I have gotten my share of looks in the last year or so that I know people have tried to subtly throw in the hopes I won’t see them. I see them, and I just don’t see fit to make an issue of it. It’s not a selfish or lustful look, it’s actually thrown just down to my left hand.
A little over two years ago I started to gain weight. Not a small amount of weight, quite frankly, for me a staggering amount. Sure, there were a couple reasons I could throw at you: I injured my back, putting me bedridden; My wife didn’t move around much like she used to because her knees had gone out, she’d gotten problems with her liver and other organs that caused her to gain a substantial amount of weight; the pain medications I was on for my back were inherently slowing my metabolism causing me to burn fewer calories per day. I could use every single one of those excuses, but the reality is I just should have known better. I went from a 34 waist to a 38 in my blue jeans. Higher in khakis. Suits I’d worn for years no longer fit . . . when my grandfather passed away I had to scrounge up the money to buy a suit for the funeral.
Speaking of my Grandpa, I gained weight much like he did: in my belly. I get it, I know, it’s the absolute worst kind of fat; it leads to major heart diseases; I can have bigger problems beyond just being heavy. No preaching to the choir, please, I know it all already. I’ve actually gone down one full pant size and lost a great deal of the weight. Not as much as I need to but still going in the right direction.
But this is about the glances to my left hand. That day I made the realization I can’t button my pants any more or wear the shirts with the tails tucked in, I realized something far worse: I couldn’t fit my wedding ring on anymore. This damn ring had been a bone of contention since before I got married. My then-fiance Andrea was big into the whole traditional wedding. She had to have all the bridesmaids she did – to the point they ran out of the color of fabric for their dresses and her maid of honor wore an ivory colored dress. She had to have the diamond engagement ring, but the one she wanted, with at least so many carats, etc… She had to have the flowers, cake, all of it. We got into so many arguments planning the wedding that I was certain that marriage would have to be a cake walk if we could survive the damn planning stages.
I was angry, for quite awhile, that I had saved, scrimped, and even cheated a little to get her the ring she’d looked at. I couldn’t afford the diamond she wanted, so we had a replacement with the promise I’d get her that carat size when we could afford it. (I wasn’t able to until about a year before she died) So when it came time for my ring, she never bought it. I wanted, in this wedding full of tradition, for her to pick out and find a ring she thought would fit me. She never did. It came down to the end and I was buying my own ring and I was so upset. I bought a gold, cheap band because it was all I could get last-minute and I had some resentment that she thought so much of all this planning and putting together of materials and demanded a certain ring . . . but wouldn’t take the time for mine.
The planning and resentment came to a head with the floral arrangements. The flower she’d indiscriminately chosen for my lapel I hated.
“It’s the most sought after, it’s really expensive,” she kept telling me.
“I don’t care, it’s ugly and I don’t want it!” was my loud response.
“For God’s sake why?!” was her response.
“Because I want a rose. It’s the first flower I gave you and it’s what I want to wear.”
It was at that point – that exact moment during the planning – that she started to come off the whirlwind tear she was on planning everything with her Mother only and not me. It was then I realized that she was being pushed and forced into so many things by her family and was being told she didn’t have to consult me on anything. This one thing, the push to change to a flower that “didn’t match” because it meant something, wasn’t part of a pattern, finally got through to her.
I wore that first ring ever day, until the rigors of journalism took their toll. The gold bent to an oval shape and cut into my skin because I carried so much gear around with me every day. It got scratched, lost a small diamond, all of it. Eventually, I told her I wanted a strong, solid, silver band: something that would withstand the job or I’d have to quit wearing it. I had someone at my Dallas job ask me why I didn’t wear a ring before then and it was simply to avoid damaging it. I wanted something I could still wear and withstand the bumps and bruises. I got that ring.
There were times I would take it off. At night, so it didn’t cut in or hurt her when we held hands. When I gigged I took it off. You will think I’m nuts, but when I wore the ring I got hit on and propositioned constantly. Me. The guy who couldn’t find a girl at 2am when the bar was closing at the beginning of his musical career was now getting notes thrown up on the stage in the middle of a set. Take off the ring, the notes stopped. I took off the ring, no matter how much it angered and frustrated my wife. I figured it was better to get the ire at that point than to get it while trying to fend off cute drunken women at the martini bar.
So when I gained all this weight, the battle-scarred silver ring sat there, in my drawer, waiting for me to come to my metabolic senses.
At the funeral, I tried, but couldn’t even get the ring around my knuckle. I couldn’t wear it to her funeral and it’s bothered me ever since. It bothers me more now that I see those looks, stolen glances, and stares at my hand and not my eyes. I get it, there’s confusion. Am I over her? Am I callous? Did I get frustrated or angry? Why would I stop wearing my ring so quickly after she left?
I didn’t do it on-purpose. Now, though, it’s such an awkward time I didn’t really know what to do. I’ve come down a pant size, the ring still doesn’t fit, and I’m just as determined that I want to wear it. I just can’t. On top of that, to suddenly appear with the ring on my finger may cause as much or more confusion than before.
But then an email conversation with a man named Hershal solved my problem. Hershal Wiggins owns a small jewelers named Clearly Jewelry. He had the answer to my problem: a Roman Numeral ring. He has a design for a ring, not extremely dissimilar from my wedding band, and he says he’ll put the date – 03/26 . . . III XXVI . . . on the ring. The day my marriage began and ended. It’s fitting, and while it may cause some glances, I’ll be able to say this is a fitting tribute. The ring is a size higher, just so I can wear it, and if I lose the weight I need, I’ll put it on my right hand and still continue to wear it.
I know this puts a lot of value and thought on a simple band of silver, but it’s more than that. I made a big deal at the age of 23 about something that, really, was no big deal. I threw a fit, held onto resentment, and carried all that around with me. The weight of that ring was a burden at times because of the things I’d put onto it. Now I have a chance to reclaim that, if just a little, and carry the ring with me and lighten that load. I loved Andrea, like no other, but I want to show that no matter what happens: if I never love again or even if I somehow find myself able to date someone or find another person, I will wear this new ring. It’s special. It fits this theory of mine, the old story ending and the new one beginning.
The ring is heavy, but it is permanent. The band and the date are significant, but the fact that one story ends and another begins on the same date, the latter writing only because of references to the former. I smile now thinking I might be able to wear it again, hoping somehow it makes up for all the times I didn’t.
I’m often amazed at how she loved me, in spite of all the reasons I gave her not to; the problems I created or resentment I held for too long. More, I’m amazed at the way I really need her sometimes. It’s just a ring, but to me, it’s so much more.