Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Here's a Ring for Your Right Hand

(Note: Some of you might have picked up on my tendency to use song lyrics as blog entry titles. This line comes from "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by Richard Thompson, covered by Reckless Kelly.)

It was eight years ago this week that Brian proposed to me. I think tomorrow is the actual anniversary, but I don't remember for sure. I just know it was the Monday before Thanksgiving. Here is that story:

We were on a trip with his parents, his brother and his fiance, and some Boka family friends. 8 of us in all. It was my first semester of law school, and Brian and I had just moved in together. His parents proposed this trip, and paid for a good portion of it as a Christmas gift. We spent 5 days at an all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. It was a big deal to me to miss multiple days of class, knowing that the time to start studying for finals was right around the corner. I also had to finish a big assignment for my research and writing class ahead of schedule, as the actual deadline would be while I was on the trip. Needless to say, I was stressed.

Brian and I shared luggage, but did not actually pack together. He had packed first, and gave me an admonition not to go through his stuff in the bag. That should have been a clue, but I totally bought his explanation that, "Sometimes my mom will go through my things to make sure I have everything and then things are out of place, and it's annoying." I responded, "Why would I check on that? You can pack for yourself. If you forgot socks, it's not my problem. You'll figure it out." I remember thinking, "Jesus, I hope he didn't grow up that way, because I'm not gonna look after him that much." And then I threw my things into the bag and off we went.

Apparently, the carry-on bag that held my engagement ring (hidden inside a sock) got picked to be searched at the security checkpoint and Jeremy claimed the bag was his, then discreetly told the security guard why it could not be searched immediately. I didn't notice any of this, head spinning from a crazy week at school and anxious about the trip.

Toward the end of the trip, all 8 of us had booked an excursion to visit some Mayan ruins, trek a jungle looking for wild animals, and see a Mayan village. One of the things we got to do was climb the highest peak at the Coba ruin site, the tallest on the Yucatan Peninsula. I had visited some Mayan ruin sites on a three-week trip to Merida, Mexico in college and had really enjoyed it, so I was very excited to see more and to have Brian experience history in that way too (I always wanted to go to Chichen Itza with him, in part so I could see it again, but mostly because it was such an amazing experience that I wanted him to have that too). Once we all climbed the peak at Coba, we were taking pictures from the top. When Brian and I stood against the backdrop of the jungle and turned to pose for pictures, Brian turned his body and dropped to one knee. I was so stunned -- I always thought I would see this coming! We had packed our bags together! -- that I actually said, "What are you doing?" I just couldn't believe it was happening!

Brian sort of hesitated, then said, "Will you marry me?" I was crying right away, and said, "YES!" He slipped the ring on my finger, and I sat on his knee and hugged him, crying into his shoulder. His mother also didn't know it was coming, and she was bawling. I had a hard time climbing down the mountain because I was shaking so much and I kept staring at my left hand! The cool thing is that we have pictures and video of the proposal, too.

Brian later told me that he knew he was going to propose on that trip, but he didn't know exactly when or how. He said he actually considered slipping the ring onto my hand overnight, after a long day of pina coladas and drinks at the nightclub, then pretending like he had proposed the night before and I didn't remember it. I actually thought that was kind of funny, but also knew I'd be a little pissed about it, and I'm definitely glad he went the romantic route instead of the prankster route.

My ring was a round solataire diamond on a thin, white gold band. It was pretty simple, but looks really good with the wedding band, a wrap with two contrasting sizes of diamonds to accentuate the center stone. Brian also got a white gold ring with diamonds. In fact, his wedding ring cost more than mine! I have to admit, though, I really pushed him to get something nice and with some diamonds. For one, I just think men's rings with gems look good if they are tasteful. For another thing, Brian had giant hands (I think his ring was a size 14?) and a plain band just looked too small and chintzy on him.

When Brian died, I knew what type of arrangements he would want, and really only had a few decisions were tough. Chief among them was where to bury him, and what to do with his wedding ring. I could not imagine not keeping it, nor could I imagine him not wearing it when he was buried. I had picked out what he would wear, and it seemed he should have his ring on. I was also told that people were typically buried with their rings, or at least I seem to remember someone telling me that. Whichever decision I made, I could only think of the problem with it, what that solution didn't give me. Finally, I decided to try to go back to the store where we had picked out our rings to see if I could just buy another one. Brian passed away on a Sunday morning, and I was in the jewelry store as soon as it was open on Monday to try to make this happen. Thanks to the amazing girls at the store, I was able to get another ring in Brian's size within 36 hours, in plenty of time for him to have it at the visitations and burial. I had decided that I wanted him to have the new ring, and I wanted the one he actually wore.

We didn't always wear our wedding rings, for different reasons. We NEVER made them a statement about the strength of our marriage, in any way. Just as we would never take it off to make a point after a fight or if things were bad, we never felt we had to wear them to prove ourselves. My weight fluctuated and my hands swell easily, so I couldn't/can't wear rings when I run, or when I spend all day on my feet, especially in the heat. He had sensitive skin and sometimes the ring would cause itching or redness.

In January, I started wearing Brian's ring on a chain around my neck. I tried my own ring on again -- damn, still a little tight from the holidays. I could do it, but it wasn't that comfortable. So sometimes my own ring would go on the chain too, and sometimes I would wear it on my hand. I think it is kind of good that we weren't the "I NEVER take off my ring!" type -- it made it a lot easier this year for me to think logically about what to do with my own wedding ring, allowed me to not feel guilty for not wearing it at times, etc.

I recently got both my own ring and Brian's sized for my right hand -- I wear my wedding ring on my ring finger, and Brian's on my thumb. I thought this was a way I could at least wear his ring every day. When I was wearing it around my neck, sometimes it wouldn't go with a neckline, and sometimes I felt it was too visible as a conversation piece -- not that I want to hide the past Brian and I shared, but I don't necessarily want to share it with every stranger who notices and comments or asks about my necklace. This also allows me to wear my wedding ring without worrying about the message it sends about my marital status, or worrying that someone will see it and say, "Where is your husband?" I'm sure some people will ask about my right hand rings, but not the way they do with left-handed ones, especially a diamond ring on that ever-significant left third finger.

Besides that, I like the way the rings look together on my right hand, too.

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