My ex-wife called the other day, looking for her engagement ring. As I remember it, the ring is a single 1.5-carat diamond set on a simple band. Naturally, she hasn’t worn it for some time. We have been divorced for almost five years and she took it off some time before that, along with the rest of her rings. She suspects, I think, that I have taken it.
We are having what the lawyers would call an amicable divorce. We still talk and remain interested in what the other is doing. She runs a small business—as well as one can in these recessionary times. I teach high-school English out in the Berkshires. I ask after her employees and she inquires of my students. More than our careers, we talk about our two boys. They live with her for all but a few weekends and vacations. In the summer when school lets out, I move back to their hometown and parent as best I know how. We do what we can.
An amicable divorce is, nonetheless, a divorce—like the best train accident, it still draws a crowd of wounds, tears, and uniformed professionals. Our divorce did not come crashing through the night due to violence, hard words, or flights to Bermuda with a 19-year-old intern. Instead, the marriage wobbled too much on the rails, hung for a moment in the air, and then slid down the embankment. We walked away bruised and hurt, but otherwise sound of mind and body—although, perhaps, not of heart.
The wedding dress is in storage. The photo album sits on the lowest shelf of the bookcase, between Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs and a college yearbook. My wedding band has been banished to a sock drawer and hers hides in a jewelry box. They are our tattoos, too embarrassing and powerful to remove.
So it is with the diamond. It was my mother’s diamond, given to her on the night of November 22, 1963, at Jimmy’s Harborside in Boston. In spite of that inauspicious beginning, my parents’ marriage lasted 30-some-odd years until she died of cancer. Four years later, I asked my father for the ring. I hid 10 empty ring boxes around the house for her to discover, but put the real one in her underwear drawer. On the morning before we were to go to Vermont, I proposed to her, and was, for the moment, accepted.
The divorce has poisoned it and the memories of the wedding day. In my mind, the ceremony remains powerful, the reception fun, and my bride lovely. But at memory’s gentle touch, those April moments leave a paper cut; it didn’t last.
Fortunately, the children have. Like many others, our marriage has furnished the seed and soil for two large, brilliant, bouncing boys. On any given day, they have my mother’s forehead, my father’s chin, her mother’s coloring and her father’s hair. The two grow bright and strong; they are kinder than either of us, more generous and more loving. They outlived the marriage and have grown solid, bright, and clear.
I don’t know what my ex plans to do with the ring. She may have come to a moment when she can wear all of her rings again. Or, more likely, she has found someone who will take the jewelry and form it into something new. The wedding bands, the two rings for the little boys, the “Carpe Diem” band, and the other family relics might be formed into a pendant or some sort of chain. The stories, and our story, all united into a mass of gold and diamond, to be hung on a chain.
While I have no more say in what happens to that ring, I hope that it stays lost. I would like its story to end now, lost in the tile of her bathroom, the grass in the backyard, or in one of the boys’ drawers. Our marriage needs no monument or memorial on its grave. Its story can be told without prop or picture. We met, joined, danced until we stumbled and fell sprawling.
Or, if those years need to be marked, let them be set with two young men. In the infinite ring, let them be the jewel held firm: eternal, bright, brilliant. Let that story unroll from the end of ours.
—Read Robert Barsanti’s “Living Father, Zombie Husband” here.
—Photo Ruthanne Reid