A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan MAY 5, 2014 - MAY 17, 2014

Jury Duty I * Jury Duty II * Ladybugs * Being Part of It All * Mother's Day * Books and Wolves * Deja Vu * California Chrome

To read "My Diary" from the beginning, go to "Scenes from the Trenches" June 14, 2017, in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog page. To continue reading, scroll up in the archives from June 14, 2017, and click on each individual diary post. If you have difficulty, message or email me and I'll walk you through it. I didn't know, as I was writing, that I was capturing the last year of my son's life. His voice comes through loud and clear. For me, in these pages, he'll always be alive.


MAY 5, 2014: JURY DUTY I

I'm sitting in a room on the second floor of the Santucci Justice Center with 60 other people who've been summoned for jury duty. The moderator explains that the trial we're being selected for is a civil law case, a wrongful termination suit by an employee against his employer. This trial will last through the month of May.

Half of the group — students, those with critical medical and dental appointments that can't be rescheduled, and those with personal or business travel already scheduled  — are excused. The rest of us are asked to fill out a seven-page questionnaire. The attorneys for the prosecution and defense will review our questionnaires to help them choose the jurors they think will be most helpful to their case. My answers are routine until questions are asked about my opinions.

Would I ever file a lawsuit? Most likely, no.
Do I think civil lawsuits are appropriate? Well, mostly no. I think we have too many lawsuits in our litigious society.
Do I think that punitive damages awarded are usually fair? No, most of the time, I think they're too large.
Do I think I can serve without prejudice on this jury? I think I can in spite of my bias against lawsuits in general.

I call a friend when I get home. I tell her what I wrote on the survey. "Do you think I'll be chosen?"

She's unequivocal. "There's no way you'll be selected for this jury. Trust me."

Well, we shall see. I have to report at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning for more winnowing.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Some people are vibrating at a frequency lower than a burnt bag of microwave popcorn.



Another day at the courthouse. I'm sitting in the lobby of courtroom 44. Thirty people are sitting and standing, waiting to be called into chambers. I study a few. A slender brunette, early fifties, says her boss is hoping she doesn't get selected. A heavy-set woman, unknown age, reappears from yesterday. She has a puffy white face and puffy white arms. One arm has a wrap-around floral tattoo. A tiny woman with a blond ponytail looks like a teenager. What are their stories? Turns out I'll hear parts of them.

All three are called to the jury box and questioned by the judge. The brunette is a palliative care nurse and widow. She'd like to answer some questions in private quarters. She, the judge, and the attorneys for both sides disappear for a few minutes. Her boss will be disappointed. She returns to the jury box. The heavy set woman is articulate and forthcoming. "Ask me anything. Go for it." She's concerned about dismissal time today because it's her wedding anniversary. The small blond turns out to be a doctor. She specializes in skin cancer surgery. 

It's 4 p.m. The judge says jury selection is almost complete. Those of us, present in the gallery, must return Friday morning at 10 a.m. There's still a chance my name will be called. I'm hoping not. I'd like to serve on a jury but not this one. I'd rather talk with all the people in the room and hear their stories. I'd probably empathize with everyone, including the plaintiff and the defendant. In a sense, I'm mush. No use to anyone. Another day at the courthouse and I think I can better serve if I'm excused.





Life is coming fast and furious. I receive two emails. One from a friend whose husband just passed away from the complications of dementia. The second from a friend whose 50-year-old daughter just died from a heart attack. At noon I meet Kerry for a birthday lunch. I tell her about my friends and their losses. She has a story, too.

"Mom, I know you think we use our cell phones too much. But yesterday afternoon, a friend posted a photo on Instagram of a little boy who was hit by a truck and died. Already, the family's received over $40,000 in pledges."

Kerry can hardly tell me this story. She's in tears. Why are we sharing all this bad news? I change the subject. I give Kerry a birthday card and a little gift. She opens the gift bag and smiles. "Live ladybugs. You know who will love this?"

"Ayla. I was worried. The nursery told me to keep them in the refrigerator. When I took them out this morning they looked dead but, one by one, they began moving."

Kerry calls this evening. "Mom, is this a good time to release the ladybugs? Is it cool enough?"

"Yes, it's a good time."

"And do you know where they're from?"

"No. Where are they from?"

"Bend. They're from Bend."

Kerry texts photos of the ladybug emancipation. Regan and Ayla are covered in ladybugs as are several of their friends. The ladybugs are alive and well.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Dog shit, the perpetual harbinger of the beginning of my day, is my constant companion these days. Its immediate presence after entering the park, courtesy of my dog Lexi, guarantees the day is off to a good start.



This morning I report, again, to the jury room. The jury is chosen, and my name is called as a potential alternate. "Do you have a bias against lawsuits?"

"Yes, I think there are too many frivolous lawsuits."

"Do you have an opinion about unions?"

"My opinion about unions was embedded in my DNA as a young child." The judge asks me to explain.

"My mother and father owned a mom and pop hamburger restaurant. I'd sit at the counter after school doing my homework. Every couple of months, without warning, two union men dressed like the Blues Brothers - in dark suits, dark glasses and dark fedoras — would walk through the door and scare my mom and pop to death. They'd poke around trying to find a reason, any reason, to level a two-hundred-dollar fine. I hope things are different now."

The attorney for the plaintiff, a union officer at the time of his termination, takes me off the jury. Good move. I'd have been a terrible juror in this case. 

Kerry calls. She's happy to report that, although some died, most of the 1500 ladybugs appear to be thriving in her yard this morning. What a mix of life, death, surviving, and being part of it all.


MAY 11, 2014: MOTHER'S DAY

I start off the morning with a cup of coffee and an Ocean Roll. This is a big deal because, normally, I'd share an Ocean Roll with at least two other people. Not today. I'm eating the whole Ocean Roll myself. It's my Mother's Day present to me.

Lunch is at GG's residence. She's invited a friend, Jean, to join the two of us for the Mother's Day prime rib feast. Jean is an attractive lady - I'm guessing in her late eighties. She has short, shiny white hair, spectacles that make her soft blue eyes look like miniature swimming pools, and a tall, trim physique.

Jean has no siblings and no children. When her husband of many years passed away, a nephew who lives in Auburn, insisted that she move from Virginia to the Sacramento region. "Was it difficult to know what to leave and what to bring?"

"Nope. I flew home after I decided to move here, packed six suitcases, and hired an estate company to handle the disposition of everything else." 

In her past life, Jean was a housewife, volunteer, cook, vegetable gardener, seamstress, quilter, and travel companion to her husband. They took frequent trips for his job with the government. "I like it here," she offers. "I play games, work on puzzles, and walk an hour every day."

"Where do you walk? Around the neighborhood?"

"No, I walk an hour back and forth on the second floor. It's kind of boring but I meet a lot of people this way. I keep a book in the sitting area. When I need a break, I read a few pages and then walk some more."

At the end of the main course, the dining room staff person, a pretty young woman with dark brown hair, brings a tray of desserts for us to choose from. I pass and ask for a cup of decaf. Jean orders thin mint ice cream. GG says she wants everything. "I want regular coffee in a mug not a cup, a cream puff, a banana, and a napkin."

"Wait," our server says, "I'm writing this down. I don't want to forget something."

Still in Mother's Day eating mode, we're at Pat's house — me, GG, Kerry, David, Regan, Ayla, and Pat. Kerry brings the drinks — wine and beer for the adults and juice for the girls. I bring four folding chairs. Pat serves deli potato salad, and ham and beef spiral wrap sandwiches. He passes out white carnations to each of the "girls" including Regan and Ayla. This is Pat's second annual Mother's Day dinner. Last year he served pizza.

Sitting in a circle on Pat's bare wood floor, we make small talk with occasional lulls in the conversation. "Are you taking your car into the shop this week, Pat?"

"Going to try."

Lexi runs in and out. She loves bouncing around all the people She jumps up and puts her paws on my shoulders. This dog can't get close enough...whoever you are. Regan and Ayla, tired from a Mother's Day weekend camping trip, are eager to go home. First, they give me and GG small cactus arrangements in peat moss pots. Kerry gives me a houseplant and a gift card for my Kindle from Marisa and Megan. Soon, we're all saying goodbye and loading GG and the folding chairs back into my car.

Marisa calls from Seattle. Keith's in San Diego to help his parents, Papa and Curly. Papa, at 77, suffers from Parkinson's disease. Curly, his caretaker, wants reassurance that she's doing the right things.

All around me I see courage - Jean, GG, Pat, Curly, Papa. Even Lexi, penned up for many hours while Pat's at work, leaps with joyful enthusiasm. I see Megan and Britt, Marisa and Keith, and Kerry and David being conscientious parents, modeling caring and concern for others. I see Aidan, Ashton, Sam, Elise, Regan and Ayla developing manners and respect, and following their parents' lead.

This is life at full circle — a Mother's Day package wrapped in youth, aging, tough decisions, and topped off with single-stem white carnations. I am grateful.

PATRICKS' FACEBOOK POST: Morning - It's time to put on the Hazmat suit and clean my house thoroughly. The mothers are coming! The mothers are coming! Dinner tonight for four generations of women: GG, Mom, Sister Kerry, and nieces Regan and Ayla.

PATRICKS' FACEBOOK POST:  Evening - Well, the 2nd Annual Mother's Day Dinner was a success. GG, Mom, Sister Kerry, and nieces Regan and Ayla all had a good time and left with their bellies full.


OR7 - Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

OR7 - Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


A Harris Poll asked 2,234 adults, "What is your favorite book of all time?"
1.  The Bible
2.  Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
3.  The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
4.  The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. Tolkien
5.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville
7.  The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
8.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
9.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Good News. It looks like Wolf OR7 may have a mate. His territory stretches north from the California border to Klamath Falls. His name is OR7 because he was the seventh wolf to be radio-collared in Oregon. He became a media star when he traversed the entire length of Oregon late in 2011 in search of a mate. He entered California in December of that year becoming the first wild wolf confirmed in the state in 87 years. OR7 is now with another wolf in an area protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. Hope to hear about the pups.


MAY 15, 2014: DEJA VU

A friend's husband is experiencing a psychotic breakdown and is being 5150'd to a psych unit. In California, 5150s are 72-hour, involuntary holds for people whose psychiatric disorders appear to be out of control. My friend's rushing to the hospital to be with her husband. I warn her, "He may not recognize you. He may not want to see you. He may say hurtful things."

"I know," she says. "I know."

When people you love are in debilitated mental states, nothing prepares you for the heartbreak. You watch them barreling toward danger. You cry out from behind soundproof glass. "Stop. Come back. Please don't go." They can't hear you.

This is gut-wrenching anguish. This is raging wildfires in the depths of your soul. This is railing against God, if there is a God. This is wanting to be swallowed up by a giant sinkhole so the pain will stop. At this moment, watching my friend, this is déjà vu.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: We actually have a thirty-six year old guy in Northern California running for Congress who has never voted.
Cheryl: And your point is?
Patrick: My point is, how can a man, who has never participated in our political process, presume to assume a leadership role in that process?



I'm channeling Pop. He loved horse races. I'm watching the Preakness and rooting for California Chrome. He won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. If he wins today, he's two-thirds of the way to the Triple Crown. This horse is becoming a California rock star. His owners are from Yuba City.

A horse breeder called them "dumb-ass horse breeders" because they bought a mare for $8,000 that had only won one race. They paid a stud fee of $2,000 for a stud at Harris Ranch. Why would anyone think this parenting would produce a Triple Crown winner?

One of the two owners had a dream that the coming colt would win the Triple Crown. The colt was born on his sister's birthday. She died from cancer when she was 36 years old. It's been 36 years since a horse won the Triple Crown. This is better than a Hollywood movie. No one could make up this stuff.

The race begins. California Chrome makes a solid start out of the gate. His jockey maneuvers him into a favorable position early on. It's looking good but another horse appears from the back of the pack and is nudging for the lead. The jockey on California Chrome has to press him into the final push sooner than he intended. Will California Chrome have the stamina, the will to go the distance? He does. He wins.

Pop, I hear ya. I'm so excited. I'm a Chromie. I want a hat. I want a t-shirt. The Belmont, the third race in the Triple Crown, is in three weeks. Go California Chrome.

May 18, 2014 - May 29, 2014:
 Checking In * Thinking Yard Today * Countdown to 70 * Happy Birthday * Mail * Emails and Blessings * Maya Angelou

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