This is a guest submission by Michael Smith.
Georgia slipped the band of gold around my finger, looked into my eyes and completed her vows. We were husband and wife.
A week later, I sat in my chair, mindlessly watching television. I twirled the unfamiliar band of gold circling my ring finger. It was the first piece of jewelry I’d ever worn. It made me feel different.
My life changed. I no longer thought of “me”. I thought of “us”. I had a wife. The band of gold proved it. From that day forward, people saw it and knew I was committed to another. It became a part of me. Whenever I sat idle, my right handwould reach to play with it. Other times, my left thumb would polish it – savoring the symbol of love.
“Michael?” Georgia asked?
I looked across our dining room table at her. Her brown eyes sparkled.”What, Hun?”
“I’m pregnant.” She smiled.
“You are? Are you sure?” I rose from my chair.
“Do you feel OK? Do you need anything?”
I had an expectant mother to take care of.
“The doctor confirmed it today. And yes, I am OK. Now sit and finish your dinner.”
“But?” I stammered. “This calls for a toast. I’ll get that bottle of champagne.”
I rushed from the table.
“Michael!” she reached for my hand. She rested her other hand on her stomach.
“I can’t. The baby! Remember?”
I stared at her and frowned. “Why.”
I paused. “Oh right! The baby! I forgot – no drinking.”
“Relax. I’m OK. Sit and finish your dinner.”
We sat and ate. Afterward, I reached across the table and held her left hand in mine. I looked into those sparkling brown eyes.
“Thank you, Hun. Thank you for wanting to be the mother of our children.”
I looked down at the table where I still held her hand. The flickering candle reflected off our bands of gold.
“I love you, future Mama.”
I lifted her hand and kissed her ring.
“It hurts so bad!” Georgia screamed.
“Pant!” I screamed back. “Pant! Puff, puff, puff, pufffff!”
“Stop blowing in my face!” She yelled at me.
Another contraction ripped through her body.
“Mrs. Smith!” the doctor said. “I need one more big push.”
“You can do it, Hun!”
I held her hand, or rather; she gripped mine in a vice. I saw our hands. My fingers were white from the lack of circulation.
The lights above the table reflected off our rings.
“Look at her eyes, Michael! She’s so alert.” Georgia was in the recovery room. She cradled our little Vanessa in her left arm. I stroked Georgia’s hair.
My ring twinkled as her hair polished it.
“She’s beautiful, Hun. Thank you.”
She looked up at me. “That wasn’t so bad. I could do it again?”
Tears streamed down my cheeks. “Honey, you mean you would go through this again? You had so much pain!”
“I want our dream of a girl and a boy.”
Her hand rested on the blankets warming our new daughter – the gold of her band accented by the white cloth.
“Mr. Smith, meet your new son.”
The nurse smiled and placed him in my arms.
“Hi, Justin!” He cried and waved his tiny arms in response. I placed our new son in Georgia’s arms.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” I bent and kissed her.
My left hand stroked her cheek. The gold band sparkled with her perspiration.
“I love you.”
We sat across the table from each other. A candle burned between us. Hushed voices from other tables filtered through my thoughts. I looked into those brown eyes, as I so often did.
“Happy anniversary, Georgia.”
“Happy anniversary, Michael.”
“Ten years! Can you believe it?”
“I hope the kids are OK.”
“Hun, they’re fine. This is our night.”
I reached for her hand and held it in mine. Like the bands in a tree trunk, our skin had begun to show the wrinkles of life. The fire of the candle reflected off our rings, reminding me of a night long ago, when she smiled and said, “I’m pregnant.”
I sat on our sofa playing with my ring. I remembered forgetting to put it on after Georgia cleaned it one day. At work, I kept reaching for it with my thumb. I felt empty without it. I looked at Georgia’s picture on the TV stand. I was alone. Our children were in their rooms, grieving in their own way. Georgia’s urn rested on the credenza in the dining room. We’d brought her home from the service that afternoon. Her ring rested in my left palm. I had a decision to make.
“When do I take mine off?” I asked no one.
I was afraid. If I took it off, would it mean the love we shared was gone? The band of gold stayed on my finger. When my thumb touched it, my thoughts drifted to past times and not to the future and the life we planned.
“When do I take it off?” I asked myself again.
It was with me from the day we’d married more than nineteen years earlier. It’d been on my finger when I changed my children’s diapers. When we took drives, my hand held the steering wheel. The ring reflected the sunshine. The day she took her last breath, I held her hand and the ring reflected the machines that had kept her alive. I reached behind my neck and undid the clasp of the gold chain.
She’d given it to me on our first Christmas together.
I threaded her ring onto it and started to put it back around my neck. I paused and put it down. The fingers of my right hand reached for my ring a final time. I twirled it around like old times and then slipped it off. I held it to the light. It was scratched and dented from the rigors of living. It joined Georgia’s ring on the chain. My hand felt empty without its comforting weight, but the combined rings hanging around my neck soothed me – a reminder of our years together.
Almost a year later, I stood with Ginny in a New York City court house. She took my hand and placed a new band of gold around my finger.
The Justice of the Peace smiled.
“I pronounce you man and wife. Michael, you may now kiss the bride.
“Ginny slipped into my arms. Our lips met. I hugged her to me. On her shoulder, I saw my hand and the ring on my finger – a band of love.
Ginny and I sat on our deck reading. I held my book in my righthand. My left hand rested on my lap. A sparkle caused me to blink. I looked down. The new band reflected the sun. Ginny looked up at me, “I love you.”
“Love you more.”
“Love you too.”
We played our game. She turned back to her book. I stared at my ring again. It meant more than marriage. Like life, it had a beginning and an end. I started one journey with Georgia.
“Until death do we part.” we repeated – a beginning and an end.
We followed the band of gold to her end.
“Gin?” She looked up from her book. “Yes?”
“I need to do something.” She looked puzzled.
“What?” I reached up, unclipped my chain, and removed the two rings.
“Michael, what are you doing?”
“It’s time to let go, Gin.”
“But they mean so much to you.”
“Yes they do, but it is time to move forward. It’s like starting a new year. I need to let go of the old and enjoy the new. “
She stood, walked over and sat in my lap. She wrapped her arms around me.
I held up my left hand. “Look!”
She stared at my hand. “What?”
“See how the sun reflects off it? I’ve been blessed to have you in my life. I have a new band of love, a new life, a new beginning, a new year and you. It’s time to move forward with you.”