In the months before Jeff asked me to marry him, we had talked about getting engaged. So it wasn't a total shock when he popped the question - though it was still very exciting.
We waited until after the engagement to pick out my wedding band.
I knew I wanted something non-traditional. I didn't want a ring with a diamond that stuck out on the top. Don't get me wrong - those rings are gorgeous. But they're not for me.
I wanted something smooth, something flush. Something that wouldn't get accidentally snagged on things. Something I didn't have to take off. Something just beyond plain - that sparkled - and I would feel comfortable wearing.
In case you can't tell, this was my ultra-practical side talking.
We went to the jewelry store, and I quickly found the section containing rings of interest. They were termed "anniversary bands." You can imagine the sales lady's confusion when she asked, "What anniversary are you celebrating?" and we told her we weren't yet married.
I searched the selection, not immediately finding something that caught my fancy. But after a moment, there, hidden among the undecorated, thin bands and the gaudily bejeweled sparklers - there it was. My ring. I just knew it was mine when I saw it.
I pointed to it, feeling a little like Indiana Jones when he finally locates the holy grail.
It had 10 small diamonds set in two rows in a wide, white gold band.
It was perfect.
But waaaaay too big.
It turns out, I have teeny tiny fingers. The sales lady measured my left-hand ring finger at a size 4 1/2. In fact, they weren't even sure they could size down the ring that small without damaging the integrity of the metal and popping out the diamonds.
Luckily, they could.
We bought the ring, put it on my finger, and I've worn it every day ever since.
Our next step was finding Jeff a ring.
And it turns out, Jeff has enormous fingers (which we still, to this day, refer to lovingly as "sausage fingers"). Each sample ring he tried on at the jewelers fit only to the second knuckle on his pinky finger.
In the end, we ordered a size 12 white gold ring with twisted rope detailing. He began wearing that ring the day we got married.
His wedding ring is the only jewelry he's ever worn. He didn't like wearing it much around the house (damn sausage fingers), but he always wore it whenever we went out.
Except when we went to the beach. He never wore it at the beach.
So he wasn't wearing his ring the day of the accident - which is probably good. One less thing for me to keep track of on that awful, hectic day.
I don't really remember how much time had passed after the accident when I finally came across his ring in the wicker basket by the front door - the place he always left it on the rare occasions he didn't wear it when he left the house.
But when I found it, I immediately put it on a chain, and fastened that chain around my neck. I wore it every day - every trip to the hospital. The heaviness of the metal clanked against my chest. As I would lean over Jeff's bed, I held tight to his ring with one hand, and stroked his hair with the other. Sympathetic nurses saw his ring on my necklace and smiled sweetly.
Jeff hasn't worn his ring since the day before the accident. He came home from work in the early evening on that Friday, skipped up the two steps from our garage into our house, took off his ring, and laid it in the wicker basket. Just like he always did.
Now that ring sits snugly in my jewelry box. We've talked about putting it on his finger when we go out, but we haven't done that yet. We tried it on him a couple months ago, but his fingers were so swollen that it wouldn't go beyond the middle knuckle. We can't take the chance of forcing it on because we might not be able to get it off. The last thing we need is a skin issue caused by a too-tight ring. Or the emotional heartache of a ring that has to be cut off his finger.
And so my wedding band is the only daily-worn ring in the house. I never take it off. And because of my ultra-practical choice in wedding bands, I never have to, even when I'm in the midst of hands-on care for Jeff. Because it's flush, and doesn't have a protruding diamond, it slips nicely under exam gloves. I never have to worry about it scratching his skin when I'm dressing him. It shines on my finger, and when my eye catches it, it helps to bolster the physical strength these size 4 1/2 fingers need to firmly grasp things like the handles of the lift I use to transfer Jeff from his bed to his chair and back. Or the bed sheets I tug on to reposition him. Or even his shoulders and knees that I push firmly to roll him from his back to his side.
One thing I've always liked about our two wedding rings is that mine can fit perfectly inside his. His ring surrounds mine - big and strong like fortified castle walls protecting precious contents inside. Kind of like it was when we used to hold hands. My hands always felt so tiny in his. His hands could crush mine easily. But instead, they were always protective.
Life has a funny way of turning the tables though. Because now it's my hands that have to do the protecting - the holding.
I still hold Jeff's hand, even though he can't feel it. Because I can still feel it.
And when I stroke Jeff's hands with my fingers, I miss feeling his wedding ring.
The ring he no longer wears on his finger, but always wears in his heart.