“I wish I could find my wedding ring.”
Those were the eight words that had been coming out of my mother’s mouth for more than a year. In a quiet, demure voice, I could hear the discouragement in her tone.
We’d searched for the ring in drawers, in boxes and bins and even in one desperate act, in the car. And we kept looking until one day, she came home with a little bag from Wal-Mart. Tucked inside was a small gold ring.
I did question her sanity for a moment.
“So you bought a ring, for your dead husband, at Wal-Mart?” I asked, trying to be as nonjudgmental as possible.
“No, not for him. More to remember him,” she replied. She slipped the ring on her finger and began to smile.
I wondered: Could that ring really bring her a sense of peace and happiness?
All the signs seemed to point to yes. She’s had the ring for a few months now, and not once have I seen her leave home without it. Whether she’s cooking or reading or obsessively cleaning, the new ring is usually either on her finger or nearby.
I hadn’t seen that sort of smile cross her face since I was a child and would catch glimpses every so often of her gently rubbing her ring or just simply looking at it. I suspect she was just checking to make sure it was still there. The few times she did take it off, I’d slip it on my little finger, hold my hand out and imagine I was a happily married newlywed. The ring, I eventually decided, looked better on my mother.
Her original wedding ring was always with her – always a part of her – just as my father had been, and when she found herself feverishly looking for it, I couldn’t help but feel like it was another loss for her. It was just another reminder (a literal one, at that) that she was a widow. In finding the ring, she’d have a small piece of him back, and maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. Maybe that would be just enough.
It felt like that for me a little, too.
We’re so quick to say things are irreplaceable – that couch, that ugly brown sweater, that scratched-up Yahtzee table. But leave it to my mother to show me that, perhaps, just maybe, I’ve been a little too rigid in my thinking. True, she no longer had that beautiful gold ring that my father slipped on her left hand 31 years ago this week – on a warm June evening in a small church surrounded by friends and family – but then again, none of this had been entirely just about the ring. She needed a way to still feel connected to him, to the life they’d lived together and the memories they’d created. The new ring, it its own way, was a bridge for her between the past and the present.
Maybe this new ring was a symbol for the future, too. A reminder to herself of her strength and courage, and that even though she was forging ahead as a strong woman, she’d always have one hand holding on to my father and to her past.
I still catch glimpses of her sometimes. She gently runs her fingers across the new ring. I often wonder what she’s thinking – maybe she’s thinking of that wedding day when she was a 22-year-old blushing bride. I’m certain of something, though. She’s at peace for once. It looks like she found just what she was looking for.