It’s the Audrey Hepburn of rings, my mother’s wedding band. Classic. Elegant. Perfect. The very day she put it on in 1969 it looked antique; a simple setting of thin white gold securing a slanted row of tiny diamonds, like the seven dwarfs on a teeter totter. Originally it hooked together with the engagement ring but the notch loosened over time and made them separate — quite symbolic of the marriage itself; one would spin around her finger like Saturn while the other one stayed put like the sun. The imperfection made it even more beautiful to me because, as she always used to say, "nothing’s perfect."
She never once removed it. Not to rub Vicks Vapor Rub onto our congested chests, not to mix squishy eggs and ground beef and breadcrumbs into a sloshy pile of meatloaf, not to scrub scuz from Steak-Ums off frying pans, not to swim in city pools or fishy summer lakes, not to change poopy cloth diapers secured with yellow baby pins and plastic pants. Nor did she ever take it off to clean it. Twenty four years of eucalyptus medicine and E. coli and Dawn dish soap and chlorine and Mother Nature comingled in silver crevices in a marriage of its very own.
I have those rings now. It doesn''t feel right saying are mine because even though she gave them to me, I still consider them belonging to her. They resided in my safe for almost two decades but I recently took them out for inspection. The diamonds wore a waxy film and the metal lacked sparkle. I dug out my Windexy looking jewelry solution to begin the laborious task of removing nearly fifty years of gunk. But just as I was about to plop them onto the plastic tray and pick up the the little black brush, I stopped.
Alzheimer’s has taken enough of Mom''s memories. Dissolved like a bouillon cube into a pot of boiling water. Erased like a second grader’s rubber pink pencil tip on lined paper. Evaporated into air like steam from a cup of chamomile tea. Disappeared like her memories to....well....heaven only knows where they go.
The gemstone’s beauty had dampened, but like Mom it’s still shining as brightly as possible. It deserves to maintain its story because every life and marriage is a concoction of elation, misery, harmony, war, pride, shame, glory and hideousness.
I place Mom’s ring onto the middle finger of my right hand, where it indecisively and unpredictably spins and spins. When I look at it I never know if the diamonds will be facing up or down — quite symbolic of my Alzheimer’s Mama herself. But it''s there, as is she.