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."


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?"



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?"


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

"Yes, twenty-five-ten."

"10th Ave."

"Two-hundred eight?"

"No. 10th. The number ten."


"No. 10th. The number ten."


Now, I'm shouting into the phone.

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



"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?"


"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.)



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."



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.



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.



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."



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



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.



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.



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.



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 :-)








From the oldest