Monday, June 08, 2009

The Wedding Ring

I love my wedding ring.

It is, just what I wanted.

Jeff and I were poor when we began wedding plans. We were poor and set on living our life in Africa.

I decided that a plain, simple wedding band would suit me just fine. I love diamonds but financially and practically it didn’t seem the time for diamonds. We could save and invest in some gems later.

Jeff decided differently.

One time he asked me what kind of ring I would want if I could choose. Shape of diamond? Yellow gold or white gold? Solitaire or in a larger setting?

Honestly, I answered, “Heirloom.”

I had developed a fondness for antique/old jewelry. Especially, if said jewelry came with a story. A happy one, preferably.

But, I quickly brushed this discussion aside. Plain bands. We had decided.

About a week before my birthday, Jeff began to verbally “stress out” over my empty ring finger. He said that every girl deserved an engagement story. An engagement ring.

He said that he felt like a bum.

I prayed for him. I asked God to help him be content.

My birthday rolled around with big plans for a whole day together. Jeff asked me to dress up and said that we would have a nice lunch at a restaurant of my choosing. He was to meet me after chapel. (I was still in college).

The singing group I was in was singing that day in chapel and towards the end of our presentation, I noticed Jeff walk in the back of the auditorium. He was dressed in a suit.

This made me very happy. It was going to be a nice date!

During announcements, I tried to leave out of a side door, anxious to meet up with my knight and begin our day of romance. Just as I reached the door, my roommate grabbed my arm and shoved me in the chair beside her. I complained and she said, oddly, “Don’t you want to hear them wish you happy birthday?!” (birthdays were announced in chapel daily)

No. I did not care to waste my romantic day waiting to hear my name said over a microphone. And then, I noticed Jeff. He and his roommate were walking down the aisles of chapel. They were both wearing suits, dark sunglasses and had earpieces, like the Secret Service.

I began to feel very nervous. And if my roommate hadn’t had such superhuman strength at that moment, I would have successfully escaped out the side door.

I was scared, all of a sudden.

Jeff went up on stage and called me to the front. Things began to go fuzzy. My face felt on fire. What in the world was he doing?! I was handcuffed and escorted outside for “questioning”.

I don’t remember specifics of the next bit of time. Humiliation blocks memory apparently.

I was blindfolded, driven all over Lubbock Tx, switched from car to car and finally told to remove my blindfold to discover I was in the middle of nowhere West Texas being driven by Jeff’s roommate, also named Jeff. We were turning into a private airfield and there was a helicopter waiting.

A helicopter? We were quickly informed that the helicopter couldn’t fly today. Too windy. (In Lubbock? Wind? Shocking.)

Roommate Jeff shifted to Plan B and drove me to Boyfriend Jeff who was waiting on a dock near a pond in a park with a table, chairs and birthday cake.

I chastised my love. He had shared many elaborate date stories from his own college experiences. But our dating life had, up until this moment, remained pretty low key. I accepted the events of the morning as they were meant. A birthday surprise and a lot of hoopla to cement a memory and have some fun. My embarrassment was just icing on the cake.

Cake. Jeff had made a strawberry cake and we sat down to enjoy it. I assumed all the excitement was over. Jeff served my piece and it looked a little odd.

It was not a piece of cake at all. But a ring box, iced into the strawberry cake.

I was shocked.

And my mind raced. Where did he get the money for this? How did he do this? What did it look like?!?!

He ceremoniously got down on one knee, opened the ring box, took out the ring and began to speak.

“Will you….”

The world seemed to stop for a minute. THE moment was before me.. The words and event romanticized and play acted by little girls for generations.

The Proposal. It was happening. I was trying to take it all in.

I was wrapped up in the exhilaration of surprise and expectantly held my breath.

In that flash of an instant…my dear suitor… dropped the ring.

In slow motion I watched the ring bounce off the deck and into the water. With a tiny little plunk that seemed to echo for several minutes.

Jeff tore off his coat and tie and jumped into the pond. I stared in disbelief.

Who does this? Who drops the ring? Who loses THE moment?

Was it a sign?

I felt sick.

The water of the man-made pond was as thick as the silence around me.

We were supposed to be celebrating by now, tears of joy pouring down our love struck faces. But instead…

Jeff came out of the water overwhelmed with apology. He said we needed to go get his scuba gear. I didn’t have the heart to speak the obvious truth. The ring was gone.

Why did I feel such loss when I didn’t even have my heart set on it in the first place?

We began to load the uneaten cake and the small table and chairs into the car. There were two other presents under the table, wrapped with beautiful bows. He had asked my shirt size the day before and so I figured he had bought me clothes. (he does a great job at picking out clothes for me, BTW)

He asked me to open those presents, at least. He continued to apologize and lament.

I unwrapped the first box, pulled back the tissue paper to see…

A ring box.

A. Ring. Box.

I looked up to the twinkling eyes of my very mischievous boyfriend who innocently said, “What’s this?!”

He took the box, opened it and got down on one knee again.

He said something about me never losing his love and then “Will you marry me?”

I paused longer than he expected.

But then I decided it was safer to get the ring on MY finger before he dropped it again.

I said, “Yes”, which was a decision I had already made through a series of long talks, heart sharing and prayers. Good thing for him. This proposal was turning me every which way but loose.

He gently placed a beautiful, old fashioned, heirloom ring on my finger and then I punched him in the arm. Repeatedly.

Jeff confessed that the first ring was a set up. A Walmart $3 ring he purposefully tossed in the water.


Well. That’s just how he rolls.

The writing was on the wall for me.

This man was a mess. A MESS. He would always surprise me, never be boring and never outgrow his propensity for losing things. (sigh)

But he wouldn’t lose me. True to his word. He has held on and persevered and somehow managed to treasure me through this life.

The ring was gorgeous. Perfect.

His grandmother’s. She was one of our first phone calls after my heart started beating again and I had quit punching him.

She was thrilled to share the story of the ring. As I remember, she said the ring was given to her and AJ (Jeff’s grandfather) by a friend. AJ served as a minister and they never had a lot of money. Her original wedding band was simple and inexpensive. When their friend presented them with this ring, she and AJ were so thankful and thrilled. Grandma Rose wore it for many years.

Jeff’s Mom shared with me once about her Mom and Dad (Rose and AJ) enjoying a cup of coffee together every day when AJ came in from work. Phyllis remembered that as their time. The kids were not allowed to interrupt. Phyllis saw their friendship and their adoration for each other in those coffee moments. And in many other moments too.

When AJ passed away, Rose, grieved so much. Their relationship had been faithful, deep and precious. Losing him was devastating to her.

Some years later, Rose met Francis and he asked her to be his wife. At that time, she passed on this wedding ring to Phyllis. Phyllis had in mind for the ring to go to her daughter Kristi.

When Jeff decided to marry me he asked his Mom if she knew of any heirloom jewelry in the family. Phyllis asked Kristi, who said she would be happy for Jeff to have the ring, and sent the ring to Jeff.

And that is how I came to have Grandma Rose’s wedding ring.

It represents love, faithfulness and the generosity of loved ones. It also represents many sweet moments over coffee.

Jeff and I have been incredibly blessed by the heritage we have in our grandparents. All four sets, loving each other “til death do us part.” Their marital faithfulness and devotion has encouraged and spurred us on as we continue to learn and grow together. We don’t take this heritage for granted.

Grandma Rose was buried last week. She was our last living grandparent. We grieve her passing, and long for heaven. Where hugs, reunion and peace will reward those of us redeemed by Grace.

Until then, we have many wonderful things to hold on to as we journey.

Grandma’s ring and what it represents is one of those things for me.

A heritage, that we will never lose. An heirloom ring with a story.

A happy one.


Cathy said...

Oh my, I had tears in my eyes reading this story. What a treasure you have, not only in Jeff, but in the stories, and yes, the ring, to pass onto your children. It does my heart good to hear and see true love that you and Jeff exhibit.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story to share! You have an amazing gift with words and expression- thanks for sharing them with us ( :
Emily in Mwanza

Trisha said...

Love this, sweet friend. Your gift with words--it continues to be a treasure.

China Girl said...

What a beautiful story! I love reading your blog, Cheryl. As I'm starting my own overseas adventure (today is my first full day in China) I find so much encouragement reading your stories!!
Love to you & Jeff!!!

Sherilyn said...

I loved reading your engagement story again. There are pictures to go with it, if you would like to post them. Ha! It may have been a good idea if you had walked him up to the grassy area before that real ring box was opened! :-) I think it 's wonderful that you have Grandma Rose's ring. And you didn't mention that you had Jeff's ring made with diamonds from your Granny Money's wedding band......I think that's pretty special, too!

KMiV said...

Great story. Jeff just pust all men to shame since most of us couldn't measure up to that proposal story.

I know I didn't! :)

Sandi said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Cheryl. I still can't believe Jeff went to the trouble of dropping a ring and being convincing enough that you really thought he had botched it. Hilarious. This was a great story!!

Cheryl said...

Mom: Granny's ring is a story in itself too. Also a story I love. Tragedy, grief, love, reconciliation...I think it is deserving of it's own post! Coming soon...

Laurie said...

Wow! What a beautiful and fun story. I gasped, and laughed, and cried. I love you guys and love your heart for each other and for the Lord.

Kristi said...

What a guy! He's a great story teller and a great story maker. I can't imagine that ring on the finger of anyone else.

phyllis said...

I've been thinking of Mom's life and her legacy to all of us. Her ring, now on your finger, is one
part of her love passed on. You're right that Jeff is a romantic guy and somewhat mischievious. Mom always said that you had to be a very special girl to keep up with him. She was right...