Dede, Age 72
At 72, I’m setting up a website and blog. My techie daughter is helping me do this and I’m learning as I go. You can find it at
My purpose is twofold: 1) To provide a safe place to talk about mental illness in our families and 2) To find a publisher for my memoir by the same name — Sooner Than Tomorrow. I could self-publish my book, but I’m seeking a traditional publisher because I believe in the story I’m telling and want it to be widely read. I want it to have maximum impact. Simple as that.
Okay. Here’s the thing. In June 2013, I was looking at turning 70 in May 2014. I wasn’t thrilled. I decided I wouldn’t shuffle passively into old age. Instead, I’d brace for the inevitable, and record the year leading up to my 70th birthday. I had no clue I’d capture the most poignant year of my life. I didn’t foresee the tragedy about to rip me apart — body and soul.
In the belief that each of us has a unique, never-to-be-again perspective, I began to write in real time and to describe the view of the universe from my small patch of earth in Lincoln, California. I used the prompts of daily events in my personal life and in the news to talk about now, then, and yet to be. Short stories and longer stories wove themselves into my narrative. Homegrown characters, including family pets, vied for attention. My son’s Black Forest Hound, Lexi, romped through the pages. My black cat, Jazzy, grew impatient with my time at the computer. “You’ve been at this for hours,” she said. “Stop writing. BI need kitty treats.”
Sometimes, this growing old gig can be grueling — like trudging up a steep hill with a heavy pack. It helps to pause, set down our loads, poke fun at our foibles, and lean into others.
In the end, more than aging, my memoir turns out to be the love story of an ordinary mother and son who never gave up. In this true tale, the mother grapples with entering the winter of her life and facing her mortality. She struggles to help her adult son without depleting her bank account and her emotional reserves. She tries hard to keep balance and boundaries in her everyday activities. At the same time, the son rails against a long-standing diagnosis — one he would give anything not to have — of bipolar disorder. He puts one foot bravely in front of the other, even as he’s tested for the possible recurrence of a terrifying brain tumor. He dreams everyman dreams of independence, a steady job, and a romantic relationship. Events build to a sudden, unexpected and devastating conclusion.
In my heart, and now in my book, I hold a special place for my heroes — dedicated mothers and grandmothers of adult children who live with mental illness. Along with my story, I share parts of other mothers’ stories, too. Their ill children are homeless, incarcerated, suicidal or estranged.
Ten thousand Americans turn sixty-five each day. Many — and due to stigma, they’re often a hidden population — wrestle with aging while trying to cope with debilitating family mental illness. I hope other moms and grandmas (and dads and granddads and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters) like me tell their stories, too, — to anyone and everyone who will listen — until the world no longer ignores us. Until a raucous crowd rises up and roars, “My God! We’re going to fix this. Sooner than tomorrow.”