My grandmother married my grandfather in the early 1920’s; he died in the ’70’s when I was three or four. She was still very social after he died, but, other than a couple of friends who seemed to feel they were more-than-friends, my grandma never opened her heart to any man other than my grandpa.
She had a wedding set – diamonds and whatnot – that she wore all the time, and it was so enormous that it dwarfed her finger. Those rings were the only ones I ever saw or knew about until after she died.
My mother was reminiscing about my grandma a little while ago, recounting a fairly serious heart procedure that Grandma had undergone in her late 80’s. She is, in fact, in some record book for being the oldest person to have the procedure. Since I don’t live in the same town with my parents and grandmother, all I knew was that the surgery had gone perfectly well and that Grandma recovered completely. But my mother revealed that there had been some anxiety beforehand, as they were prepping Grandma for the operating room.
“Well, of course,” I said. “I’d be pretty anxious.”
“Oh, no!” my mother said, shaking her head. “She wasn’t anxious about the surgery. She trusted her doctor completely. She trusted God completely. No, it was her wedding ring.”
Her wedding ring? Well, the doctors said that she needed to remove all jewelry before the procedure, including her wedding ring. Grandma cheerfully pulled off the giant collection of diamonds and silver that hung off her left ring finger.
And the other one too, the doctors said.
Underneath the wedding set was another ring, a simple metal band that had been on her finger – rain or shine, day or night, life or death – for more than sixty years.
She became very agitated. Charlie (my grandpa) wouldn’t like it. She had promised him. She couldn’t take it off.
My mother explained to Grandma that they would put the ring back on as soon as she woke up from the operation, and that the operation was going to save her life, and that Grandpa wouldn’t want her to die.
Well no, Grandma agreed. He wouldn’t want me to die.
For many moments, she pondered her choices. That ring had been there, unchanging, for longer than many people get to live. It represented a promise. It represented all the love in her heart. It was a way to feel that my grandpa was still connected to her.
But without the surgery, her life would be cut short. In the end, she decided that she would rather live, and that the ring would be safe for a few hours in a box. In the end, she chose life, and she twisted the simple band off her finger and handed it to my mother.
It took a long time, though, for her to choose. It took a really long time.