I hit one of those grief loops today–the portals through time that sweep me back into another moment from another life.
As I was washing my hands in the kitchen at work, a memory came back to me from the day Richard and I moved into our house back in the fall of 2003. We were unloading a truck filled with my stuff (mostly boxes of books). Our paths crossed in the garage as he was walking into the house and I was walking out. I saw his left hand gripping the corner of a gigantic cardboard box and for a fleeting second, I imagined that I saw a shiny gold ring there. A simple wedding band. The image seemed so real, in that instant, that I stood there kind of dumbstruck. He paused as he walked past me and gave me a funny look.
“What?” he asked. I laughed and shook my head to clear it. “Nothing. Just daydreaming.” He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. Then he said, “I love you…and you didn’t have to say it first this time.” And he went on his way.
I was usually the “I love you” and he was the “I love you, too.” That moment–sweaty and stinky and tired in the garage– made me so completely happy. We were starting our life together, blending our stuff.
I guess that moment was prescient–seventeen months later he did wear a simple gold ring on that finger. We picked out our wedding rings while sitting on the side of the bathtub in our house, the night before the ceremony. Big Gay had brought a black velvet tray of them from our jeweler friend, Tony. Richard wasn’t much for jewelry. He didn’t even think he would wear a ring. But it was important to me to give him a token, so he chose a simple gold band. There was no time for engraving.
The next morning, under a white tent in our backyard, I put that ring on his finger. The minister bound our hands in his silk stole for the blessing then whispered to us, “You’ve tied the knot!”
Richard agreed to wear the ring for the rest of the day because I enjoyed the sight of it so much. He kept it on into the night. In between IV meds, he joined the rest of us out on the deck where we sat telling stories in the dark. He kept it on when we went to sleep, past midnight when his drugs were finished running their course.
The ring was still there the next day, on his finger. It stayed there for the eleven days that we got to call each other husband and wife. He never took it off. After he died, I took it off his finger and put it on mine.
That’s the memory that came back to me today–the imaginary vision of a gold band when he was so strong and happy, and the memory of the gold band when he was dying…and happy. It’s hard to believe that we found a way to be any kind of happy in the middle of the end of his life. We did.
So I dried my hands on a paper towel and went back to work. If you passed me in the hall and wondered why I had that strange look on my face, this is why.