For 13 years and a couple months, it survived the same nightly routine. In four different cities and six different houses.
Walk in the door from work, hang the keys on the hook, take the phone and wallet out of the pocket, take the wedding ring off.
Say hi to the kids, give Brooke a kiss, change out of the work clothes, cannonball into the chaos pool.
I have this weird thing. When I’m home I don’t want my ring on my finger. I want it sitting on the shelf until it’s time to leave again.
I knew it when it happened. Brooke was upstairs and I was doing a few dishes.
Our youngest was jacking around in the little basket by my wallet and ring. Scrounging for change, gum, Chapstick, something.
She didn’t mean to, but she knocked my ring onto the floor. I should have stopped then, but I kept working.
“I’ll grab it in a second,” I thought.
Twenty minutes later, I was somewhere entirely different when my memory jogged.
Went back to find the ring. No dice.
Maybe it slid behind the counter or got kicked into the dining room. Nope.
Maybe someone put it in the basket instead of on the shelf or hung it by the keys. Nope.
I called our youngest in, surely she used it in the play kitchen or had a memory of what happened once it fell. Nope.
I called a family search party. Surely with seven of us looking, it will show up in no time. Nope.
We tore the house up. I was a scavenger. Knowing it was right around the next corner.
But it never turned up. Not after hours, days or weeks.
I’m not a jewelry guy so the absence of the ring caught me off guard. After all, I had gone without wearing it around the house every evening and weekend for 13 years now.
But it was always on that shelf. Or one like it.
With it gone, I felt naked.
I found myself reaching to fidget with it, like the phantom cell phone ring. I missed it.
After several weeks, Brooke insisted a get a new one.
I’m cheap so I looked at some of those silicon athletic rings. Even ordered a $20 one from Amazon.
When it arrived, it was too big. I guessed on my ring size because it had been 13 years and change since I needed that information.
So I kept leaving the house every day feeling naked.
Late last week, I got home and began the usual routine. Well, the adjusted, ring-less routine. Keys hung, phone out, wallet out.
Around the corner came our youngest. The one who had seen the ring most recently. Even though that was several months ago.
“Daddy, close your eyes. I have a surprise.”
Assuming it was a half-chewed piece of gum or some other 4-year-old treasure, I complied.
Eyes shut. Hands out.
Then she delivered one of the most precious gifts I’ve received in years. At least the last 13.
Once lost, now found. In a random drawer Brooke was cleaning out. Who knows how it got there. It doesn’t matter.
I acted like a complete idiot. Hollering, jumping, throwing kids around.
Our middle one even said, “I knew you’d start screaming.”
Of course it’s not about the ring at all. It’s not the value of the metal. Or the character of the design.
It’s about the marriage.
It’s about the time the ring was on that left finger when each of our five kids was born.
And when I twirled it when I admitted ugly things about myself in marriage counseling.
And when it clanged and almost broke a wine glass when I clumsily toasted our first decade of marriage.
And when it tapped nervously on the steering wheel when I knew we were in bad shape financially and didn’t know how to tell her.
And when it sat on the shelf each night for the last 13+ years when she told me we’d always be alright and that our vows weren’t lip service.
They’re lived out in real life. Through thick and thin.
While my wedding ring sits atop that shelf in its rightful place again. Because marriages are worth fighting for.