A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan May 18, 2014 - May 29, 2014

Checking In * Thinking Yard Today * Countdown to 70 * Happy Birthday * Mail * Emails and Blessings * Maya Angelou

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 18, 2014: CHECKING IN

I call Mom to check in. She says, "I have something I need to discuss with you."

Uh, oh. "What's up?"

Well, you know my rent goes up a hundred dollars a month every August. Steve, the manager, stopped by to let me know that, this year, they have to raise my rent two hundred dollars a month beginning in August. He wanted to give me a heads up.

"There's a lady here who is one hundred and four. There are two women who are one hundred and two. I may make it to one hundred myself and I've been thinking. If I move into a studio unit, it would cost me five hundred dollars a month less. That's six thousand dollars a year. That's a lot of money. I'm watching my money market balance go down every month. I have to face reality."

"Did you talk to Steve about this?"

"I haven't said anything to anyone. I wanted to run it by you first. I'd have to put my name on a waiting list. What do you think?"

"I think this is up to you. Would you feel comfortable in a one-room unit?"

"I think it would be okay. I'm not using my kitchen anymore. The bathroom would be about the same. I might have to get rid of my sofa and the TV credenza. There probably wouldn't be room for them. But, actually, the closet space in the studio is a little more than I have now."

"Okay. Here's what I think. It won't hurt to put your name on the waiting list for a studio. It may be six months or a year before one becomes available and you can always decline if you change your mind."

"That's what I thought. I'll put my name on the waiting list. We're on for Tuesday right? You're taking me to the eye doctor. And I need three new prescriptions. Are you ready? They're atenolol, amlodipine, and omeprazole. Did you get that down? And don't forget my shopping list. And don't forget my sheets."

I'm glad I'm checking in. Lots of business to discuss.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I'm in church today, and the congregation is mostly white and elderly, and we're all singing Bob Marley's "One Love" and I realize that this is a really fun group of people to gather with once a week for a conscious party.

 

MAY 19, 2014: THINKING YARD TODAY

I've purchased a True Blood Japanese maple to replace the African sumac in the front yard. I've picked up some red, pink, and white begonias for my patio pots, and an amber carpet rose for the biggest pot.

And, for the first time ever, I'm the proud owner of two Sara Bernhardt peony plants. These pale pink flowers are indescribable —  all delicate and lacy and multi-layered. Their spicy perfume should be bottled. Where have these peonies been all my life? They're perennials but they'll die back to the ground, much like hydrangeas, in the winter. The tags on the plants promise that they're easy to grow, and says they need morning sun and afternoon shade. I'm planting them in front of xylosma shrubs as background foliage for their effusive pink blooms.

My yard's always evolving. I select each shrub, tree, and flower because it speaks to me, and because I deem it worthy to live in my patch of the universe. 

There's a slight chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. The dark sky and earthy smell in the air give me hope that rain is coming. I'm thinking yard today.

 

MAY 21, 2014: COUNTDOWN TO 70

7:30 a.m.

I wake up thinking, my God, tomorrow I'll be 70. For some reason, this turning 70 thing is seeming like a big deal to me.
When I turned 40, I wanted to flaunt it.
When I turned 50, I was too busy dealing with life. I didn't have time to think about it.
When I turned 60, I was fighting to regain myself and find a new path.
This morning, turning 70 feels like I'm being force-marched through massive iron gates into the walled city of old age.

11:30 a.m.

A friend arrives with a dozen red roses. Each year, he takes me to lunch for my birthday and we catch up.

2:30 p.m.

My friend and I go for a walk around the neighborhood and take in the blue sky, the Japanese maples and the flowering plum trees. I point out the brown and grey rocks where the little killdeer built her nest.

4:30 p.m.

I post a photo of my red roses on Instagram.

5:30 p.m.

Kerry calls and invites me to dinner, tomorrow, at her house with GG and Pat.

6:30 p.m.

I scan my backyard for daylily and peony blossoms. I note the brown earth and give thanks for it still being beneath my feet.

10:30 p.m.

Lights out.

11:55 p.m.

I wake, suddenly, and check the clock. Five minutes left. I step outside to scan the night sky. No shooting stars. No cosmic omens. I suck in the cool night air and return to bed.

Midnight:

70.

 

 Birthday roses...

Birthday roses...

 

MAY 22, 2014: HAPPY BIRTHDAY

GG calls. "Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday."

"I can't handle this."

"Handle what?"

"Handle being seventy."

"Of course you can. You don't look seventy. You're healthy. You've had a good life. You've lots to be thankful for. You have to think positive."

"Thanks for all the sympathy, Mom."

"You're welcome. Pick me up at four-fifteen to go to Kerry's"

"Yes, ma'am."

Kerry's threading turkey meatballs and fresh pineapple chunks on skewers for the barbecue. She's pairing them with a green salad and bottled dressing and keeping dinner simple. Regan sets the table with white plates and white napkins. She adds knives and forks.

GG's here. David and Pat will arrive after work. I'm turning 70 in the presence of my 96-year-old mother, my youngest daughter, her husband, my eldest child, and two of my six grandchildren. Megan calls from Utah. She and Britt and Aidan and Ashton wish me "Happy Birthday." Marisa calls from Seattle. She and Keith and Sam and Elise wish me "Happy Birthday."

GG's right. I've lots to be thankful for. And to top it off, Kerry serves a chocolate cake with dark chocolate glaze and dark chocolate frosting. The biggest surprise, however, is about to transpire. A new text on my iPhone says, "Happy Birthday!" It's from my ex-husband — the first message I've received from him since our divorce was final 11 years ago. I'm in shock. My emotions are all over the place. Like a messed up Rubik's cube. Like a chorus line of unsynchronized questions marks.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art." Maybe I need to rethink this 70s thing. Maybe my 70s will give me the chance to become a beautiful old person. A work of art.

All in all, a wonderful birthday. So, as it comes to a close, why do I know I'm about to go cry?

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Happy 70th Birthday to my Mom today. Love you so much.

 

MAY 25, 2014: MAIL

I'd sent individual notes to Marisa, Kerry, Sam, Elise, Regan, and Ayla to thank them for joining me for my birthday celebration in Bend. Kerry reports that Regan was thrilled. "She loves to get mail." Regan sends me a reply.

Dear Mim,
Thank you for the card. I loved it it was awesome. also, I love the oshon rols. They are so deleshes. I had a lot of fun at Orgen. Bend was so much fun. I rily enjoyed it a lot!!
Love, Regan
P.S. thank you for the doson oshen rols. They wher deleshes.

Regan adds the drawing of a kitten at the bottom of her note.

Like Regan, I love to get mail. I think her thank you card for my thank you card deserves a new card. Have to hurry and send it before Regan outgrows her infatuation with mail.

Dear Regan,
Thank you for your nice note. I really enjoyed your drawing of the kitty cat.
I'm glad that you like to get mail. I do too! I think people feel special when they get a note in the mail. They realize that someone took the time to write the note, address the envelope, add a stamp, and walk the note to the mailbox. It means that the person who wrote the note is thinking of them.  I'm thinking of you, Regan. I'm proud that you're my granddaughter. I love you lots!!!
Mim

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I have never seen my dog get spooked or scared by anything, but for the last few days on our regular walk, she's cowered and looked very scary and startled in the exact same place on our way to the park. I don't see or smell or hear anything but she definitely sees something ominous there. She jumped off her collar this morning she was so spooked. I'm thinking of changing her name to Ghost-hunter.

 

MAY 26, 2014: EMAILS AND BLESSINGS

I send an email to a friend.

I'm sorry to hear that the mental health system is failing you and your son. It's been 10 years since I worked with you and we had such high hopes for Prop 63. I'm running a little support group here for family members in this over-55 community that I live in. None of them have heard of Prop 63 services.

As you know, I'm partial to moms of the mentally ill. You are my heroes. Often, you're the only ones fighting for the adult or child no one else seems to care about. Thinking of you. Dede

My friend emails back.

My son ran away again tonight with no money and no clothes and he has no friends. He called to tell me it is all my fault, that I do not deserve to live, and that he's suicidal. The police haven't been able to find him. He really belonged back in the hospital last Friday when he tried so badly to be admitted.

He's somewhere in the city looking for drugs or alcohol and he gets abused by thugs. I think he threw away his cell phone again because he becomes afraid that I will call him. I'm a basket case and have been fighting for 20 years with this. Prop 63 funds are being totally mis-used and no one really understands if they're not one of us. Thanks for your message.

Pat's here to do his laundry and to have some dinner. He's pushed the wrong buttons on my TV remote and we can't get the TV to change channels. Lexi's crashing through the backyard and shitting in my daylillies. She's stealing cat poop from the litter box in the laundry room. Jazzy's hiding under my bed. Thinking of my friend helps me keep these annoyances in perspective. I'm thankful for this day with my son.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I get a fair amount of emails from Barack Obama's organizing for action group asking me for a donation of $3 or more. Similar requests come from many other Democratic organizations. Have our leaders all been reduced to constantly hitting us up for three bucks like they really need to buy a 40 at the liquor store?

 

MAY 29, 2014: MAYA ANGELOU

Some of the best perks of being retired are a steaming cup of coffee, the morning sun filtering through my kitchen window, and the unhurried assimilation of the happenings of the day. I admit the local newspaper is not what it used to be. It contains fewer pages, is printed on crackly paper, and is an awkward 22"x11." Its news is often old news thanks to the internet. The morning paper is, I'm afraid, an endangered species. My adult children don't subscribe to newspapers. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren probably won't know what a newspaper is or was.

In my world, this is a loss. Reading the morning paper is one of my rituals. A time to reflect. A place, among all the reports of murder and mayhem, to find pearls. This morning, for instance, the front page is devoted to the passing of Maya Angelou. Somehow I missed her celebrated 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a description of the black experience from the inside. It will be the next book I check out from the library. Meanwhile, a summary of Angelou's life, on the back page of section A, includes her final tweet posted May 23, 2014, the day after my birthday.

"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

I'm reading and I'm getting goose bumps. It feels like Maya Angelou is whispering to me. "Maya, are you in my kitchen?"

"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

Writing is how I listen to myself. Every now and then, while writing, I think I do hear the voice of God. This morning, however, I think I hear the voice of God while sitting at my kitchen table. The medium, this time, is Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou in the morning paper.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Rest in peace Maya Angelou. Thank you for your hard work and inspiration.

COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018:
June 1,  2014 - June 14, 2014:
 One of Those Days * MRI Scan *Specialness Everywhere * Time is Ticking By * D-Day * Thinking of you, Pop * Patrick's Facebook Post *  Patrick's Facebook Post * Patrick Facebook Post * When There's a Need, Do Something * Ending

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 :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

Dede, thank you for helping people. The mental health system is broken and the people like yourself make a difference. You need to know that there are big angels watching over me day and night! And know there are people out there, like yourself and many of our friends, who helped the most for vulnerable people. Cary

Carry on, Dede! I love you and the work you are doing. Mary Lyn Rusmore-Villaume

Feedback for my essay, "A Canary in the Coal Mine," appearing in the new book, We Rise to Resist, Voices from a New Era in Women's Political Action. (available on Amazon)

Hi. I got to read "A Canary in the Coal Mine" and I am so impressed by it. It is so powerful and tells such a powerful story. I can say one thing, you cannot ever look back and say you didn’t try every single thing you could. Thank you so much for writing that. G. Nickerson

 

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.

If you're reading and liking "A Mother's Diary," please let me know. I'm building a case for getting it published — one way or the other. Thanks. 

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018:
May 18, 2014 - May 29, 2014: Checking In * Thinking Yard Today * Countdown to 70 * Happy Birthday * Mail * Emails and Blessings * Maya Angelou

My diary posts are getting more emotional for me as I come close to my last entry and the ending I never saw coming. Thank you for reading along. You've helped me keep my son "alive" for one more year.

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 :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

 Pat and me in 1969

Pat and me in 1969

From the oldest

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.

 

MAY 6, 2014: JURY DUTY II

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.

 

 Ladybugs

Ladybugs

MAY 8, 2014: LADYBUGS

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.

 

MAY 9, 2014: BEING PART OF IT ALL

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

MAY 12, 2014: BOOKS AND WOLVES

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?

 

MAY 17, 2014: CALIFORNIA CHROME

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.

COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018:
May 18, 2014 - May 29, 2014:
 Checking In * Thinking Yard Today * Countdown to 70 * Happy Birthday * Mail * Emails and Blessings * Maya Angelou

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 :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

MORE FEEDBACK FOR A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan

I’ve done this, the primal scream and the mother animal instinct. There can’t be anything more painful, not even death. My son was a normal little boy and a normal young man until schizophrenia came calling. Now I feel so shattered. I love your blog and your diary, Thank you for all you do. JHD

Dearest Dede. Your stories are close to home, APRIL 24, 2014: DEVIANT NORMAL. Going to the dentist. I remember going to the dentist after 3 or 4 years of not going because of the work to keep my son stabilized and alive. I hadn't done anything to take care of myself. I just couldn't. When I finally did go I became a blob of tears when they asked how I was doing. I couldn't answer. All I could do is cry. To this day I hate answering that question. Hope that makes sense. Do we ever get to feeling we can answer that in truth and say, "fine". And mean it. Or am I too hung up on words? Heidi

You’re not too hung up on words, Heidi. IMHO. In some sense, I know l’ll never be “fine” again. What mother is after losing a child? And with SMI, sometimes we lose our children over and over again. Every day is a conscious choice for me to put one foot in front of the other and to try to make my life as whole as I can. Love to you. Dede

Ah, you got me again! Absolutely LOVED the April 22 entry about writing notes and imagining what the recipients experience on their end! So very true!  Beautiful writing, Dede! And, as usual, there was an entry that made me cry (the Kerry one). Much love to you — "Go about your day with a lighter step, a little glow." SS

 

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.

If you're reading and liking "A Mother's Diary," please let me know. I'm building a case for getting it published — one way or the other. Thanks. 

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

COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2018:
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 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 :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com

 

 Pat and me in 1969

Pat and me in 1969

A MOTHER'S DIARY by Dede Ranahan APRIL 21, 2014 - MAY 2, 2014

Having a Moment * Keeping Promises to Myself * Mom * Irene * Deviant Normal * ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD * My George Clooney * For Crying Out Loud * Happy Birthday, Kerry Colleen

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.

 

APRIL 21, 2014: HAVING A MOMENT

My daughter posts a photo on Instagram of my ex and his wife with her arms around my grandson. I can try to deny but denial's not good. This photo's stirring stuff up. Shouldn't those be my arms around my grandson? What was wrong with me? How did I let my marriage fail?

"What was wrong with me?" is the question we douse all over ourselves — forever. Maybe nothing was wrong with me. Maybe it was the time or the mores or my upbringing or any number of things. Is it possible I did the best I could?

When it comes to my marriage, I have to start giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I was and am a caring, well-meaning, and intelligent person. If being caring, well-meaning, and intelligent aren't enough, other elements must be in play.

Like luck? Like karma?

I don't know. There's a lesson here I'm supposed to learn. I'll keep working on it but, right now, I'm having a moment.

 

APRIL 22, 2014: KEEPING PROMISES TO MYSELF

I'm huffing and puffing with Deanne this morning. I'm not one of those people who gets high on exercise. I'm one of those people who hates exercise. I'm not enjoying the stretching, balancing, flexing, lifting, and pushing. I know, though, that I need to do this. I need to fight against losing muscle mass. I need to massage the old heart muscle with cardio exercises. Deanne makes sure I cover all the bases.

Home again. I paw through a messy desk drawer to find stamps, address labels, and note cards. I've stopped sending Christmas cards. Instead, I'm sending cards at random throughout the year to say, "Hi," and to let people know I'm thinking of them. Don't know about you, but I love finding cards and letters in my mailbox, and I find fewer and fewer. Like newspapers, written notes are becoming anachronisms.

This morning I've written cards to eleven people and dropped them in the mailbox. I have more cards to write but I'm taking a break and recharging my batteries. I want my thinking-of-you cards to be energetic with comments and questions specific to the person I'm thinking about. Otherwise, I may as well send out mass Christmas cards. "Happy Holidays. Love, Dede"

I visualize the recipients of my notes walking to their mailboxes. There among junk mail, bills, advertisements, and political flyers, they find my cards. They sit down at their kitchen tables. They turn the envelopes over pausing, for a second, to wonder what might be inside. They weren't expecting anything from me so what news could this be?

"Surprise. I'm thinking of you and wanted you to know."

Then I imagine that they go about their day with a lighter step, a little glow — someone's thinking, especially, of them. And I go about my day with a lighter step and a little glow because I'm doing what I promised myself I would do.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST:  Nothing like a sign at your favorite watering hole that informs you that you must have been born by today's date in 1993 to legally purchase alcohol to make you feel really old.

 

APRIL 23, 2014: MOM

Mom calls.

"Hi, Mom."

"Hi. How's your day?"

"Good. How's yours?"

"Good. What day can I make an appointment with the eye doctor?"

"Well, I'm thinking you better try for something after the week of May five. I'm on call for jury duty that week."

"Okay. How about Tuesday the twentieth?"

"That works if it's after two. Tuesday's my day at the thrift store. And if I happen to still be on jury duty, you'll have to reschedule."

"Okay. The twentieth. You'll pick me up at two?"

"I'll pick you up at two."

"Okay. What about my sheets?"

"I got your sheets."

"You did what?"

"I got your sheets."

"You got my sheets?"

"Yes, a full set that includes pillow cases."

"What color did you get?"

"They're white with a little pattern in them."

"How much?"

"Around sixty dollars for the set."

"Okay. What about my prescriptions?"

"I ordered your prescriptions. You should get them in the mail this week."

"Okay. What about Mother's Day? Do you want to come to the luncheon here?"

"Of course. Sign us up."

"Okay. And I have to tell you something. I had my blood pressure checked today and it was one hundred twenty-one over seventy-seven."

"That's terrific."

"I also got weighed and I've lost ten pounds."

"Wow. Good job."

Mom sounds pretty pleased with herself. She rides her scooter everywhere and walks between her bed and the bathroom with her walker. I know exercise isn't part of her weight-loss regimen. "How did you lose ten pounds?"

"I skipped desserts and cut everything else in half."

"How long did this take you?"

"About three months."

"Well, way to go."

"I'm drinking some Irish cream to celebrate. I have about one-fourth of the bottle left. Bye."

"Bye, Mom."

 

APRIL 23, 2014: IRENE

Irene calls. That's synchronicity. I put a note in the mail to her yesterday. She hasn't received it, yet. "I have a few moments and I decided to call you to catch up."

"It's great to hear from you, Irene. How's everything with you?"

"I'm busy getting our home ready to put it on the market, seeing my doctors, and weeding out what to give away and what to keep. I'm actually looking forward to moving into the assisted living facility in Grass Valley. I want my daughters to get their lives back."

Irene's also preparing for heart surgery and back surgery in addition to managing her progressive MS. "I get really tired and just do a little every day. How are you?" I tell Irene about the trip to Bend and my mother's 96th birthday. "These sound like wonderful birthday celebrations."

We talk for an hour. Irene is less than a year away from losing her husband, Eddie. She turned 70 in February. "Dede, I think we have to keep positive attitudes and keep moving forward. Let's stay in touch. Okay?"

More than okay, Irene. More than okay.

 

APRIL 24, 2014: DEVIANT NORMAL

I'm not looking forward to this. I'm in for my six-month check at the dentist. The hygienist is examining my tongue. "Have you noticed that the tip of your tongue is redder than the rest of your tongue?"

"Well, no, I haven't noticed." (I don't stand in front of the mirror with my tongue sticking out. Maybe I should.)

"Nothing to worry about. It's what we call 'deviant normal.'"

I like this term, "deviant normal." Shouldn't we all aspire to be deviant normal? To stand out? To not follow the crowd? To sometimes say, "Fuck you?"

"I think I may be deviant normal in more ways than the tip of my tongue. At least I hope I am."

The hygienist laughs. Sounds like other patients haven't told her they aspire to deviancy. She changes the topic. "It's been a year since we took X-rays of your teeth, so we will take X-rays today."

"Stop. Hold on." I'm practicing deviancy. "I've read studies linking dental X-rays to brain tumors. Nothing conclusive, but some experts are recommending receiving X-rays every two to three years instead of annually."

"Well, the radiation level in these X-rays is less than the radiation you'd get spending ten minutes in the sun. They're very safe."

After more discussion, the hygienist offers that I might opt to have X-rays every two years. "You know that X-rays may reveal problems that I can't detect visually."

"If you see something that concerns you, you'll let me know. Then, we can still take the X-rays, right?"

"Right." The dentist sits down next to me. I've never met this dentist and I don't know why she's not the same dentist I saw six months ago. The dentist concurs with the hygienist."You realize I can't see what X-rays might show."

"Yes, I realize. Let's take that risk."

The dentist pokes around in my mouth for less than three minutes. "I agree with the previous dentist. You should have treatments in four areas with receding gum lines. The teeth in these areas aren't protected by enamel. They can become infected."

"Are these fillings covered  by insurance?" I know they're not covered by insurance because I asked this question six months ago. I'm testing the waters. I'm being deviant.

"I don't know anything about costs and insurance. I simply make recommendations on what's needed. The woman at the front desk can tell you about price and coverage."

Hmm. I've heard doctors say the same thing. "I don't know anything about costs or insurance coverage." Maybe medical/dental knowledge and knowledge of patient costs should be more integrated. Maybe health care personnel would think twice about recommending less critical, expensive procedures. Again, maybe they wouldn't. Maybe these procedures provide welcome, additional revenue. This is the new culture of health care — impersonal, corporate, pricey.

The hygienist cleans my teeth. "You're good to go."

The young woman at the from desk double checks for me. "No, the recommended fillings would not be covered by insurance. Yes, they would cost twelve hundred dollars."

I schedule my next six-month appointment. Deviant or not, I'm not looking forward to it.

PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Overheard at work: "Are you gonna go to the gun show, the fishing derby, or the rodeo this weekend?"

 

APRIL 26, 2014: ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD

Pat &MeDinner2014.jpg

Pat calls. "Mom, would you like me to take you out for a birthday dinner tonight?"

"Tonight?" It's not even my birthday month. My birthday celebrating will be over before my birthday.

"Do you like that fish restaurant in the Fountains?"

"It's good, but it's a little costly."

"That's okay. It's your birthday dinner. Meet me there at six-thirty."

Here we are sitting in a cozy booth. The restaurant's busy. Rustling prom dresses and black tuxedos fill the chairs. There's lots of girlish giggling at the tables. The waiter brings us the menu. At the top it says, "Happy 70th Birthday!!!"

I'm impressed. "Thanks for the personalized menu."

"You're welcome. Would you like something to drink — wine or from the bar?"

I order a glass of Chateau St. Jean chardonnay. Pat orders the same. "Good choice." Waiters always say that. Pat decides to order a bottle — two glasses for each of us. I worry about his budget, but this dinner is as much for him as it is for me. Today's his payday. He hasn't had paychecks in a long time.

There were days, in the past, when I hoped and prayed my son would survive. He was often missing, in jail, 5150d to a psych ward, or living on the street. I remember one night in the middle of yet another crisis. I was home alone in my big house on a hill. I felt like a mother animal — any mother animal — lion, tiger, bear, elephant, cat, dog — whose offspring was in mortal danger. I felt primal, obliterating emotional pain. I started crying in my kitchen. The crying turned to screaming — a someone-is-being-murdered kind of screaming. The screaming wouldn't stop. I wanted to smash every glass, cup, saucer, and dish in my cupboards. I wanted time to start over without the bipolar/schizoaffective disorder or whatever illness it was that no one could pin down, without the illness that was kidnapping my son and holding him hostage.

It's been a long road from that night to this night. For the first time in eight years Pat has a job. Thanks to my mom's generous rental policy he has a roof over his head. Thanks to me he has a car, and his monthly utility, phone, internet, and car insurance bills are covered. We talk about this.

"I want to start paying these bills myself, Mom, but can we wait until next month? My car's flashing a 'maintenance required' light on the dashboard. I don't know how much it might cost if the problem isn't under warranty."

"Take care of the car, Pat, then we'll revisit your finances."

Pat's bankruptcy filing was finalized March 22. Since then, he's been bombarded with letters from car companies congratulating him on his responsible decision to file bankruptcy. They're offering him deals on cars that don't require a down payment. He's also receiving new, pre-approved credit card applications. This should be illegal. It's corporations preying on consumers who have a hard time managing their income and outgo. These letters and enticements are placing a bug in Pat's head. "I'm thinking I should get a new car before I have to put a lot of money into the one I have."

The car Pat drives, and I own, is a 2006 Ford Focus. It's the same age as my Toyota Prius. I don't plan to buy another car anytime soon. "Pat, I don't think you should be taking on new monthly payments. Your car should be good for quite a while if you take care of it. What if you lose your job? What if unexpected bills come up?"

My squashing his idea is being ignored. "I'll have to cross those bridges when I come to them."

At 45, almost 46, with an intractable tumor lurking in his brain, Pat's trying to dig himself out of a deep hole. He wants to feel successful. I won't push this conversation further this evening. After all, it's my birthday dinner. It's the first birthday dinner Pat's treated me to. It's probably my best birthday dinner ever. I want the guests at other tables to know what a special dinner the two of us are sharing. I want them to realize this dinner includes, in addition to a side of grilled asparagus, another heaping side:

ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD

It's clear that others won't capture this moment. So I must and I am.

 

APRIL 27, 2014: MY GEORGE CLOONEY

Well, it was inevitable. 

The headlines are screaming it all over the internet. George Clooney, my George Clooney, is engaged.

Maybe it's not true. Maybe there'll be a retraction. Photos, however, don't lie. In the photos, there's something in their faces. They look happy. They look together. George is 52. His fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, is 36. That's a sixteen-year age difference. There's an eighteen-year age difference between me and George. Why her and not me? She is beautiful. And smart — an attorney in international law and human rights who speaks multiple languages.

I get it. George is a human rights activist. She's a human rights activist. I might call myself a human rights activist. On a much smaller scale, of course. Like in my own backyard. I'll take the high road with this. I'll wish the happy couple well. I'll stop having dreams about me and George getting married. I'll start dreaming about getting invited to his wedding to Amal. They haven't set a date. Maybe they have and we're not in on it. Doesn't matter.

It was inevitable.

George Clooney, my George Clooney, is engaged.

 

APRIL 29, 2014: FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

I grabbed the tube of Preparation H instead of the tube of toothpaste and started brushing my teeth.

I left the pot of soup on the stove all night instead of putting it in the fridge.

I walked out the door with my credit card instead of my mailbox key to go get the mail.

I searched five minutes for my purse. It was hanging on my shoulder.

I drove north on the freeway for eight miles when I was supposed to be driving south.

I wore one blue shoe and one black shoe to a block party.

I put a clear earring on my left ear and a black one on my right ear and went to my workout with Deanne. She didn't say a word.

Disclaimer
All of these events are true.
THEY DID NOT HAPPEN ALL IN ONE DAY.

 

MAY 2, 2014: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KERRY COLLEEN

Today, my fourth and youngest child is turning 37.

In 1979, the San Francisco Chronicle published my article, "Diary of an Unplanned Pregnancy." It was about my unexpected pregnancy with Kerry. Abortion wasn't an option and I felt trapped. I wrote, "I was beginning to dream of time for myself and here I am shackled again." I received dozens of letters from readers who were moved by what I wrote.

Kerry didn't know about the article. I pondered if and when I'd show it to her. Then, out of the blue, this choice was taken away. Fifteen years later, when Kerry was in high school, she and I stood in line at a mother-daughter luncheon. A mother of one of her classmates came up to us and said, "I remember that beautiful story you wrote about Kerry's birth."

Kerry's eyes got big. She looked at me like "What? What is that woman talking about?" There was no way out. I knew, when we got home, I'd have to pull the newspaper clipping from my file and give it to my daughter. Would she understand? Would she be hurt?

Kerry read the article. She said she got it. But really? Could a sixteen-year-old girl relate? Could she believe what I wrote at the end?

"As for you, Kerry, I know I made the right decision. It's hard to believe you once seemed so threatening. Now, I wouldn't give you up for anything. I sit and hold you, brush my face against your soft cheek, and still the tears come. The wonder of you. Of your new life. You and I are going to be fine, Kerry."

Thirty-seven years later, I still wouldn't give you up for anything. And, as I write this, still the tears come.

 

COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2018:
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 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 :-)

dede@soonerthantomorrow.com