“It’s gone,” I cried out with tears sprinting down my cheeks. Vic was building a fire at the campground where we planned to stay that night.
“What’s gone?” he said.
“My wedding ring,” I sobbed. “It’s not on my hand.”
“When did you last see it?” he asked in problem-solver mode.
“At the rest stop this morning near Omaha. I took it off when we did yoga.” Omaha was 450 miles away, impossibly far for two people in a hurry to get to California. “I must have left it on the blanket we spread on the grass.”
Vic pulled our yoga blanket out of the Ford station wagon and shook it. No ring.
We’d been married fifteen months. We paid $8 for the ring at a tiny import shop on Seneca Street in Ithaca. It was silver with rough raised relief Hebrew letters. The saleswoman translated them: “I am his beloved and he is mine.” It was not a proper gold wedding band and we were not Jewish, but it said everything.
We had stopped to do yoga early that morning and then pushed hard to get across the state of Nebraska by sunset. We emptied the car. No ring. I wept in resignation.
“We’ll go get it,” Vic said.
“It’s too far,” I said. “We need to sleep.”
“No, we’ll go get it.”
“Yeah, now,” he said. We doused the fire and repacked the car.
Vic drove east through the night on Route 80. He reached over, felt my empty ring finger, and smiled between yawns. My heart ached with love and hope. I imagined the spot where we’d laid our blanket.
We arrived at the Welcome to Nebraska rest stop at 5 a.m. The eastern horizon was tinged by dawn, but it was still dark. We used flashlights to explore the area where we’d been that morning. Dew drops sparkled in the light beam, but no ring. We crawled, ran our hands through the grass, and felt for something hard.
“I’m sorry, E,” Vic said hugging me.
“It’s OK,” I said, angry at myself and grateful for his effort.
“I’ll look in the car again,” he said, although we’d already searched every corner with flashlights. He opened the rear of the station wagon.
“Come here, E,” he said. I thought he wanted me to help unpack the car again, but I knew it was hopeless. Instead, he pointed at a little pocket where the rear door latched into metal above the bumper.
“Look at that.”
I saw a glint of silver. My ring had been riding with us all the way, caught in the rear door latch. I promise I didn’t make this up: the sun rose in the East and bathed us in warm light as Vic slipped the ring on my left hand.
A few years after Vic’s death, I rarely wore my wedding ring. I needed to make space between Vic and me, big enough to walk into my new life.
The ring rests on my altar now, near a photo of Vic. I sometimes slip it on my finger and twirl it around to remember I’m still encircled by our love.
What does a ring or another symbol of love mean to you? For another piece about my young life with Vic, you’ll enjoy My Hippie Wedding. You might also enjoy another perspective on wedding rings in Making Promises: What Does a Wedding Ring Represent? a Huffington Post blog by a widower Eric W.