Tuesday, November 17, 2009

With this ring ...

A ring on my finger once again!

It was sitting, waiting for me in a small box on my front porch when I stopped home between assignments Saturday afternoon.

I thought I was supposed to sign for the package, but there it was. No matter, I was glad they left it without my signature – mostly because of the hassle I would have been put through if I’d been forced to drive to UPS headquarters across town to retrieve it, but also because it was late Saturday and I didn’t want to wait until Monday to get what I’d been pining after for so long.

All sorts of strange emotions started coursing through my head as I picked the box off the front porch and brought it into the house - a huge dose of excitement, but also a sense of closure, and a tinge of guilt.

I put the box on the kitchen counter and grabbed a pair of scissors from the junk drawer. Before I cut the tape off the box, I took one last look at my naked ring finger on my left hand. It was exactly a year to the day when that finger last wore a wedding band, but that all would change as soon as I opened the box.

… I lost my wedding band at Leslie Park Golf Course the previous November 14th - most likely pulled out of my front pocket by the antenna of my cell phone. The loss of my ring, and the subsequent three-week, metal-detector search over five miles of snow-covered golf course, was well chronicled in a series of columns I wrote for The Ann Arbor News.

The story of my lost ring made the rounds locally, and soon I couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking if I’d found my ring. Rather than answer verbally, I’d hold up my naked ring finger. It got so crazy; one woman even offered the use of her search and rescue dog to help me look, and another woman felt so bad she actually gave me her father’s wedding band (I gave it back).

Most thought I was in the doghouse with my wife for losing my ring, but the truth was, she didn’t really care, she was just upset because she knew how much I loved it – and I did love it! Apart from my Timex watch, I’d never worn another piece of jewelry in my life before my wedding ring. When I got married in 1996, I picked out my ring with little thought while strolling through the mall one day with my wife (then fiancĂ©) Julie.

She suggested I get a band made of white gold instead of yellow. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as white gold. What I found instead was a band with both white and yellow gold. The middle of the ring, the largest band, was white gold, surrounded by thinner bands of yellow gold.

It was simple. It was elegant. It was cheap!

For $300, I got the ring I assumed would stay on my finger until the day I died. It never dawned on my I might lose it on a golf course in a fit of stupidity 13-years later.

Before we got married, the jeweler at the store suggested I wear the ring a week or two to see how it fit. Sage advice, it turns out, because the ring was too big and felt quite awkward – always snagging on my pocket whenever I’d reach in for change, or grinding into the webbing between my fingers.

I returned the ring to have it sized down and engraved before the wedding. When I got the ring back there was a small scar where they had to cut it for resizing. It didn’t bother me in the least. I treated the scar like the tag on a pair of underwear – my ring now had a definitive front and back, and I always made sure the scar faced down toward my palm.

The jeweler also told me the discomfort I’d felt wearing a ring soon would disappear once my finger and the ring figured each other out.

“Your ring will find its place on your finger,” he said, “then it will slowly make itself a groove and you won’t even notice it.”

For the most part, he was right. My ring did find its groove. But it wasn’t like it just disappeared from my attention - I always noticed my ring.

I noticed when I put a few dings in middle band of white gold. I noticed the sound it made every night when I would plunk it in a little dish on my bedside table. I noticed the eye-watering pain it would create when it would sometimes snag one of my beard hairs when I put my hand up to my face. I also noticed how it would dig into my hand whenever I’d grip a golf club, or lift weights – unfortunately, a feeling that led to its loss.

I loved my ring, but I loved it even more because I didn’t wear it nonstop. I enjoyed taking it off at night. It gave my finger a chance to breath, and I enjoyed it even more when I put it back on in the morning – always cold, always sliding over my knuckle with effortless smoothness.

I even loved the way my ring looked when it wasn’t on my finger. I loved putting it in the small pouch in my golf bag with assorted tees and ball markers. I loved the way it felt it in my hand before I put it on my finger - it had a weight to it that seemed perfect.

Then, last November 14th, on an otherwise perfect day, it was gone - just like that.

My brother-in-law Chris was in town and we decided to go and play one last round of golf before the snow started to fly. Normally, I would put my ring in the small pouch in my golf bag with the assorted tees and ball markers, but the small pouch had broken, so I put the ring in my front pocket instead.

For the next three hours, Chris and I had a great time playing golf, but when the round was over, I reached in my front pocket and the only thing I felt was my heart sinking and my stomach getting sick over the realization that the pocket was empty.

For three weeks I held out hope I could find it – in fact I knew I would. I’m very persistent like that. Give me a challenge and I'll turn it into a quest – and my quest was to find my ring.

Unfortunately, with each empty pass of the metal detector, I slowly began to realize I might actually lose my quest. I started to get depressed. I felt guilty for leaving my ring to the elements. I felt mad that someone might already have found my ring and pawned it. I felt helpless and hopeless and stupid.

For the first two months after losing my ring, I’d wake up every morning and habitually reach for it in the little dish on my bedside table. Slowly, that habit faded - as did the tan line left behind by my ring. Eventually, the groove at the base of my finger from 13-years of wearing my ring went away as well - now every finger looked the same.

“It’s no big deal.” My friends said. “People lose their wedding bands all the time, just get a new one.”

“You don’t understand.” I told them, “I can’t just replace my ring - it would be disrespectful.”

“To who?” they asked.

“To the ring!” I answered.

My friends would shake their heads and walk away thinking I was off my nut. Maybe they were right. It was just a ring, after all - a circular chunk of 14k white and yellow gold. It wasn’t like it was alive or anything. It didn’t have feelings (good thing). So why was it so hard for me to replace it?

It didn’t matter. I was broke anyhow. Even if I wanted to replace my ring, I couldn’t afford to, the recession had shot the price of gold through the roof. My once $300 ring now priced in around $850. Besides, it was November, I lost my ring on the very last day the golf course was open so I knew if it was out there, it would lie untouched all winter until the course opened again in the spring.

I decided to give myself the entire month of April before I gave up the search. Even if I couldn’t find it, surely some other golfer or maintenance worker would.

April came, and with it came renewed hope. I alerted the workers at the course to keep their eyes out for my ring. I was hoping they might hit it with their mower blades and flip it to the surface where it would be visible. Of course I also knew they might just as easily run over it with a tire and push it helplessly out of sight, deep into the soft earth.

By the middle of the month, my ring had yet to be found, and now the rough was starting to grow. It was over. I gave up. I no longer reached for my ring in the little dish on my bedside table every morning. I stopped feeling for it with the other fingers on my left hand. The songs I used to tap on my car’s steering wheel with my ring were a thing of the past. My left hand easily glided in and out of my pockets with nary a snag, and I no longer pulled out any beard hairs by mistake.

It bothered me that I was getting used to being ringless. I was a married man, and even though a lot of married men don’t wear rings, I never thought I’d be one of them.

I decided to get a replacement - the sooner the better - now all I had to do was start saving some money (or maybe sell an organ) so I could afford one.

As luck would have it, I fell into a few freelance jobs and actually saved the money by the end of the summer. The only thing left was to pick out the ring. This sounds easy enough, but apparently ring styles change over 13-years. Every jewelry store I visited (and I visited quite a few) had rings similar to my old band, but not exactly the same.

Oddly, I found other styles I liked just as much, if not more than my original band. This created another problem. Should I just part ways with the original design and go for something completely different? Or should I stay true to what I had in the first place?

In the end it came down to two ring styles, both similar, but one very much resembling my original band. I put it to my family to decide (something I didn’t have the luxury of doing when I got married). My 13-year-old daughter swung the pendulum for me. She liked the style that was more akin to my original band. When I asked her why, she replied, “Because it reminds me of your first ring … and you really liked that ring.” She was right, and her words sealed the deal. I ordered the ring.

Now, exactly one year to the day after losing my ring, here I was, about to pour its replacement out onto the kitchen counter. After shredding open the bubble wrap, I pulled out a plain white box. Inside that box was a smaller green box, and inside that box was my brand-new ring.

It was shiny and bright, but not really all that much like my old one. The band widths were much different than my original, and it didn’t have the roll of my old ring - this band was pretty flat.

“Oh well, I guess this is it.” I said to myself as I pulled the ring out of the box and slid it on my finger.

The fit was snug – maybe too snug. The jeweler told me I was a size 9, but this ring barely, and I mean, barely fit over my knuckle. It had been a year since anything had occupied the bottom third of that finger, but now my new ring was trying hard to fit in – to find it’s groove.

At some point in time, I’ll most likely own this ring longer than I did the original - it’s my wedding ring now. I may even grow to love it (even though it didn't even exist the day I was married).

In the meantime I’ll try to enjoy the occasional snag on the front pocket, the tapping on the steering wheel, the clinking sound as I drop it into the little dish on my bedside table, and, of course, the occasional pulling of the beard hair.

My year of being ringless is over - long live the ring!


  1. I thought this was a cool story. Unlike your friends, I would have understood about the persistence in looking for your ring.

    One of the things I think may have happened to your ring, is that a late fall traveler saw something shiny on its way to Florida and swooped down to pick it up. Either that or someone took it as an acorn and stored it up before they called it a season.

  2. Glad you have a new ring, hope over the years, it grows on you as your first one did.