A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan: 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

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 need to laugh. I'm thankful for Maxine, John Wagner's old lady cartoon character because she makes me laugh, sometimes out loud.

"I believe that everything happens for a reason. Usually, the reason is that somebody screwed up."
"Most stress is caused by three things — money, family, and family with no money."
"There should be support groups for women who can't put their dishes in the dishwasher dirty."
And my favorite — "Let me know if you suddenly become interesting."

Email from Pat:
"Dear Mom, I had an EEG last week and the results just came in. Normal. No brain tumor!" Love, Patrick
"Pat, I'm so glad for your results!" Love, Mom
"Mom, thanks Mom!" Pat

PATRICKS FACEBOOK POST: Thank God I'm in the United States of America and not Korea. Thank God I'm in a house and not a homeless shelter. Thank God I have beer to drink and not just water. Thank God I have music to listen to and not just silence. There's so much more to thank God for, suffice it to say, "Thank God!"


JULY 16, 2013: PAT'S PHONE

Email from Pat:
"Mom, okay, more bad news. Kerry bought me a phone battery and it arrived today but when I plugged it in, nothing happened. The phone itself is dead and the deductible for it is $100 that they will add to my next bill. Problem is, I can't even call to order a new phone. Help!!!" Pat

"Pat, okay, I'm done with this overpriced cell phone server. I'll call them. I want to know when your contract is up and what the penalty is to end it early. I don't see any reason to pay for a new phone with them when I'm hoping to switch cell phone servers anyway." Mom

"Mom, yeah, screw them. I don't know who I can get a phone with though." Pat

"Mom, to tell you the truth, I'd be just as happy with a landline. I've already got a phone I can hookup." Pat

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Been without a phone for a week. Thought it was a dead battery, new battery arrived today, no signal, nothing. Computer used to make phone calls but now it won't. Total communication breakdown except for email and Facebook.



Email from Pat:
"Hi, Mom. Can I come over and do laundry this morning?" Pat

"Pat, I'm leaving in about twenty minutes to give blood. I expect to be back around one o'clock." Mom

"Mom, okay. See you then." Pat

"Pat, reviewing finances. Expenses I've already covered of you this year total $5,474. I budgeted $6,000 for the entire year. Another six months at $600 per month will be $9,074. I'm over my budget $3,074 for the year.

"This year your income from SSDI, food stamps, your job, and me will be $23,814. If I subtract the $9,074 I'm giving to you, my income will be less than yours. To cover my own bills, I'm using my savings which I may need for another twenty years.

"This is a watershed year, getting you into GG's house. In December, I'll have to reevaluate what I can do in 2014." Mom

"Mom, does this mean if I do get approved for the housing voucher, you're planning to take all the money?" Pat

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Peace is something we can bring about if we can actually learn to wake up a bit more as individuals and a lot more as a species; if we can learn to be fully what we actually already are, to reside in the inherent potential of what is possible for us, being human. As the adage goes, 'There is no way to peace; peace is the way.' It is so for the outer landscape of the world. It is so for the inner landscape of the heart. And these are, in a profound way, not really two."  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses



I'm giving blood this morning. There's no upper age limit. I can give blood when I'm 101 or 110. You better not try to give blood, though, if you've recently been with a prostitute. That's one of the screening questions.

The technician says, "The most common reason women are eliminated as donors is because they have a low iron count."

My iron count is 14.3. The required minimum count is 12.4. Yay! My blood pressure is 112/72. Yay again!

The blood I donate will be used locally. In an emergency, it might be shared. Local blood donations were sent to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

People can give blood every eight weeks. That's a contribution I can make. I'm putting the blood mobile on my calendar.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Life lesson learned on the beach in Hawaii. Sign read: "When in doubt, don't go out."
Shawn: I've always shortened that saying to "When in doubt, don't."
Patrick: We could make it even shorter, "When in, doubt."





I'm helping Mom with some paperwork this morning so she invites me to lunch in her dining room. A woman, pushed in a wheelchair by an attendant, stops by our table.

"Hello. I'm Joy. I want you to know how much I love your mother. I wouldn't have survived here without her. She's greatly loved around here. When we're offered dessert, I tell people to say what your mother says, 'What cha got?'"

Joy's wheeled away. I ask, "What did you do for her?"


"What did you do for her? She says she wouldn't have survived without you."

"I don't know. I helped her when she first moved in. I told her about the rules and where things are. I didn't think I did much. See that couple over there? They're a romantic item. Lots of rumors buzzing around."

"Do they sleep together?"

"He wants to but her family is adamant. They've told him and the entire staff that he  is not to spend the night in her apartment."

"What does she want?"

"She doesn't want him in her apartment at night, either. But during the day, he goes in and out of her room constantly."

I want to ask, "And how do you know this?" but I let it pass. I start a new topic.

"Are you sitting on pins and needles waiting for the royal baby?"

"I'm not sitting on pins and needles, but I bet she is."

Mom changes the subject. "I found out the brand of ice cream they serve here. It's Blue Bunny."

I google Blue Bunny on my iPhone. In this area it's sold at Walmart. That's too bad. I won't shop at Walmart - not until they improve wages and benefits for their employees.

Lunch comes to an abrupt end. "Have to go," Mom announces. "Time for my Friday bridge game. See ya later."

I walk to my car, then turn around. I want to take a peek at the bridge room. Mom's the declarer. She waves her cards at me. I see a flash of black spades and red and black honors.

"Mind if I watch a minute?"

"Absolutely not. Sit down beside me. I bid a small slam. I won't make it but I had to bid it."

Trick by trick, Mom build her game. She pulls trump. She wins finesses. She end-plays the opponents. She makes her slam — proud vanquisher and queen for the day.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I'm making such a low budget movie there aren't even any cameras.


JULY 20, 2013: HAWAII

Email from Pat:
"Mom, you keep asking me, 'Why did you go to Hawaii?' And yesterday you said, 'There's no excuse for what you did when you went to Hawaii.'

"All I can say is, 'I'm sorry I went to Hawaii.' I also need to say that I'd been  under a lot of stress, recovering from a near-death brain surgery experience, and hadn't had a vacation in over six years. I needed to do something. I needed a break. It's not like I burned my apartment down or something.

"Please forgive me. I'm sorry that it cost you so much money to bring me back, but you were adamant that I come home and you insisted, melodramatically, that you loved me.

"I feel like you're going to punish me forever for this. Did you bring me home just to rub this error in my face for the rest of my life?

"I'm sorry . You're right, it was an impulsive, irresponsible thing to do, but we have to move on.

"If it's any consolation, I didn't have a very good time there. I was living in a run down, ghetto hostel, and there were crazy people sharing my room, doing heroin in the bathroom, and scaring me half to death. One night, I had to call 911 because there was a madman outside the building banging on everyone's door, demanding a gun, and threatening to kill everyone. He was throwing stones at cars in the parking lot. Ten police and two paramedics were required to subdue him. I was honestly scared for my life. My experience there was punishment enough for taking off at your expense.

"In your eyes, I can't do anything right, and I'm a horrible person. This is how I feel when we talk. What can I do to remedy this? Will you please forgive me?" Pat

"Pat, I'm off to an all-day meeting in Sacramento. I'll digest this email later.  Meanwhile, I'm taking some deep breaths and hope you do the same." Mom



This morning, I'm attending a mental health meeting in Sacramento. Sacramento is one of the first ten cities to join a national conversation on mental health, an initiative President Obama called for in June.

In my opinion, this initiative process is being erroneously modeled on California's Prop 63, The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), which was passed in 2004. The MHSA has defects in its design and implementation.

This evening, I've written the letter below to the event funders, to Vice President Biden, and an abridged version to the Sacramento Bee's editorial page.

To Whom It May Concern:

I was so disappointed in the meeting today.

I retired in 2010 as the MHSA Policy Director for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), California. I worked through the early implementation phases of Prop 63 and left the professional mental health community discouraged about our broken mental health system and its impenetrable bureaucratic barriers. I saw waste, cronyism, self-promotion, and political in-fighting.

Today felt like the original MHSA meetings I attended all over again. Too many political appearances, repetitive thank-you's, and personal/professional agendas in play.

The meeting could have been condensed into a morning session. Seven hundred free lunches — many for salaried staff of mental health related nonprofits and provider organizations — wouldn't have been necessary. That money could have been used for critically needed direct services.

There must be a means to deconstruct the multi-layered mental health bureaucracy and the interlinked government bureaucracy. This is the only way more funding will get to the mentally ill who cannot find clinics, beds, or counselors and end up in emergency rooms, jails, or on the street. And that's before we can address needs such as housing and employment.

I don't want our mental health system to be broken. I want it to work. However, productions such as today's variety show, are not the way to fix it. When we stop spending mental health funds on fluff, that will be a step in the right direction.

I'd love to be part of an implementation team that can cut through the hoop-la, a team with the courage to point out the "emperor's new clothes."

Dede Ranahan

Family Member
Former MHSA Policy Director
NAMI, California

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Another Saturday morning and I ain't got nobody, I got no money cause I never get paid. Oh how I wish I had someone to talk to, I'm in an awful way." With apologies to Cat Stevens.


JULY 21, 2013: "TODAY'S THE DAY"

Yesterday, my friend, Joan, posted a message on Caring Bridge saying she and Beryl welcome visitors. I sent her an email asking her to let me know a good time to visit. She emailed back that today, Monday, would be a good day.

This morning she calls. "The time for visiting has passed. Beryl says, 'Today's the day I'm going to die.' He wants to see family only."

I don't know what to say. I say I don't know what to say.

"Don't worry about what to say. Your friendship is what matters."

Beryl was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on July 5. I've waited too long before. In the future, I'll remember not to assume that there's plenty of time. Upon learning of a serious diagnosis, I'll reach out immediately. Especially with cancer. It's an unpredictable adversary.

Beryl, may your passing, surrounded by loved ones, be peaceful. Joan, may love and peace surround you as you say goodbye to Beryl.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I love to play guitar but I'm without one so I have to go to Guitar Center to get my fix. There I compete with the voices on the intercom, the surf punk frat boys playing death metal, and the wandering shoppers as I play my Lilliputian roar.


JULY 22, 2013: ONE DAY

Mom calls. "I need three refills — amlodipine, omeprazole, and atenolol. Will you order them online? By the way, you made quite an impression the other day. The ladies in the dining room told me I have lovely, beautiful daughter."

"Really? Did you agree?"

"Yes, and I said that you're smart, too. Joy, especially, went on and on about you. Did you order my prescriptions?"

"You mean as we've been talking?"



"I thought maybe you did. Bye."

Pat's here this morning to do his laundry. Neither of us has mentioned our recent email exchange. Pest control is spraying his house tomorrow. The hot weather is sending armies of ants inside

Megan's local TV news in Washington, Utah is featuring her house on its daily broadcast. Due to flash flooding, her backyard and front yard are underwater. Today, Megan, Britt, and their neighbors stacked sandbags around their property. More rain is forecast.

Megan's lived in her home eight years without flooding problems. She muses out loud, "I'm wondering if recent highway construction on the cliff above has shifted the earth and drainage systems?"

Marisa's hit a bump in the road. She and Keith were set to close on a house in Seattle in a few days. They learned today that their loan agent never submitted their loan application to a lender. They're scrambling to find a lender and a loan at the last minute. A higher interest rate will cost them $130,000 over the life of their mortgage.

Marisa says, "This #$*()# loan agent should lose his license."

Kerry's in San Francisco with Regan and Ayla riding a boat on the Bay.

One ninety-five-year-old mother
Four children.
One day.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Today I promise to live a little. Today I promise to die a little.



England has a new heir to the throne. I stayed up all night to witness the wedding of Charles and Diana on TV in 1981. I remember exactly where I was — in an RV park in Santa Cruz - when I heard the news of Diana's death. I watched the wedding of William and Kate two years ago. And today, I tuned in to catch a glimpse of the new royal, Prince George.

What's this fascination with English royalty? Someone on TV said, "It's a fairytale." Someone else said, "It's hundreds of years of history." And for me, one person nailed it. "With all the sobering, frightening news in the world, royal baby news offers a moment of joy, of normalcy, and hope."

This infant could be the first English monarch of the twenty-second century, or not. History doesn't unfold in straight lines. I won't be around to see what happens but, while I'm here, I wish the little prince and his mom and dad well.

Today, the Sacramento Bee published my mental health letter to the editor.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I got me a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and it's time to tie one on. Walked twenty years of bad news and it's time to tie one on. Nothing ever comes in the mail except for coupons and ads, and it's time to tie one on. Just signed up for Christian Mingle, and there's no frequent drinkers but it's time to tie one on. Identity stolen, Hollywood making bank, and it's time to tie one on. Been captive and hostage most of my days and it's time to tie one on. Cheers!



Beryl didn't pass on July 21 as he thought he would. Joan sent this email today.

"Dede, forgive me if I've already emailed you about visiting, but I can't remember shit! Beryl has limited his visitors to immediate family and a few close male friends...part of the withdrawing process.

"Thank you for your offer of a hug for each of us, but I'd like a rain check for me. After he does pass I'll be on my own for the first time in thirty-five years. I'll need lots of hugs. Thank you for your caring concern." Luv and hugs, Joan

"Joan, I'll be here for you. Love and hugs back." Dede



I'm at lunch with a friend. She's a little younger than I am and starts a new job on Monday, mostly for health benefits. We exchange stories of friends who've deserted us. Seems we're never too old to experience friendship pain.

I no longer believe that growing older necessarily makes us wiser. I no longer believe in wise, old women. I'll focus on finding one wise, old woman.

My credit card fraud department calls this evening. Seems someone used my credit card number a few hours ago in Burnaby, Canada. I'll get a new number but I have to update all the accounts where I use this card. What a pain. 

The customer service associate says, "Have a wonderful night."

Hope the perpetrator of this credit card theft isn't a crafty old grandmother. That's not the kind of wise, old woman I'm looking for.



One day, in the month of July, 2000, I left home. I was fifty-six years old.

I loaded clothes, papers, photos of my kids, books, make-up, a hair dryer, and other personal items into my dark blue Infiniti G20 sedan. I paused and inhaled the image of my rustic, ridge-top house nestled among black oaks and bay laurels. Then I drove down the long, winding driveway to go to work.

At work, I parked my "moving van" in the university parking lot and rode the elevator to my ninth floor office. For the next eight hours, life appeared to go on as usual. At 5 P.M., however, I didn't go home. I drove to Marisa's and pulled a blouse and skirt out of the trunk of my car to wear to work the next day.

During the week, on my lunch hours, I scouted for a house to rent. I found one a few miles from the university. With a place to stay, I went back home to pick up my aging Rottweiler. Schatze had hip dysplasia. She was losing the ability to use her rear legs. I pushed and pulled and got her into the front seat of my car. With my best friend on board, I drove down my winding driveway one last time, thirteen years ago this month.

A psychologist I went to for counseling told me her rule of thumb. "In my experience," she said, "it takes a woman approximately half the length of her marriage to fully emotionally recover from a divorce."

By the time my divorce was final, I'd been married for thirty-four years.

If that therapist's correct, it will take me seventeen years to get back to being myself. According to her calculus, I have four more years to go. I wonder how I'm doing?



Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets.  Her poem, "The Journey," is one of my favorite poems.

I carried a copy of Mary's poem in my wallet when I was leaving home, and took it out and read it whenever I felt like I was waffling in my decision to leave. Her words described what I was experiencing and gave me courage.

Mary's poem begins, "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began..."

To read Mary's poem, click on the link below.

The Journey by Mary Oliver



Saw Marisa, Keith, Elise, and Sam yesterday. They drove from Carlsbad to Roseville, spent the night at Kerry's, and left early this morning for Seattle. I hope they'll arrive in Seattle safe and sound, and close on their house without another glitch.

Meanwhile, Megan and Britt have checked out the terrain above their property. Lo and behold. A drainage pipe under the new freeway is aimed right at their house. The trench behind is flooding again. So far, the sandbags they placed around their yard are holding the water back. They've contacted the homeowner's association and engineers are supposed to examine the drain pipe.

The message on Caring Bridge today about Beryl: "Friday night and Saturday he was out of it, today he's with it! I know it's an emotional roller coaster for those around him and he says it's confusing for him too. He says he's never died before and doesn't know what to expect. We'll go enjoy spending the day with an alert person and will post again tonight. Thank you for sharing this up and down difficult journey with us."

Beryl says, "I've never died before and I don't know what to expect." What a brave, honest thing to say.

Daily challenges — some for the living, some for the dying. Seems they continue right up to the moment of passing.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Peace through music.



I receive an email request this morning from Placer County Food Bank:

"This summer has been extremely hard on Placer Food Bank as rising hunger and decreased donations have left children and families in desperate need. Your quick action will mean so much to our hungry neighbors at this critical time. Children are out of school, without the benefit of school meals. Seniors are struggling to put food on the table. And our area's weakened economy is still putting a heavy burden on everyone."

Pat's here to do his laundry. He shops in my refrigerator and makes himself a quesadilla.

I'm reading an article on the internet about McDonald's McDouble one-dollar cheeseburger. It provides many with a whopping dose of protein and calcium along with 19 grams of fat. According to this article, junk food costs $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for nutritious fruits and vegetables (2007 University of Washington study).

No wonder hunger and obesity problems exist in our country. For many, healthy foods are luxury items. I'd donate to Placer County Food Bank, but right now, all my food donations go to my son. If each of us feeds one hungry person standing right in front of us, our entire village will be better fed.


JULY 30, 2013: LOSING IT

I'm losing it. I ask Pat the status of the document he needs in order to receive housing assistance. He's been on a waiting list for 10 years. He was so close to getting help. Close as melted butter on toast. Then a psychiatrist, who's known Pat for one hour, decides he's not disabled and refuses to sign the housing papers. This same psychiatrist is not monitoring Pat as he reduces his medications. He says, "Call me if you need something."

In the past, Pat's been reactive to med changes. More than once, he's been 5150'd within twenty-four hours of a med increase of decrease.

Pat says, "Rejoice with me. Don't worry. Be happy for my health. Don't stress about money. I should sue every hospital that ever hospitalized me and ruined my life."

Pat's managed care provider has a multi-million dollar fine levied against it. They're charged with denying reasonable access for mental health services and for discharging mental health patients too soon.

I want to write a letter to Membership Services, but Pat doesn't want me to. "I didn't write a letter to your doctor when you were psychotic," he says. "And, by the way, you've made a lucrative career out of my misfortune."

Trying to stand by this adult child and intuit proper parental action is not always easy or clear. Meanwhile, a morning email from a local mental health organization asks, "Can we print your letter that appeared in the Sacramento Bee in our upcoming newsletter?"



A good day at duplicate bridge. My partner and I came in second.

Bridge provided thee-and-a-half hours of diversion. I focused on bidding, play of the hand, and defensive leads. No time to think about housing vouchers, flooding yards or screwed up real estate transactions.

Thank goodness for weak two's, strong two-club openings, Stayman, no-trump transfers, new minor forcing, cue bid raises, Roman Keycard, reverses, negative doubles, takeout doubles, and other bridge conventions. When I use them or, more accurately, try to use them, they demand my full attention. They keep me from ruminating about circumstances beyond my control.


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

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 * 

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From the oldest