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."* 



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.





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.



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.



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.



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:


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 :-)

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 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.



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.



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."



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.


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

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