Sunday, February 13, 2011

Symbols of Love

Panic slowly rose in my throat and an awful churning settled in the pit of my stomach as I suddenly realized they were gone. Married less than a year, I treasured my still-sparkling wedding/engagement rings - tangible symbols, always with me, of my husband’s love. Now, the third finger of my left hand was bare and I felt naked, stripped and confused. I had no idea where they were.

We were helping out at my family’s floral business. My mind reeled as I considered the number of boxes of roses I’d packed that day - the flowers cleaned, corsages made, trips in and out of the greenhouses and cooler. Would someone receive my rings along with their roses? It seemed there was nothing to do but fret; I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I did that privately - in agony.

There was one other possibility. I had taken a break to visit my husband, who took advantage of the warmer weather to wash a car on my folks’ lawn. We had chatted and tossed a baseball around a few times before I returned to the store. It was worth a try so, between customers, I raced out to search although I thought the chances were probably nil. Gingerly, I pushed my left hand down into the stiff, leather catcher’s mitt - to find my rings tightly wedged where they’d remained as I’d withdrawn my hand before.

My husband was, and is, my steadfast soul mate. Before marrying we spent a year apart, seeing each other rarely, communicating by letter and phone (In the late 60s we had no computer nor cell phone.) At some point I was feeling impatient and frustrated, thinking we never would be together. He sent me some wonderfully encouraging lines on love that changed my attitude completely. Now, in tearful relief I hugged him, then - between sniffles - told him what had happened. The very next week we took the rings in to be fitted better and soldered together, as they remain today.

Fifteen years later, that same feeling arose from the pit of my stomach, tempered only slightly by the added years and maturity. The diamond was missing from my engagement ring. This gem was not large, and probably not very valuable in monetary terms. But it and the other four tiny ones on my wedding ring are the only ones I’ve ever owned - or ever cared to. They meant the world to me.

I’d just spent a long day wallpapering our old kitchen walls here. Meticulously, I went through every single shred of the slimy, soggy scraps. I went over the walls inch by inch, carefully feeling my way along, searching for any suspicious small bump or bulge. Nothing. One last possibility - the bucket full of filthy, soapy water I’d used to scrub the last of the old paste from the walls. Carefully pouring the water with its debris through a sieve, I searched in vain for any small glint of hope. Then, taking a final glance at the bottom of the bucket, a bright sparkle caught my eye - that diamond was the only thing left inside.

Another twenty-nine years with these rings. Their platinum circles grow thinner each year becoming, as my mother’s band was, sculpted and tempered by the life of a marriage. They are only outward symbols - still mean the world to me.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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