Serena Mira Asta
Alice Lundy Blum
A Faded Pink Ribbon
Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump.
My finger tapped along to an oldie tune playing on the radio as the
patchy asphalt on I-35N kept my tires in rhythmic beat. It was a
beautiful midweek summer day—the kind one thinks of while scraping an
inch of ice off the windshield in January—blue sky, puffy grey smudged
clouds, and a temperature just below sweating range. Traffic was light.
A handful of slow moving campers owned the right lane as sportier, less
family laden cars whizzed by in distain. I fell in between a mini-van
with a Grandma’s Taxi bumper
sticker, and a Winnebago wearing a four bike corsage and an ice chest
leaking water. I was in no hurry. Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump.
Road distractions, in the form of billboards promising ultimate
adventures to the north, and mazes of road-construction barrels, held
my attention until the radio faded to static. I was trying to stay
light hearted and in the moment, but eventually my mind wandered to the
reason for the drive north—a long overdue trip to visit my mother. Dad,
twenty plus years divorced from Mom, had never given up on the belief
she would come to her senses and return to his life and bed. She
didn’t, but her absence seldom interfered with his need to keep her in
our lives. Dad kept me well stocked in guilt. How long had it been
since I made the drive to see her? Was I aware my brothers had visited
Mom on her birthday? They had brought flowers. What had I done? Okay,
Dad. I get the hint. I was on my way. Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump. Lord give me strength.
Mom and I had always shared a contentious relationship, and as normal
as that seemed, I longed for the day when she would freely share her
thoughts and dreams with me instead of her disappointments.
Unfortunately, in her eyes, and my ears, the culmination of all her
disappointment was… me. For as long as I could remember she’d tick off
my faults as though she was reading a grocery list: I wasn’t as pretty
as my sister, check. I wasn’t as smart as my brothers, check. My ideas
and goals were messes in the making, check and double check. Somewhere
along the way I decided the best defense was to laminate a smile on my
face and not let her know she was killing my spirit one stabbing word
at a time. If her pleasure involved my pain, I would deny her any sign
she was hitting her mark. Stab, suck it up. Stab, suck it up. One two
three, one two three. Life is rhythms. We continued the dance until the
Memories, both good and bad, played through my head as I left I-35 and
took familiar roads deep into my childhood. Where had the farms
gone? Only vestiges of what was remained. Empty pastures,
ramshackle buildings, and crippled fence lines echoed my inner
emotions. It seemed everything had changed, been sold, or decayed
on the spot. A shiver ran through me despite the summer heat. Had I
I pulled the car into the graveled driveway, parked, and looked around.
The air was heavily fragrant from recent grass mowing. A lilac bush
planted by my brother was thriving despite spotty care. Everything
looked neat, orderly, and peaceful. Gathering my thoughts I proceeded
down the path. What could I possibly say now that would bring Mom and
Approaching quietly, I found her there in front of me … but she really
wasn’t, as usual. I stopped and allowed my feelings to develop
unchecked and unfiltered. This was much harder than I had imagined.
“Hello Mom,” I sputtered. “I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve
visited. How are the cribbage games going with Grandpa?” Arrgh! After
all my grandiose practice conversations could I muster nothing but
small talk? Could I never get it right with her?
As I looked about in an attempt to regroup my thoughts, I noted a faded
pink cancer ribbon lying within a bundle of withered flowers. I held it
for a moment, then blew off the dirt and placed it on her headstone. As
much as I loved her, it was, indeed, too late.
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Gail Gates is
about to enter the Master of Liberal Studies Program at Metropolitan
State University, and is sure there will be dreams of showing up at
class with no clothes on. At her age this would not be a good thing. On
a happier note, she enjoys baking things that she will surely go to