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010. Mrs. Ring's Rose

Mrs. Ring’s Rose


When I was growing up, our neighbor on the right was Mrs. Ring.

Mrs. Ring was always a distant figure to me, from my grandfather’s generation, watching her black-and-white TV in a darkened living room behind a wood-framed screen door.

My mother was friends with Mrs. Ring. Every year during Lent, Mrs. Ring, my mother, and I would go to early morning Communion service at Saint Thomas Acquinas church in Palo Alto.

One Lenten day in 1962 or so, the three of us journeyed to the classic, Gothic-style, wood paneled parish church for Communion. This was a special day. Mrs. Ring was leaving for a trip, a cruise, I believe, and this would be her last Communion service with us for that Lenten season. In the midst of the service, Mrs. Ring doubled over in pain. My mother helped her elderly companion to the car, and we returned home in silence.
Mrs. Ring was diagnosed, as I recall, with cancer.

Mrs. Ring died shortly thereafter without ever taking her grand voyage.


Today, more than 50 years later, almost all that was Mrs. Ring is gone. Her son, Johnny, sold the house; I have not seen Johnny for probably 40 years. The new owners re-modeled and modernized the house and transformed the front-yard garden into a Zen-style quiet zone.

Only the towering redwood tree remains from Mrs. Ring’s time in the front yard.

When Mrs. Ring was still with us, a simple rose bush ran along the ivy-covered fence that marked the boundary between my parents’ property and Mrs. Ring’s side-yard. The bush stretched 30 feet or so along the fence, and its shoots and pink blossoms reached 4 feet above the ivy.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday 2013, we had a family dinner at my parents house. My father will be 90 in June; my mother just turned 88. The years grow long and every day together contains a special spirit.

As I walked out the back door of my parents’ home, I noticed a single, fully opened pink rose and a smaller companion reaching above the tall wooden fence that replaced the ivy marker line of my youth. The remnant of Mrs. Ring’s rose still reaches toward the heavens, a gesture of love for a gentle soul who passed our way.

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