Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My ring finger is unoccupied at the moment

My wife asked me if my right hand felt naked. My whole body felt naked. All I was missing was my college class ring, which had occupied the ring finger of my right hand for 44 or 45 years (I don't remember exactly when I received it). Rarely did I not wear that ring sometime during each day, with the exception of a hiatus when I attend Officer Candidate School. I was afraid I might lose it.

The years have not been kind to my ring or my ring finger. About 30 years ago, I dropped the ring on a tile floor and the aquamarine stone shattered. I sent the ring to the manufacturer, who replaced the stone, charging only for shipping. Since then, the new stone has been nicked a few times but is still intact.

But my knuckle had expanded like a weak spot in a bicycle inner tube. Most days I couldn't get the ring over my knuckle and would carry the ring in my pocket until the knuckle slimmed down as the day progressed. But then, the knuckle stopped slimming, and I couldn't get the ring over the knuckle anytime.

I took the ring to a jeweler to ask about resizing the ring. I'd had to resize my wedding band five years ago, when I could no longer take off that ring without the greatest effort and then couldn't get it back on over the swollen knuckle. The class ring would be a bigger resizing job than the wedding band had been.

The jeweler slipped the ring into a brown envelope and said it would probably take a month to get the ring back, one size larger. Several times during the day I feel the absence on my finger and reach into my pocket for the ring, thinking I must have slipped it there for safekeeping before I remember that the ring is out for repairs.

Class rings are not the milestone they once were. In my long-ago class, most students ordered rings, some with fancy embellishments, such as fraternity letters carved into the stone. My children did not order class rings, and who could blame them? I told the jeweler that I think I paid $128 for the ring, half up front and half on delivery. Today's class rings, he said, would cost over $1,000 for the 10 carat gold type that I had worn all those years.

The ring has no monetary value for me. It's merely a reminder of those glorious years of my youthful transition into adulthood. Fading memories need all the reminders they can get.

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