Ring Tomes

Last week I lost my wedding ring.

I noticed it was missing from my hand while Roxanne and I were making dinner. In a panic I retraced what I’d been doing all day. The first place I looked was my faithful ZOZO couch. I tore off the pillows, cushions and shook the Afghan stagecoach blanket. I ran my hands within the creases. Surprisingly clean, no pocket change, no gold band.

Next I went upstairs to inspect our bed. The floor around the bed. I checked my desk, the wastebasket, the floor. I surveyed the whole loft, the corner with the stereo and CDs, certain book shelves I’d so much as touched that day. Drawers I picked out a handkerchief or handled paraphernalia. I could not put a finger on exactly when I had seen it last. I was sure I started the day with it, or at least went to bed with it on. It seemed impossible to have lost it the day before, but even so I didn’t go anywhere that day either. Downstairs I checked the couch again, then the floors of the living room, dining room under the table, the tv lounge, coffee tables, bathroom floor behind the toilet, the shower deck (we use a tight drain overlay to catch hair before it clogs the pipe which would have kept the ring from going down the drain) and under the fixtures and the radiators (Roxanne lost a bra for two weeks this summer until found behind the bathroom radiator) and every windowsill and cabinet, then surveyed Koki’s play room even though the kid was definitely not responsible, hadn’t come for day care in three days. (Even so, if she’d found it she would bring it to me, and she certainly would never extract it from my hand and hide it. She’s clever but devious.) No ring.

I turned my pockets inside out. Again and again. Checked the couch from separate disparate angles. Surveyed the built-in buffet where knick knacks and paddywacks accuminlate. If was as if my current life was passing before my eyes.

Midmorning that day through noon I had assisted Roxanne at a project to restore grassy growth to places in our yard burned crisp as chaparral by drought and glaring summer sunshine from loss of mature maple trees a few years ago due to disease. Roxanne hacked and dug out the matted dead grass, I raked it for clumps of dead thatch, and we manually grabbed up and shook the dead clods (and weeds) off the soil and disposed them into a regulation-paper yard bag to get picked up at the curb Monday. Roxanne generously re-seeded the sites, fertilized and spread fresh dirt and then patiently spread tattered sheets of burlap across the sites pinned down with bent sections of coat-hanger wire to keep away birds and squirrels. I helped scatter the seed, fertilizer and soil. It’s September and the right time to do this. Roxanne has had success with this method.

While I dug through the refuse in the lawn bag Roxanne stripped off the burlap and gently probed the soil and seed for the ring. I manually divided half the clods, weeds and dead turf into a second lawn bag, sifting the contents of each back and forth frantically feeling and peering for my ring. In the end Roxanne replaced her burlap and I set the two lawn bags aside the garage empty handed. We washed up and proceeded with dinner, not quite where we left off.

Until sundown I paced around the yard anywhere I might have walked. It will turn up was the mantra. I was certain it was somewhere on the premises. I was obsessed with mortification.

Men I’ve known of who lost their wedding bands were often suspects of misbehavior. I’ve looked upon it as at the least a casual disrespect of the sacred.

This was my second time. The first about four years ago happened at the AMC Southdale movie theater where Roxanne and I brought Kitty and her best friend cousin Erin to a movie around Kitty’s eleventh birthday. An age-appropriate film called The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, it was a lavish live-action fantasy about a young girl on a quest which never lives up to its lavish production values. Out in the lobby as we were leaving the theater I noticed my ring missing. I checked my pockets. I checked the rest room. I looked and rooted (a little) around the waste container where I tossed my empty popcorn cylinder and Coke cup. I gave the rest room a thorough look-see. There was something shady about the Dyson air-dry machine, a perfect device to suck a ring off a skinny finger. I checked with the lost-and-found. Nobody had turned it in. I checked back at the theater every time we saw a movie there and my ring was not among the keys and bracelets and wallets kept in the unclaimed box back of the box office. I would keep checking if I go see a movie there again after covid. I swear I lost it that day at that stupid movie.

I’ve had about four years to kiss that ring good-bye. I wore it more than 45 years. Roxanne and I bought his/her matching plain gold bands at a mom and pop jewelry shop on the main street (Excelsion Blvd then) in downtown Hopkins in 1973 for $37.50 apiece. I wish I remembered the shop’s name. The elder lady behind the counter was very nice to us. We had our initials and our wedding date inscribed inside. If you come across a gold wedding band with my initials and 3-31-73 engraved inside, it’s mine.

Roxanne bought me a replacement. We were at ShaneCo to pick up a repair of the gold chain necklace I bought there for Christmas for Roxanne that held a horizontal row of five birthstones, each for our children and grandchildren: Michel peridot, Vincent aquamarine, Clara aquamarine again, Kitty citrine and Neko sapphire. The chain broke when baby Neko inadvertently gave it too strong a tug. It was the second time but under warranty ShaneCo made the repairs free. Still Roxanne meant to keep it away from the baby’s hands without declining to wear it, she admired it so much, and it almost seemed like a show piece collector’s item after we noticed one of the exact style worn by the CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. As we inspected and signed off for the repaired necklace Roxanne asked if they still sold old fashioned yellow gold wedding bands for me. Oh yes. A guy measured my finger, went away and came back with a band exactly my size exacly like the original, minus initials and date engraved. The price was significantly more than the original but Roxanne insisted we buy it. It was like she begged me to marry her all over again. Though I felt unworthy I ponied up the credit card and wore it home.

Losing this one humiliated me more because it could have been predicted and prevented. Just the day before — when I last clearly remember noticing I was wearing it — a wedding ring gets to be part of the hand, taken for granted as certain as a digit or knuckle — I felt a gap and a slippage and looked at how it slid around my finger so loosely I could barely detect a white tan line, telling me it was loose enough to fall off like oversized pants without a cinch. I made a deliberate note in my mind to take it off and put it somewhere safe until I could fatten up my finger again.

How my finger got so skinny is not a mystery. I have ruled out excessive typewriting. It’s not compulsive gardening. My manual digital skills are minimal. Overall I lost about 15 pounds early this summer when I developed an abscessed tooth requiring a root canal which led to a gastrointestinal infection that laid me so low I lay for days on the ZOZO couch worrying whether I was past the point of requiring medical care or I might die, which I didn’t, and which I didn’t want. All because I refused to sit a long time in a waiting queue seeking urgent care — I calculated I could suffer more comfortably in my own living room if all it meant was acetaminophen and water until I could stand to take food. There was no respiratory infection. I tested three times that week with one of those home test kits for covid promoted by the governor, Tim Balz-to-the Walz, and each came up negative.

Gradually I got better. Appetites returned. As they say, my stomach shrunk and it doesn’t seem to take so much to fill me at one seating. But I am eating regularly — probably the most regularly of my entire life of merely eating when hungry and not by a clock of meal times. It’s been all the rest of summer and if I must admit my stamina is at about 90% what it was before I got sick my weight is down 15 pounds and fluctuating upward. Roxanne is skeptical about my health and doesn’t see my weight loss as a good idea, but it is what it is. If my fingers have shrunk a millimeter it seems my body has downsized appropriately and there’s no sign of swelling or inflammation — just that old guy bruising that goes with sun scars. As for my overall body mass, I’m satisfied my skeleton is supporting its weight in tissue and muscle proportionately enough to carry me upright as much as need be. I need to be more active, I know. That’s why I take an assistant role in Roxanne’s simple and arduous landscape project. Plus she and I are making plans to at last visit Portugal, someplace we’ve never been and Europe’s missing link for us and a curious destination throughout the travel stoppage. It requires stamina to enjoy travel and I’ll need to be in shape enough to carry my weight. I’m glad I haven’t gained 15 more pounds than my historical average. But then my fingers might just be a little thicker and my wedding band would not have fallen off like clown pants.

We were convinced the ring was lost and could be found on the premises. Every inch of the property was under search. Roxanne suggested we rent a metal detector. They rented by four hours or an all day rate. They were closed Sundays, which was okay, we could search every possible where in the meantime. It could still reveal itself in folds of a sheet or pillowcase. If not found by Monday we could rent a metal detector and run it across the yard, especially the site of the old chaparral. Meanwhile by Sunday we planned to empty and sort the twin bags of refuse she had hoed up and dug to expose plain dirt. She suggested laying a tarp on the ground in the yard and emptying each yard bag onto the tarp and sifting it as we put it back in the yard bag for pick-up Monday.

Sunday came and no sign of the ring. No culprit Gollum Smeagol emerged. My faith it would be found never stopped but my confoundment how well it concealed itself cast doubt the hiding place would ever reveal itself. Roxanne got texted to play pickleball at their club and I spread the tarp from the basement, a former shower curtain stained artfully with drips and mistakes painted in colors somewhere around the house. I dumped the entire first sack of dead sod and weeds and clods of earth. Handful by handful I sifted loose soil. I recalled when we undertook the removal the yard sack weighed more heavily from moist soil but after three days the dirt shook off dusty. Crisp grass flaked off. Hand by hand I parsed off the clods. By the time I replenished the roots and dead shoots into the yard bag there was a significant pile of soil and ground organic dust but no gold ring.

So I repeated the dumping process of the second sack. I liked how good I was getting at shaking the dirt loose and fraying through the roots and tangled matter, satisfied so far how meticulous my search was. And there it was, my ring, in a clump in my left hand, freshly unearthed and revealed. I put it in my pocket. Safe. Gave thanks to the silver sun in the southern sky. Finished the yard bag clean-up and shook out the dirt and crumbs in the woods behind the garage and hauled the yard bag to the curb. I consolidated the two bags of yard waste into one by just shaking out more soil.

I texted Roxanne in CAPS the news of the find, which she read and responded after her pickleball session concluded. I wanted to share the immediate joy of finding the ring and solving the bummer. When we talked later we decided not to rent a metal detector Monday, even though we had nothing else to do. We could go prospecting at the beach, I said. We could, she said, humoring me. Do those things really work? According to advocates and users, I could safely say. Personally I can think of other ways to entertain us. I’m just so glad to find it. I’m relieved of so much guilt and shame. What kind of schmuck loses his wedding band? Twice…

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