A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan: JULY 2, 2013 - JULY 14, 2013

Just Like You * Duplicate Bridge * Independence Day * Marketing * Aidan's Poem * Cracking Hearts * Mystery * %$^***@#!)% * Email Exchange With Pat * Support Group Meeting * Breathing * Morning Hassle * Evening Stroll

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."



I'm eating lunch with Mom, affectionately known as GG, at her assisted living residence. I feel like a kid when I visit her. I push her in her wheelchair. I hoist it in and out of the trunk of my car when I drive us somewhere.

At her annual physical, the doctor looked at her and asked, "You're not really this old are you?"

None of us were there when she was born so we  have to take her word for it.

Her hearing is failing. Her legs are weak — a residual effect of childhood polio. However, her blood pressure, cholesterol levels, sodium levels, blood sugar — everything tests in the middle of normal range. Seems all systems are go.

In between bites of an egg salad sandwich, Mom chitchats. I listen.

"See that woman who just walked by? She's one-hundred-and-three. Her boyfriend comes to visit sometimes. He's eighty-eight. She's a sparkly little thing. Says she likes 'em young.

"I bid and made a small slam at bridge yesterday.

"Wasn't that a tragedy about the firefighters who died in Arizona?

"Did you read Obama visited the prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent seventeen of his twenty-seven years in prison?

"Do you want to come to the fireworks show tomorrow night? You shouldn't miss it.

"They have such good ice cream here. I don't know what brand it is. Coffee flavor with chocolate sauce. That's the best. Let's have some of that for dessert."

I'll have whatever you're having, Mom. Maybe it will get me to ninety-five. Just like you.



My partner and I came in fifth at duplicate bridge today. How is it that this game brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly?

So many egos. So many insecurities. So many agendas.

Must keep it all in perspective. Compete against myself. Try to become more proficient at the game. Make friends in the process. Use bridge to exercise my brain and ward off memory loss. And keep signing up for one more, humble-making round.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: A while back, I received two postcards from Victoria's Secret for free panties. I went and picked them up (two black pairs) in the hopes that one day there would be a lady in my life to give them to. But alas, it seems I am doomed to be perpetually single, so they're up for grabs. Comment here with why you want them and I'll send them to a lucky winner. They're brand new, tags and everything.
Daniel: If I were a cross dresser, I'd be up for them bro ;)
Patrick: Actually Daniel, I was hoping to send them to a woman, and I swear I've never tried them on :)
Gayle: I love black panties and I will even send you a picture of me wearing them ;-) how's that!
Patrick: Looks like we have a winner!
Gayle: Oh Patrick, I love your sense of humor ;-)



On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved to his house on Walden Pond. He wrote, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

I'm not tripping off to Walden Pond, However, I'm trying, through these notes, to catch life lessons I might otherwise miss, and to make each of my days a conscious exercise.

Most of the time, I don't realize what I'm thinking until I write it down. Today, I'm thinking about my country. I'm heedful of its shortcomings and imperfections. I'm appreciative of its benefits and promise. I'm grateful that it's where I was born and it's where I abide.

Long may America struggle and summon the political will to be the best it can be. Happy Fourth of July!




Things, as we know, are not always what they seem. Note the ads for life insurance, reverse mortgages, and financial advisers. They spotlight happy couples relishing life in retirement.

Check out the Sun City website. It pictures couples smiling, golfing, swimming, hiking, bicycling, playing baseball and pickle ball, dining in the lodge, gathering for happy hour in the sports bar, doing the rumba and the zumba.

Seniors leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

Some of this messaging is accurate. Some is euphemism. Some is denial. Under the gloss, life can get real, real fast. My neighbor phones. Her husband was diagnosed today with esophageal cancer that has metastasized to his back and hip bones.

Besides my family mental illness support group, Sun City Lincoln Hills has support groups for bereavement, low vision, glaucoma, cancer survivors, treat cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, dementia, and pet loss.

I'm thankful I live in a community that provides all kinds of activities and resources — those that help us enjoy engaging moments and those that help us face inevitable challenges.

Sales departments, it seems, don't want to or don't know how to market the latter.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Let the day evolve without a plan." I stole this quote from Don DeLillo in his book, White Noise.



Aidan is our family's eleven-year-old poet laureate. His poem, "Speak to Me," won first prize in the Zion Canyon Arts and Humanities Council - Elementary Poetry Category for 2013.


As I walk through the canyon, I speak to my father in a soft tone,
"Did you hear that?"
Suddenly I hear my own voice echo back at me,
"Did you hear that?"
I then begin to listen closer;
I hear the river whisper to me,
"Come closer."
"Come closer."
As I take a few more steps, the wind picks up, and the grass begins to whistle.
Small rocks in the river shift as they crackle and snap,
Crackle and snap.
I can't help but wonder, is the canyon trying to speak to me?
Speak to me!

PATICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way."  Carl Sagan



Today's a not-so-good day. My son's sad and that makes me sad. When you're the mother of a child or an adult child who has a serious disability, you walk around with a crack in your heart. Even on good days, a heaviness lingers.

Christians revere Mary as the mother of Jesus. They reflect on her sorrow at the foot of the cross. That agony lasted three hours. Sometimes it feels like my son's agony and my agony never end.

If God were to come down and say to me, "Let's make a deal. Your son will be well and lead a fulfilled and happy existence. In exchange you must give up your life," I'd barter a bit.

I'd say, "Thanks for the offer, God. Here's my counter offer. Let me hang around until  my next birthday so I can say thoughtful goodbyes to my loved ones and tie up loose ends."

But God hasn't come down. That's why I've started a support group for people with mental illness in their families. While we attempt to help our loved ones, we need help ourselves.

Some say we have cracks in our hearts so light can get in. But I see no light. The crack is widening and my heart feels like it's splitting in two.



There's a spongy, little red ball that lives in this house with Jazzy and me. Sometimes it's in the living room. Sometimes it's in the kitchen. Sometimes it's in the den or the bathroom.

I've noticed it prefers to move under cover of darkness. Mornings are when I'm most likely to find it in a new location. When I stare at it, however, it plays possum. It doesn't twitch. It doesn't move a muscle. It just sits there waiting for me to go away.

A few weeks ago, the little red ball disappeared. This afternoon, I found it hiding under the living room sofa.

Rarely, but once in a while, I actually see it move. It rolls around the corner from another room and stops at my feet. When I look around the corner, however, no one is there.

Sometimes Jazzy picks it up and hold it between her teeth. She moans as if she's caught a live animal. Eventually, she gets bored and drops it back on the floor. Then we both watch and wait for it to move again.

And now, I have reason to believe the little red ball is reproducing. Yesterday, I saw a little green ball, bearing a spongy resemblance, sitting by the front door.


Jazz and the spongey, little red ball

Jazz and the spongey, little red ball


JULY 10, 2013: %$^***@#!)%

Megan and Britt and Aidan and Ashton are visiting from Utah. We're gathered at Kerry's house to go bowling. We're waiting for Pat because he has an appointment with a new psychiatrist.

Pat walks in the door. "Things have changed a lot today," he says.

The new psychiatrist, according to Pat, has pronounced that his bipolar disorder was an incorrect diagnosis, and his brain tumor was the problem. The doctor's reducing medications and doesn't need to see Pat again unless Pat calls him.

This doctor would not sign the approval form for housing assistance we've been trying to get for ten years because, "There is no disability."

I'm in shock. Total shock. Twenty years of Pat's medical history, 5150s, jail time, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, financial dependence, family trauma and heartbreak are all discounted. Discounted by a doctor who's known my son for one hour.

I don't know who this Kaiser doctor is. My son's an adult and I have no legal right to know. It appears my only right is the right to wait for the next crisis.

My son's pleased. He says, "I feel like I've been released from prison."

I understand. A professional's telling him he's fine. We all want him to be fine. We all want to be fine. At the moment, I know I'm not. I feel nauseous, kicked in the stomach, beaten up, spat upon.

This turn of events is sabotaging my visit with my daughter and her family. I don't know what I should do.



"Hi, Mom. My phone died last night so I won't be able to call you after my EEG appointment today. Please email back and let me know if it's okay to come over and do laundry today after my appointment." Pat

"Hi, Pat. Yes, It's fine. When are you coming?" Mom

"Hi, Mom. I just checked my gas gauge and I don't think I have enough gas to get there and back, and then to work on Sunday so I don't think I can do my laundry today." Pat

"Hi, Pat. Okay. In the meantime, can you make an appointment with your oncologist to get the housing voucher signed?" Mom

"Hi, Mom. I sent an email to my primary care physician asking if he would be willing to sign it. I haven't heard back from him yet. Will you do me a favor and call my cell phone company and tell them that my phone is dead, that it's my only phone, and that I need a new battery or a new phone as soon as possible? The phone i insured so this shouldn't cost us anything." Pat

"Hi, Mom. Went online. There's a deductible on the phone. The phone company says it will be $99.99 to replace the phone or battery." Pat

"Hi, Mom. I check with Radio Shack. They have the battery for $49.99." Pat

"Hi, Mom. I found the battery online at Best Buy for $19.99." Pat

"Hi, Pat. I'm feeling overwhelmed with the amount of financial assistance I'm giving you. I have to check my bank account and think about this before I agree to pay for the phone." Mom

"Hi Mom. While we're on the subject of freeing you from the financial assistance you've been extending, I'm going to begin looking for a housemate. I should be able to rent the extra room for $600 a month, paid to me, and then I'll take over some of the bills you've been  paying." Pat

"Hi, Pat. We have to discuss this first and include GG to see if she wants another renter in  her house. If it's okay with her, then we have to decide the qualifications required in a potential roommate, will it be a month-to-month arrangement or other, and how the rent will be assigned." Mom

"Hi, Mom. I think the rent to GG should stay the same and I should take over some of the bills you're paying and keep the rest to supplement my income." Pat

"Hi, Pat. We really have to go over and sit down with GG and see 1) If she want someone else in the house and 2) The specifics. GG could be renting the house for twice the amount she is charging you and she still needs income." Mom

"Hi, Mom. Well then, let's go sit down and discuss it with her. While I realize that GG could be getting more for this house than she's getting from me, I'm the one who would have to open my home to a stranger and deal with all the responsibilities that entails. Of, course, I'd like you to be free and clear of all my bills but we have to be realistic about the economy, what people can afford, and what I can afford to take over. If we decide that you and GG want all the money a new housemate would provide, then it's not worth it to me to deal with the hassle of it all." Pat

"Hi, Pat. You don't own the house. You're not paying the taxes, homeowner's dues, homeowner's insurance, maintenance, etc. You should be grateful that GG is willing to rent to you at half price. She didn't want to keep the house. She didn't want to deal with renters. She did it to help you. A homeowner is entitled to rent to whom they want and how they want." Mom

"Hi, Mom. If GG doesn't want to keep the house then I'll look elsewhere. You stated to the Roseville housing division that you were paying $600 a month for my bills. I don't want you to pay my bills any longer than necessary but I don't think I can afford, even with a renter, to pay you $600 a month." Pat

"Hi, Pat. I think this email conversation is not healthy or productive so let's end it." Mom

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Mental health treatment is fundamentally flawed. I had a doctor tell me yesterday that he didn't consider doctors and patients to be equals, as if he felt superior somehow to the human beings he was treating. And the building I was seen in had different bathrooms for doctors and patients. Sounds similar to the whites-only drinking fountains of days gone by. He then proceeded to tell me that I had convinced him that I didn't suffer from a mental illness and that I no longer had to take the medicines I've been required to take for twenty-plus years. I'm just supposed to roll over and eat twenty years of my life being shuffled from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital? Can anyone say misdiagnosis and malpractice?



Random comments at the Family Mental Illness Support Group Meeting today:

"My child says she's fine. She won't see a doctor. She's forty-five. I can't make her go. We're running out of money to help her."

"If we turn him out, he'll be on the street. I can''t live with that."

"My sister has no boundaries. She'll tell anyone anything. She'll tell her social security number if they ask."

"I've lost my other children. They don't want to be around the chaos."

"I have one child. I don't have the experience of a well child."

"My ill son is living with us. It's very difficult. I've just been through surgery and chemo for ovarian cancer. My husband is developing dementia. I have no support."

"My daughter got a traffic ticket for reckless driving. They find her and sentenced her to eighty hours of community service. She doesn't have the capacity to follow through and find an organization that will let her volunteer for them."

"I read something that resonated with me. 'A mother is a happy as her unhappiest child.'"

"My daughter's illness is fracturing the entire family."

"It seems like this illness is very self-centered. Everything is about 'me.'"

"I can't talk about these things anywhere else. People don't understand."



I'm on overload. I'm facing dilemmas God couldn't figure out. My house phone's ringing. I know it's Pat. He's found a way to call me through his computer. At this moment, I can't deal with his stuff. I'm letting it ring.

Now, my cell phone's ringing. I know it's Pat. I know it's my son and I want off the planet. I'm going to go for a walk. I'm going to put one foot down in front of the other. I'm going to take deep breaths, gaze at the sky, and watch for cottontails.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: It's Saturday morning and I should be at my favorite restaurant eating breakfast. But my car is out of gas and I have to make it to the church on time tomorrow. Money is scarce to nothing. I'm thinking of my last lady who could satisfy me by baring her ankles and gazing into my eyes. Still I'm hungry but coffee will have to do. Listening to Mother Hips on Spotify, I'll imagine eggs Benedict and country potatoes, but settle for cereal or toast.

She had a way about her. I find it hard to describe, but she could cock her head in one direction and without saying a word, convey a million thoughts.

When she did speak, she used an economy of language, a thrifty tongue, and she never went on too long.

Grace in her movements, sculpture in her face, she had a way.

I didn't get to spend very much time with her, definitely not the eternity I longed for, but her image and nonchalance is etched in my mind and soul forever.

Man, she had a way about her. I don't know if I'll ever find another who measures up.



Email exchange with Pat:

"Mom, my computer isn't working to make calls and obviously you aren't answering my calls anyway. Will you please get back to me and let me know if you've decided if I can buy a phone battery?" Pat

"Pat, I'm attaching the record I keep of your bills. Do you see why I'm stressing? Use the $25 you got today from your job at the church and buy the battery. I have to start saying no." Mom

"Mom. For Christ's sake, I make $25 a week! That's all the money I have to live on. This is complete and utter bullshit!" Pat

"Mom, by the way, did you ever arrange for the exterminator to come out and spray? The ants were back this morning." Pat

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: My dog is still hacking  up pizza from three days ago. I had the brilliant idea of getting a family-size Cowboy pizza from Papa Murphy's and leaving it on the counter while the oven preheated. Damn dog ate the whole pie.



On my walk this evening, the killdeer nest is empty. It's camouflaged, inches from the sidewalk. Brown Mama Bird and her brown speckled eggs blended perfectly with the brown and gray rocks. Mama Bird chose property in a front yard she deemed to be good real estate.

The first time I passed by, not suspecting a nest, Mama Bird charged at me with her tail feathers fanned high.

"Look how big and fierce I am, " she said.

The next time I walked by, she led me down the street, dragging her left wing (a killdeer trick) as if she were injured.

"I'm easy prey. I'm easy prey. Follow me. Follow me."

When she saw that I was moving on, she did the killdeer run back to her nest.

I didn't want to disturb her further, so I started walking on the opposite side of the street. Sometimes, I drove by to see how she was. Cars were not scary to her. Not like two-footed monsters without wings or feathers. Monsters who do not fly.

For twenty-eight days in one-hundred-plus degrees, this little bird sat on her nest without sunscreen and without shade. She did what she had to do. She may have had some help. A few times, a second killdeer screeched at me from the garage roof.

Tonight, I walk up the driveway and ring the doorbell. A man holding a small, white Maltese answers.

"I'm your neighbor one street over. I've been watching the killdeer nest in your yard. Do you know what happened to the bird and her babies?"

My neighbor explains, "There were four eggs. Two disappeared. One was cracked open in the street. The fourth one hatched and left with Mom."

One out of four. Nature works hard. Hope that baby bird grows up and enjoys a long life. Hope that mom and dad take a well-deserved vacation.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I swear to God, two guys who looked like George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin just delivered some furniture to my house. It was kind of nice to see them working together, carrying a couch upstairs.

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2017: JULY 15, 2013 - JULY 31, 2013

Gratitude * Pat's Phone * Finances * Giving Blood * Life in the Fast Lane * Hawaii * Mental Health Meeting * "Today's the Day" * One Day * Hope and Despair * Miscalculation * One Wise Old Woman * Leaving Home * The Journey * Daily Challenges * Food and Hunger * Losing It * Diversion 

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