankful Pat. Have a great time at dinner.
Veronica: You ROCK Pat! Prime example of living life!
Stacey: Have a great dinner Pat!
Scott: Normal?  Who needs it? My relatives aren't normal either.
Katie: Stay strong Pat! Have a fantastic dinner and say hello to your dad from us!
Pam: Happy Birthday Pat! I remember first meeting you when you were about 3 years old.

 

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2017: AUGUST 30, 2013 - SEPTEMBER 7, 2013

Beautiful Feet * Quandaries * Cookies I * Cookies II * A Teacher's Tirade * Which End's Up? * Homemade Books * Tournaments and Wars * Getting Real

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


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the oldest

MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

July 26, 2017

Good morning, Dede,

So, I’ve been reading more of your blog – it’s a great read and sheds light on the world that I know so little about. We are promoting your talk at our workplace. We have already sent out a Save The Date notice via email. I received a lot of positive responses from staff and RSVPs. We are all very excited and truly appreciate your willingness to come to our agency and share your story. 

Here at Covered California, we implement the ACA in our State. The ACA mandates mental health treatment as an Essential Health Benefit, which means now that all plans must offer mental and behavioral health services. As you may know best, we have a lot of work to do in California. How the system is right now is not enough but it is a step In the right direction. We are hopeful for the future and understand the importance of mental health as an Essential Health Benefit – we do not want to go backwards and lose the available mental health services for those in need.

It is truly an honor to have you come here and share your incredibly personal story. Being a mother opens your eyes to a deeper sense of emotions. I understand your story is painful and somehow also inspirational. For this reason, I thank you again for your willingness to come here and let us be your audience.

Sincerely,
Cristina Kryeziu 
AGPA - Office of Legal Affairs
Covered California

COMING UP THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2017: AUGUST 18, 2013 - AUGUST 29, 2013

Making Amends * Bridge and Bill Gates * The Morning News * Race * Last Steps * Overstating the Obvious * Happy Birthday, Patrick Sean * Part of the Universe * Russian Dolls and Blue Dragons

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

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

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan: AUGUST 3, 2013 - AUGUST 16, 2013

Dilemma * Gotta Love 'Em * First Law of Awesome * Planning Ahead * A Post on Caring Bridge * The Mean One * For A Reason * Seattle * Morning Coffee * As the World Turns * Goodbye Seattle 

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."

AUGUST 3, 2013: DILEMMA

Today is Pop's 117th birthday. Happy Birthday, Pop. On a cloud or a star or wherever you are, I love you.

Email from Pat:

"Mom. I received a letter today from the housing office denying my request for reasonable accommodation. Their reason is this — 'We are not able to approve your request since there is no apparent disability related modification that is unique to this unit.'

"They're advising that if I want to use the voucher, I have to find another place to live. I don't want to move again. I can't handle that kind of stress right now. Their decision is not based on whether or not I'm disabled, it's based on the fact that the house isn't equipped with disability modifications like ramps or machines that move you up and down stairs.

"I've done everything in my power to try and make this voucher work here but it doesn't look like it's going to and it's time to cut our losses. Again, this has nothing to do with what the doc stated on the form, it has to do with the house itself." Pat

"P.S. Are you coming over on Monday for the air conditioner inspection and tune up?"

 

AUGUST 4, 2013: GOTTA LOVE 'EM

Email exchange with Pat:

"Pat, I'm flying to Seattle on the twelfth to visit Marisa. Can you take me to the airport on Monday and pick me  up on Friday? I'm thinking I'll drive to your house. You can use my car and park it in your garage. Will this work?" Mom

"Mom, you don't want to take my car? I think last time you gave me $60 for gas and time." Pat

"Pat, I don't remember why I did that last time. My Prius gets better mileage than your car. As for time, this is something you can do for me." Mom

"Mom, yes, of course I'll take you." Pat

I call my mother:

"Hi, Mom. I have Marisa's *new address for you. Ready?"

"Ready."

"It's twenty-five-ten. Got that?"

"Yes, twenty-five-ten."

"10th Ave."

"Two-hundred eight?"

"No. 10th. The number ten."

"Twenty-ten?"

"No. 10th. The number ten."

"T-e-n-t-h?"

Now, I'm shouting into the phone.

"No. Not t-e-n-t-h. 10th. As in 9th, 10th, 11th."

"10th."

"Yes."

"10th what?"

"10th Avenue."

"10th Avenue."

"Yay. 10th Avenue West."

"10th Avenue what?"

"West. Capital W. for West."

"10th Avenue little w?"

"No. Capital W."

"10th Avenue capital W?"

"Yes."

"Tell me again. Was that a little w or a big W?"

"That's it. Between you and Pat, I'm checking out. I'm selling the house, closing my bank account, and boarding a cruise ship until my money runs out."

"I'd come with you but I'd get seasick. Bye."

(*For privacy, Marisa's actual address isn't used.)

 

AUGUST 5, 2013: FIRST LAW OF AWESOME

Email from a reader:

"Dede, thank you for the letter to the Sacramento Bee regarding 'fluff.' I'm alway encouraged when someone else is watching, having worked at the State Department of Mental Health (DMH) for thirty-four years, and having a mentally ill son.

"I'm amazed at the number of women in their 60s unable to find resolution in the mental health system for their loved ones. My phone rings and I know it's another mom with a missing son.

"My worst fear is leaving my son trapped, sedated, and in a board and care warehouse. He's homeless and terrified. This morning, I'm on my way to the shelter to search for him so he doesn't walk to his clinic in the heat. He's done nothing wrong but suffered the misfortune of a brain disease.

"When I worked for DMH, we were trained on how to interact with family members, counties, legislators, and consumers. In fact, I wrote what was known as the 'Five Laws of Awesome.' They were the result of my observations on how we, as bureaucrats, would handle anyone outside the DMH.

"The 'First Law of Awesome' was 'Never Wise Up a Dummy' and was dedicated to dialogue with legislators. I created it during the time I was implementing federal block grants which required seven annual reports to the legislature. One of the reports described the direct and indirect (administrative) costs at federal, state, and county levels.

"I quickly realized that the Feds were charging 8 percent, the state 15 percent, and the counties 26 percent for a total of 49 percent of mental health funds. Fifty-one percent of available funding was going to mental health clients.

"Not only that, there were different definitions at each level for administrative costs, which would have been an attachment to the report of fifty pages. The result would have been legislators screaming at me and hours of explanation.

"I backed out the 8 percent Fed because it was only a first year charge to the state, got my bosses to not charge the state 15 percent, and wrote a one-page report for 26 percent.

"My report flew through the agency and the Governor's office and received approval in three days. The Department of Alcohol and Drugs wrote a seventy-five-page report and, six months later, they were marched to the legislature and kicked. Bottom line — don't give people information they don't understand."

 

AUGUST 6, 2012: PLANNING AHEAD

I looked death in the eye today and didn't flinch. I signed up for a prepaid cremation package with trip insurance. This means, if I die while traveling anywhere outside California, I'll be shipped home without additional expense. Cheery thought, but nice to know I won't be left dangling between this world and the next in a foreign country.

I signed Mom up for local coverage as she has no plans to leave California while she's still breathing. We each received a $100 discount because I signed us up on the spot. Think I'll go shopping. I'll buy a $100 outfit to celebrate living this long.

Other features and benefits of the cremation package include the following:
* Today's payment will be put in a trust accruing interest. If we seek a refund, we'll be reimbursed ninety-nine percent of the interest. Hmmm? Maybe this is a viable investment idea.

* At the time of passing, we'll receive a titanium ID bracelet to prevent mistaken identity.

* Ashes can be co-mingled with the ashes of loved ones including pets.

What I like is that everything is pretty much taken care of in advance and there'll be less stress at the time of departure. Kind of like packing your suitcase weeks before a long trip.

The big thing about dying, for me, is not being around to find out what happens next. For instance, in the news today — bit coins and lab-produced hamburger grown from cow stem cells. I want to know about new developments like these. On the other hand, I'm glad I won't have to hear about future wars, murder, and mayhem.

As I think about my final transition, I grapple with Teilhard de Chardin's quote, "We're not human beings having a spiritual experience. We're spiritual beings having a human experience."

It's not clear to me why my spirit needed to have a human experience in the first place. Why didn't my spirit self simply stay where it was — in the great flowing river of infinite consciousness — or whatever?  I mean, once I'm back in that realm, it will take a lot more than news of virtual money and hamburger helper to propel me to earth again.

If it's as good as it's cracked up to be, I think I'll like being a human being having a spiritual experience. I'm leaving it at that.

 

AUGUST 7, 2013: A POSTING ON CARING BRIDGE

Peaceful and Poignant Passing

Beryl had not spoken Monday or Tuesday. Nor had his eyes been open except for brief moments. On Tuesday around 3 p.m., he opened his eyes and saw and felt his daughter holding one hand, his son holding the other and Joan stroking his face. They all said, "I love you." Beryl mouthed what they think was, "I love you," closed his eyes and passed away. There couldn't have been a more poignant and beautiful — while tragic and sad — passing.

Thank you for caring about Beryl and his family. Knowing of your concern and compassion helped them cope with this journey.

 

AUGUST 8, 2013: THE MEAN ONE

Well, you never know what might come in the mail or, as today, from UPS. A huge package, four-feet-by 32 inches.

I peel off the packaging tape and open one end of the box. I push and pull to release a heavy object, sliding it out of the box and onto the floor. Dozens of white styrofoam puffs float through the air. I slice through layers and layers of bubble wrap.

It's a frame. Turning the frame around, I'm staring at a mounted piece of cloth. It looks like it's been cut from a larger piece. It's a red and blue abstract design on a neutral background mounted on a Hunter-green mat.

My eyes scan the lower left side of the fabric. Printed in block letters it reads, "Maria Hollinger 1841."

Who was Maria Hollinger? I call my mother.

"Who was Maria Hollinger?"

"Maria Hollinger was my grandmother — your great-grandmother."

"Did you know her?"

"No, she died before I was born. She was my father's mother."

"Do you know anything about this fabric?"

"No, I didn't know it existed."

I call my cousin in Kansa City because her return address is on the box.

"Thank you for this gift. Where did it come from?"

"I found it in Aunt Marg's trunk after she died. It looked like a bridge table size tablecloth. I think I should share these treasures with you so I cut it up to remove coffee stains and framed what was left — a half for each of us."

"Do you know anything about Maria Hollinger?"

"She was our grandfather's mother. She may be the one who everyone said was the 'mean one.'"

"Really? Why?"

"I don't know. Maybe it wasn't her. I'll try to find out who the 'mean one' was."

Maria Hollinger is now a ponderous presence in my dining room. The framed handiwork sits on the floor and leans against three dining room chairs. I've nowhere to hang this. It's too big, too red, too blue, too green. Maybe one of my daughters will want it.

It is cool that I'm looking at something used by a relative in 1841. This was sweet of my cousin, but I'm starting to chuckle. Some people inherit a million dollars. I inherit half of a piece of a tablecloth. Framed.

Now I'm laughing out loud. I'm snorting. I'm glad my cousin isn't here to hear me. I hope Maria Hollinger can't hear me, either. Especially, if it turns out that she was, in fact, "the mean one."

 

AUGUST 10, 2013: FOR A REASON

Email from Megan:

"Mom, the framed tablecloth looks interesting to me on Instagram, especially with your story. Don't you want to hang it in your garage? Then in 150 years, you might be perceived as the 'mean one.' LOL.

"Maybe Grandma would want it in her place until my next visit. I'll take it if it's up for grabs. I think it made it all the way to you for a reason." Megan

 

AUGUST 12, 2013: SEATTLE

I'm on Alaska flight 373 - Sacramento to Seattle. Seat 24A, window seat. Departs 10:20 a.m. Arrives 11:59 a.m.

I'm going to visit Marisa, Keith, Elise and Sam. Their furniture was supposed to be delivered from Carlsbad on August 2 but it hasn't arrived.  They're staying in an apartment paid for by Keith's employer. They've booked a hotel room for me paid for by the moving company.

I'm taking a pink fuzzy ball with a face on it to Elise for her birthday. It's on her birthday wish list. Both Sam and Elise have new Seattle library cards so I'm bringing magnetic book marks for each of them and a book, Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris. Jeri lives in my neighborhood. She's signed the book "For Elise and Sam - Have lots of fun learning all about Noah! From a friend of your Mim."

We're taking off.

 

AUGUST 13, 2013: MORNING COFFEE

It's Tuesday morning in Seattle. I'm in room 405 of the Ballard Hotel in the suburb of Ballard. I open double glass doors to a black, wrought iron, eighteen-inch by three-foot balcony. Crisp air stings my face.

My view is of the street below and an alley that dead-ends in a parking  lot. The parking lot backs up to the Stimson Marina. I hear street sounds — cars, bicycle bells, and human voices. I hear sky sounds — birds, helicopters, and airplanes.

I watch a crane in the marina hoisting giant crates off a salmon-colored barge. There's a klatch of blue and black garbage containers lined up in front of the restaurant across the street.

The coffee - Coffee Umbria - I made in the room's coffee maker is just right. I know Seattle loves its coffee and this cup is robust.

I'm waiting for Marisa to call or text. We're driving to Snoqualmie Falls. This may be our one day to explore because her furniture is coming tomorrow. That is, it's supposed to come tomorrow. Nothing but problems with this moving company.

But no worries. I didn't come to see the scenery. I came to see Marisa and her family. Yesterday, we visited the empty new house — a 1906, 1400-square-foot Craftsman style bungalow. Marisa's looking forward to experiencing in-town living as opposed to suburb living in Carlsbad.

Darn. I'm getting those pesky feelings I sometimes get when I visit my daughters and their families. I'll ignore them for the moment. I know I'll have to write about them, sooner or later.

Right now, I'm making another cup of coffee.

 

AUGUST 15, 2013: AS THE WORLD TURNS

I'm sitting in a Starbucks on the corner of NW 57th St. and 24th Avenue NW. The sky is overcast promising rain. The sign on the table says, "As a courtesy to all our customers, we ask that you limit your stay to 30 minutes." I'm the only one here. Maybe my California vibe is scaring other people away.

Marisa's and Keith's furniture arrived yesterday. I sat on the back porch as chief inventory clerk. Each box was numbered and the moving crew yelled out numbers as they carried the boxes into the house. I crossed each number off the inventory list. All 367 of them.

At the end of the day, the movers ran out of time to unpack boxes and to assemble a jungle gym — services that were paid for in advance.

The special crew that was required to move the old washer and dryer out of the house and install the new washer and dryer didn't show. There seems to be a communication problem between this moving company coordinator and the rest of the known world.

This move is giving me flashbacks to moves during my marriage - San Jose to Chicago; Chicago to Rochester, Minnesota; Rochester to Guam; Guam to San Jose; San Jose to Pleasanton; Pleasanton to San Ramon; and San Ramon back to Pleasanton.

And then the moves after my marriage - Pleasanton to Castro Valley; one house in Castro Valley to another house in Castro Valley; Castro Valley to Rocklin; and finally, Rocklin to Lincoln.

In the middle of moves, I always felt hopeful, thinking physical changes would manifest progress and improvement. Sometimes things were better in new locations, sometimes not.

Pleasanton to Castro Valley was traumatic. I was leaving my marriage, my home, and the community I'd lived in for twenty-six years. I moved into an old house in an ethnic neighborhood. I never saw any neighbors, only heard the couple next door screaming in Russian. Sounded like four-letter words.

Not long after moving in, I called a mobile vet to the house to put Schatze to sleep. Kerry and David slept on the floor with her the night before. None of us wanted to say goodbye. (I have her ashes in a box on a shelf over my computer as I type this.)

On top of that, I lost my job and a meaningful mental health project I'd started at the university. This whole period seemed to be about one personal loss after the other. I held on tight to the rattling time machine I was traveling on — not sure where it was headed or how long the bumpy ride would last.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm still the only person in this Starbucks. Guess I can stay another 30 minutes.

At a table right outside the window, a large human being just sat down. I say, "human being" because, from the back I can't tell if this is a man or a woman. The head is covered with a black scarf pulled on like and cap and wound around the neck. He or she is talking on a cell phone.

On the left hand, holding the phone, the fingernails are long like a woman's, but the plaid shirt looks like a man's. Whoops. The right hand just scratched the head moving like a guys hand. Little does he or she know that the lady sitting on the other side of the window is writing about him or her.

A woman has claimed the table behind me and is typing on her laptop. I wonder if she's writing about me.

A big black crow is poking around under the outside tables, gobbling up cookie crumbs. A new fellow, with dirty hands and stringy hair, sits down in one of four leather chairs. He may be homeless. He closes his eyes and mumbles to himself. Two young boys run by the heavyset mystery person on the patio.

I've been here 45 minutes. I could sit here all day on this corner in Seattle - or on any corner anywhere — and watch the world go by. I'm walking outside, now, past the object of my curiosity. He's definitely a guy.

 

AUGUST 16, 2013: GOODYBYE SEATTLE

Pike's Market

Pike's Market

I'm back at my table at Starbucks. There are more people here today — five men and two women. One man is busy on his laptop. I wonder what he's writing about.

The same crow - I can tell it's the same crow — is back for his Starbuck's breakfast. A small brown sparrow is working the opposite side of the patio. The woman at the table in front of me is wearing a hooded, turquoise sweatshirt with the words "Bhakti Chai" on the back. A rugged looking guy, with greasy brown hair, sits down at the table with the woman in the sweatshirt.

"Mind if I sit down here? I need to plug in my phone."

The woman stands up and leaves.

Marisa texts. She and the kids will be here soon to pick me up. It's time to go home already.

Yesterday we took a twenty-minute bus ride into town and scoped out Pike's Market. We drooled over fruits and vegetables in every color — red tomatoes, green zucchini, white onions, white garlic, purple eggplant, yellow summer squash, pink peaches, crimson plums, red apples, yellow bananas, and red and green grapes.

Other market items for sale included breath-taking bouquets of dahlias and Queen Anne's Lace, monster slabs of halibut, salmon on ice, mussels, Dungeness crabs, giant scallops, spot prawns, and handmade pastas in varieties like herb and garlic, red pepper and chives, sweet potato, and chocolate.

If I lived in Seattle, I'd be at this market at least once a week.

Marisa bought a dozen white dahlias with lavender centers for her dining room table. The table is surrounded by boxes, packed and unpacked. I'm proud of Marisa's home-making efforts. Martha Stewart would be proud, too.

Last impressions of Seattle on the way to the airport — a sign on a small marquee outside a bar, "Be bold about what you stand up for. Be careful about what you step into."

Another is a sculpture on a random patch of lawn beside the freeway. Marisa says, "It looks like a jettisoned airplane wheel."

I know what it is but you have to be of a certain age to even have a clue. It's a large tree-size reproduction of a typewriter eraser — the round eraser disc attached to a brush to whisk away eraser debris.

Goodbye, Seattle. Goodbye, dear family.

 

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2017: AUGUST 18, 2013 - AUGUST 29, 2013

Making Amends * Bridge and Bill Gates * The Morning News * Race * Last Steps * Overstating the Obvious * Happy Birthday, Patrick Sean * Part of the Universe * Russian Dolls and Blue Dragons

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

Dede - Love your intro - A Mother's Diary.  First rate. I would love to read more. The very best to you. Kathy

Thanks for sharing your life, Dede. Don't want to be dramatic, but 7 years after Josh's first psychotic break and 2.5 years after he ended his life in the hell of prison where he never should have been, I am still angry and heartbroken. None of it makes sense. I don't want anyone to suffer like Josh and we have. But there's some small comfort in knowing I'm not alone in the sadness that weighs me down every day. God bless you. Anne

Dede...I just finished reading the latest edition of your blog.  You amaze me with your writing ability and your candor in the face of major obstacles!  Thank you for sharing.  Kiss the cat for me.  I will kiss my dog in return. Nancy

Dede, I am reading your blog.  You are such a good writer and have so much to say and you do it so well.  I had no idea you had been through so much trauma, drama, heartbreak with Pat. You are wonderful to share your stories and reach out to others who have similar problems. I must say mental illness is such a huge problem and getting worse every day.  We see it in the many homeless people who live here in Medford but do not see it In the ones who are not on the street but are still affected in some way.  Maybe they have a caring mother who is doing her best. I am looking forward to reading your next entry in your blog.  Bette

COMING UP THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2017: AUGUST 3, 2013 - AUGUST 16, 2013

Dilemma * Gotta Love 'Em * First Law of Awesome * Planning Ahead * A Post on Caring Bridge * The Mean One * For A Reason * Seattle * Morning Coffee * As the World Turns * Goodbye Seattle 

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

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