Sooner than tomorrow

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.”

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6 Responses to Sooner than tomorrow

  1. Karen Ferek says:

    I have been affected by mental illness, but not in my family, in another’s.

    My husband Frank and I were married for 23 years, and getting close to thinking about retiring, when a former employee who we fired 2 plus years before, drove down here (Phoenix, AZ.) from Henderson, Nevada. He hid across the street from our shop, and shot Frank twice in the chest, and then in the head, murdering him almost instantly. It has been 10 years now, we’ve been in this hell, the whole family, and he has never gone to trial, because they diagnosed him as unfit to go to trial. So he has been in AZ. State Mental Hospital for the last 10 years.

    I believe we need to put the mentally ill in hospitals before they can do violent crimes to others, instead of letting them choose when they want to take meds that would have controlled their violent actions.

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Dede
    I will check out your blog. I grew up with a mentally ill mother who just died in December at almost 91. It is difficult dealing with mental illness while dealing with one’s own aging and mortality. Any time we have a grown child with a mental illness or a disability it is a difficult burden because we love them so much. Thanks so much for all you shared.

    • Dede Ranahan says:

      Hi Michelle
      Thank you for your comment. I hope you’ll leave a comment on my blog or write something about you and your mom that I can post for others to read. Meanwhile, take care. Dede

  3. Mary Lou says:

    Hi Dede,

    I’ve just started a blog and memoir also, at the age of 74. It’s a wonderful way to connect with some beautiful people who are so inspiring. I’m solidly behind your hopes of bringing more awareness to the mental illness that families deal with daily.

    I’d like to follow your blog. I don’t see a follow button.

    Here’s my blog address. You can follow and I also invite Guest Bloggers. You’ll find my post about the guidelines, along with the Guest Bloggers who have submitted their stories in my menu at the top.

    Thanks for sharing! Mary Lou

    • Dede Ranahan says:

      Hi Mary Lou,

      Thanks for your message and congratulations on starting your blog. I think you’re a few steps ahead of me. I’m figuring out how to add the “follow button” to my blog. Will add it soon. I’m operating about 5 minutes ahead of myself 🙂 But my philosophy is “Start.” You have to start and learn as you go. I joke with my writing friends that the title of my next book is going to be “Everything I’ve Done Wrong.” However, I think the biggest mistake I could make is to not try at all. The second biggest mistake would be “to quit.”

      I’m going to hit the follow button for your blog. Good luck with it and your memoir. Let’s stay in touch. Dede Dede Ranahan on Facebook – also under construction 🙂 Not enough hours in the day!

      • Mary Lou says:

        Your blog looks great! it invites sharing and confidentiality that your focus calls for. Mine is a bit different. I started a Free WordPress account about 10 months ago and have a variety of different bloggers following me. I’m following quite a few too. The WordPress Team have been very helpful. Definitely don’t quit, Dede. The rewards of just writing and sharing are so important for anyone who has been through trauma. It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing! 🙂

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