May 26, 2010

Diamonds up to her knuckles

Recently, I cleaned out my kids' old "dress up" box, filled with boas and princess gowns and scads of faux jewels. We boxed the jewelry for some out of state little girl cousins and sent it off. My cousin was so grateful and said though, the girls fight over the huge *diamond* ring. It brought to mind a story from a friend that has always touched me.

Throughout my 20s, I was in retail, at a grocery store. One of the cashiers was an elderly widow. She could have retired several years earlier, but said she had no idea how she'd fill her time. She was one of the sweetest women I ever knew and always looked forward to the days we both were scheduled.

We were in the break room one day and I admired her ring. She always wore a diamond cocktail ring, one that was completely inappropriate for cashiering, but I knew there must be a story behind it.

Joan smiled looking at the at least one inch band of diamonds that encased her ring finger. She said, "It was a gift from my husband before he died."

She went on to explain. She and her husband grew up together in the same neighborhood. He was a few years older than her and she followed him around everywhere. She had a crush on Joe from the time she was six. Since he was older, he finished school and went into the Army.

Before he left, he said, "Joan, please wait for me. When I come back, I'm going to give you diamonds up to your knuckles."

Sure enough, she waited, he returned, and they married. They couldn't afford diamonds up to her knuckles, much less an engagement ring, but Joan never cared. They made a wonderful life for themselves. They weren't able to have children, but they had good friends and nieces and nephews, their home was always filled with love. He worked in a factory and she worked at the store.

They were both getting ready to retire when Joe was diagnosed with cancer. She took a leave of absence and cared for him. That year on Christmas, from his sick bed, he told her to go into a certain drawer. In that drawer was the ring. She was touched but also admitted she was a little worried about how expensive it was. His illness was eating away at their savings. She didn't want to add to his stress with her worry, so she said nothing. She didn't want to wear it in case she had to return it. It stayed in the drawer with the receipt. Every so often he would come out of his delirium and ask about the ring and she brushed it off saying she was doing chores or whatever and took it off. He never saw her wear the ring.

He died about a month later. The day of his funeral, she took the ring out of the box and put it on. She said she felt horrible that she didn't enjoy it when he was alive but there was nothing that was going to stop her from remembering his love. She never took the ring off from that day on.

Joan glanced back at her ring and said, "He never had to give me diamonds up to my knuckles, I'd give it back if I could have him."

The ring sparkled in that dreary break room and her eyes shined with a lifelong love and devotion to her Joe. She knew, she didn't need a ring to have the most precious gem in the world.

May 7, 2010

Foot Removal 101

We’ve all done it. We’ve opened our mouth and inserted our foot. While the intent may have been innocent humor, the result is still the same. Someone was hurt by a thoughtless remark.

I used to work at a grocery store. I will never forget the first time I rammed my foot into my mouth so deep, I’m surprised I don’t have sneaker treads on the back of my throat. I was on hold with a bank to see if there were funds for a check. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t seem particularly bright or astute. As I sat waiting on the phone, rapidly losing patience, I turned to my co-worker and whispered, “I’ve got a real retard on the other end.”

My co-worker had a child with Down’s syndrome.

Another time I was talking to someone about how I had picked up relish at the grocery store three trips in a row, forgetting that I had picked it up the previous week. I made the self-deprecating remark that I had early onset of Alzheimer’s.

The neighbor I said it to had a parent with Dementia.

This week, I made a remark about being unable to control what my fingers did when I typed and called it keyboard Tourette’s.

The friend who read that comment has a child with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Each time I have made these thoughtless remarks, I never know how to unsay them. Instead, I want to thank the folks who pointed it out to me. It’s never easy to admit being wrong, but it’s a lot easier than continuing to offend. I think it’s a valuable lesson to remember that when we make jokes, if it is at anyone else’s expense, it ceases to be funny. It's a brutal reminder to really think before we speak.

My sincere apologies as well as a thank you for the wake up call. My shoe isn’t very tasty, and I really would like to remove it from my diet.


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