It was a beautiful day to be outside. Flash and Cowboy were soaking in the hot tub, and I was sitting in the sun, soaking in some rays.
“I found the ring I want to get you,” Flash suddenly announced.
For months, he’d been talking about getting me a new wedding ring set. Not that I was asking for one. All I wanted, eventually, was another band that matched my wedding band, to attach to the other side of my solitaire. I had my existing band and engagement ring soldered together many years ago, the two had become one.
But Flash had other ideas.
“Look at this one.”
He held out his phone, showing me rings for sale on the internet.
“It’s okay. But I like my ring.”
“No you don’t. You’ve never liked it.”
“Yes, I do. I’ve told you that a million times.”
As he showed me yet another photo, I noticed the rings were being sold on OfferUp.
“Used? You’re looking at used rings for me? On OfferUp? Really? I don’t want a used ring. I don’t want a new wedding set. But if I did, I’d want it from the jeweler who sold you mine.”
“I’m just looking to get ideas. A lot of people buy used rings, by the way. Even the jeweler I used sometimes bought rings at estate sales and resold them.”
“What are you saying? My ring came from a garage sale? You saw it lying between a Happy Days lunch kit and a pair of parachute pants?”
“Not a garage sale. An estate sale. Like when someone dies.”
“You bought my ring from an estate sale?”
“No. I’m saying that the jeweler, who sold your rings to me, also sold rings from estate sales.”
“The jeweler in Jersey?”
So, you “knew a guy.”
Flash gave me his husband-caught-in-the-interrogation-headlight look.
“I’ve got a dead woman’s ring on my finger. That explains a lot.”
I quickly texted Flash’s sister, Julia, to tattle on her brother.
“Well, Arnold’s grandmother died, and I’m wearing her ring,” she wrote back.
No comparison, Julia. It’s not a ring that your husband, Arnold, bought from a dead stranger’s family; yours is an heirloom from his family.
Meanwhile, Flash texted Julia about his big plans for “surprising” me with a new wedding set. She started giving suggestions.
“Flash!” I shouted, to put a stop to the shopping, “I like my rings. I don’t want any other wedding set. You need to stop bringing this up.”
The Great Ring Debate goes back to 24 years ago. I’d been dating Flash for five months, and wondered where our relationship was going. I hoped it was going to the altar, but my mind-reading skills were rusty. Sometimes I thought Flash wanted a future with me, but he never said much about it.
We needed to have The Talk. I was in love with not only him, but also his kids. It was too serious to not know where we were heading.
“Can we meet tonight after you get off work?” I asked.
“Tonight’s my workout night, but I can meet after that.”
Sitting on his couch that evening, I took a deep breath, then dived right in. “You know, we’ve been dating a few months now. And it’s been great. I’m just not sure what we’re doing. I need to know where this is going.”
“What do you mean?”
What do I mean? Am I speaking Vulcan? Has the man never had The Talk before?
“I mean, what are we doing? What do you see down the road?”
Flash had a strange look on his face, a look I’d never seen. He said nothing.
“Okay, well, I’m getting close to your kids, and I can’t do this anymore if we’re not going to move forward. I’m not going to date you for years.”
Suddenly, Flash was laughing and shaking his head. I had tears in my eyes, and the Hard-Hearted Man was entertained.
“What? What is funny? This isn’t funny. I’m just going to go home now.”
“I didn’t go work out tonight.”
“What? What does that have to do with anything?”
“I didn’t go to the gym, like I told you I was going to.”
So, you’re a perpetual dater and a liar.
“Flash, I’m trying to talk to you about us, not about your triathlon fantasies.”
“I went to see your mother.”
I was confused and startled.
“My mom? Why would you go see my mom without me? That’s just weird.”
“To ask for her blessing before I...”
“Don’t say another word! Oh my gosh, I almost ruined it! Just pretend I don’t know. Let’s start over.” My heart was jumping rope; the man I loved didn’t want to merely date me ‘til death we did part.
But he didn’t stop talking. “We need to talk about rings. You need to tell me what you want.”
“You can’t ask me that. Surprise me.” I’d seen way too many romantic movies, where the man picks out the perfect ring for his beloved. No resizing needed. No payment installments mentioned. No disappointment on the woman’s face.
Flash is not a big surpriser, like I am. When it comes to large purchases, he wants to know he’s making the right choice.
“You have to help me,” he insisted.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t procrastinate. The next day, I spent my lunch hour at a local jewelry store to test drive a few carats. I wanted a princess-cut center stone with trillion-cut diamonds on each side, in white gold, for an engagement ring. But when I tried the princess cut, it looked awful on my finger. I went through all shapes of brilliance.
“Round solitaire. With white gold,” I reported back to Flash. “And I’d like my wedding band to have a raised channel setting, like this.” I showed him a picture.
Not much else was said about The Ring, which helped me pretend I knew nothing about an upcoming proposal.
Until a couple of weeks later.
“It won’t be white gold. My mom says white gold won’t be as strong.” Flash’s mother, Athena, was a diamontologist who’d worked for a jeweler for years; she was helping Flash find a high-quality ring.
“But I want white gold. I hate yellow gold; it looks horrible with my skin tone.”
“Well, I’ll talk to her. We’ll see what she says.”
I pouted on the inside, thinking he didn’t care about what I wanted.
A few days later, he said, “Yeah, yellow gold is better. But it won’t be too yellow; she’ll make sure it’s lighter.”
I didn’t bring it up again, and hoped for the best.
Flash popped the question a few weeks later, presenting me with a beautiful, sparkling round solitaire. Maybe I would adjust to the light yellow. On our wedding day, Flash added my wedding band, with diamonds in a channel setting, to my finger. But when I came off Wedding Cloud 9, I noticed it was not exactly the setting I had wanted. Still, it perfectly complimented my engagement ring. I decided to be happy with it.
Until I compared it to what I originally wanted.
I was young and less tactful. Sometimes I focused more on my ring than on the thoughtfulness put into it. I daydreamed about a bigger stone. Something simple, the size of the Hope Diamond. Because diamonds, like hair, can never be too big. I tried to picture it in white gold.
After a few weeks of marriage, Flash asked, “Do you like your wedding band? That’s what you wanted, right?” The first time he'd asked me those questions, on our wedding day, my answer was, “Yes, it’s beautiful.”
This time, I took the road stupidly traveled. “I love it; it’s pretty. It’s not the type of setting I wanted, but that’s okay. I like that you picked it out.” What I should have said was, “It’s perfect, Honey.”
“It’s a channel setting. Isn’t that what you wanted?” He looked concerned, and his eyes were sad.
Having already made my mark in history as the world’s worst bride, I answered, “Yes, but there are different kinds. But I love it. You did a wonderful job, and it’s good that I didn’t know everything about my ring. I wanted you to pick it out.”
What I didn’t realize at the time was the increasing value of my ring. With each conversation I had with Athena, it grew more precious. And when she died of a stroke less than two years after our wedding, a wedding she couldn’t attend due to her health issues, my ring became priceless. There was no warning; the conversation we’d had two days earlier had been our last. I felt cheated. I’d wanted in her another girlfriend for the next 30 years or so, but time went too quickly, and I still miss her. I miss that she never met Cowboy, or saw how Flash and I grew in our marriage. Living far away, she never saw our house or met our friends here. I never got to show her off. I envy my friends who have loving mothers-in-law.
A part of her creativity, love, and wisdom are on my finger, daily. I never take it off. Your relationship with Flash is the most important thing, I sometimes hear her words repeat in my head, more important than the kids. Y’all need your time together. She was a huge proponent of our marriage, and reminded us to put each other first.
When Cowboy was born, my ring symbolized unending joy in new life. In helping raise my stepkids, it represented commitment and devotion. And in raising a teenager, it reflected unconditional love and survival techniques.
When my mom told me and Flash, in June 2000, that she thought Cowboy had autism, my cherished ring symbolized love in the midst of our shaken world. When we lost our unborn son, Joshua, two weeks later, it represented love growing stronger through grief. Through the loss of both of our fathers, heart-wrenching pain in watching Cowboy suffer and struggle, marital fights, hard decisions, job losses, finding a new church home, a zillion prayers for help, growing apart, growing closer, and growing older, it has reflected a marriage that has stood the test of time.
And my unending circle of beautiful yellow gold has stood the test of time, too. It’s the perfect symbol of my eternal loyalty, admiration, and appreciation for a man that has stood by my side every step of the way. Our love is here to stay.