Rings of Meaning

spoon-ringThe ring I wear on my right hand used to be a spoon. It’s a flower-adorned counterpoint to the plain gold band on my left hand. I’ve had the spoon ring for about 6 months; I’ve worn my wedding ring for more than 30 years. Each is special in its own way.

More than 30 years ago, my soon-to-be husband and I pooled our money and purchased our matching wedding rings from a jewelry store in an Iowa shopping mall. The rings were simple, solid, and reasonably priced — $200 for the pair, if memory serves. They fit our fingers and our budget.

Last fall I was admiring artisan-made spoon rings at a downtown art show when dear husband asked, “Which one do you want?” I decided on the daffodil pattern because I thought the flower was pretty. He then whipped out $20 and bought the ring for me.

I have never had a traditional diamond ring. Back when we were engaged, he was still in tech school and didn’t have any extra money to buy a diamond for me. Over the years I joked that he could buy me a diamond for our 10th anniversary, or our 20th, or our 25th. However, as the years passed, I realized my diamond ring joke was just a joke. I’m good with a used-to-be spoon. I don’t want or need a diamond to prove the love my husband has for me or I for him.

You know what proves love? Scraping by on my part-time income when I was in graduate school and he was a laid-off landscaper during a drought. We worried, but he found another job and we rejoiced.

Love is bundling up the kids for overnight winter camping in our little, rented farmhouse, because the snowstorm knocked out the electricity and the rural electric co-op wouldn’t be able to repair the power lines until morning. We worried, but nobody froze. The kids thought it was an adventure, the power came back on eventually, and we rejoiced.

Love is keeping that whole “in sickness and in health” vow — through child birth, ear infections, fevers, and vomit, and trips to the ER for a broken bone or sliced finger. We worried, but nobody died. We persevered and we rejoiced.

For more than 30 years my husband and I have shared both ordinary and extraordinary experiences, with both worry and rejoicing. Because what proves love is simply carrying on together.

Rings are merely tokens. It’s not the price of the ring or the size of the rock that matters — it’s the meaning it holds that counts. If a diamond ring has meaning for you, that’s fine. But a plain gold band and a former spoon are rings of meaning for me.

Laura Sternweis


She Dressed Him

mom-dad-86-cropped-400wMama made sure Papa was well dressed when necessary and appropriately dressed always. She dressed him because she loved him and, I suspect, because she thought it was just something she should do.

They began their union at a time, 1950, when shopping for her husband’s needs was an expected task for a wife. Besides, she was good at it. With measurements for his neck and sleeve, waist and inseam, she knew how and where to find clothes that would fit him. So he did the farming and she did the shopping — for more than 50 years.

As his Parkinson’s disease progressed, robbing him of fully independent movement, she actually dressed him. He was “big and tall,” to quote catalog lingo, and she was barely 5-foot-2, so getting him clothed required not only love, but strength. She dressed him ’til her strength ran out, claimed by her cancer. But before she died, she found him a place in a group home with caring staff who could tend to his needs.

As Heavenly residents, 14 years for her and 13 for him, they can wear whatever they want. But I imagine she makes sure his outfit and hers look smart with their angel wings.

Laura Sternweis