grandma’s wedding ring – feb 2011

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

GRANDMA’S WEDDING RING

 Auntie Alma sat near a corner of her tan-flowered couch and looked down at her pastel striped v-neck. She shook her tawny- haired head and pulled the top out from the side of her body. “I’m getting so thin! Mother’s ring keeps falling off. When I was at the hair dresser last time, it fell right off my finger. The girl had to pick it up for me. I decided to stop wearing it.”

As we drank her perked coffee, I looked at her over the rim of my mug. Auntie is really thin. She seems frail. Forgetful, too.  Her right hand was bare of jewelry but she still wore her wedding set on her left hand. “Where is Grandma’s ring?”

“I put it away in a little box.”

Little box? I thought of the various “small” boxes jumbled among other treasures I’d seen in her make-up drawer. How does she find anything? Her cup-boards and closets were stuffed with the same mix of worn-out and “good.” Someone should keep track of that ring. Not Julie…Her only living child, my cousin Julie, was in the throes of a long-term illness. She can barely care for herself.

“Which little box is it in and where?”

“I’ll show you,” Auntie said and leaned forward as if to get up. I stood and extended my hand to her, but she shook her head. “I can do it.” She pushed herself up and reached for her nearby cane. Leaning on the four-pronged chrome aid, she led me to the small bedroom where she sat to fix her hair and put on make-up. Auntie opened a dresser drawer and from the corner of the muddle, pulled out a small white box. She opened it and held up Grandma’s wedding band.

“That’s not a safe place for that ring,” I observed.

“I can’t wear it — I’ll lose it,” Auntie cried with a sniffle.

I offered, “How about if I put it on?”

“You’re not afraid?” She raised her eye brows to me.

“Of what?”

“The curse. Mother said she was to be buried wearing her ring and we’d better do as she said!”

Vaguely I recalled hearing the family tale. My mother, Willa, had flown to Indiana from her Florida home when Grandma died. Since she had worked for the funeral home many years before retiring, she helped with planning for viewing, rites and burial.

On the day of the viewing–before anyone came — Willa and Auntie Alma were at the funeral home in a parlor where Grandma was laid out in a blue satin-lined casket.

Willa frowned. “Why’s Mother wearing her wedding ring?”

Quickly Alma answered, “She said to bury her with it.”

“Hogwash! It’s a perfectly good ring. Someone in the family should have it.”

Alma protested, “But Mother said we had to do it her way!”

Shaking her head at her little sister, Willa leaned over her mother, lifted the cold left hand and slid off the gold ring. “Here.” She held out the ring to Alma. Then turned back and rearranged her mother’s hands, right hand over left so the missing ring would not be noticed.

But Willa wasn’t done yet. She eyed the casket. “Mother doesn’t look comfortable. She needs to be further up on the pillow.”

Willa walked around to her mother’s curled white hair. She bent over, grasped the still body’s shoulders and tugged. “I can’t move her. Help me, Alma.”

Alma stood a moment shaking her head. “Mother won’t like this.”

Willa proclaimed, “Nonsense! She’s not here. She’s gone!  

“Just take hold and we’ll move her a little.” Willa straightened and pointed to the prone figure’s waist. “Uncover her.”

Alma did as she was told and Willa continued, “Now get hold of Mother’s legs and help me move her further up on this pillow.”

There they were, moving the corpse when the funeral director stuck his head in the room.

Shocked he said, “Ladies! What are you doing?”

Mother said, “Don’t worry! We’re just moving Mother up further on her pillow so she looks more restful.”

The amazed man stood in the doorway as Willa and Alma shifted the form.

Undaunted, Willa stood back, crossed her arms and tipped her head, considering the figure in repose. “That’s better! Alma, go ahead and put back the covers. I’ll help you.”

Returning to the side of the casket, Willa lifted her mother’s hands. After Alma pulled up the coverlet, she repositioned them.

In this flurry of activity, Alma had no place to put the gold band, and had slid it on her own right hand ring finger. She was still wearing it after the viewing.

That’s when her daughter, Julie, noticed it. In confused outrage she said, “That’s Grandma’s ring!”

Defending her little sister Alma, Willa stepped up. She turned to Julie. “Yes. And we are NOT burying her with it. That’s silly. You should have the ring.”

Julie shrank from the gift. Grandma had always been stern with her and Julie took her last wishes seriously. “Not me!”

Willa turned to Julie’s daughter, Janet who was standing in the family cluster. “Then you should have it.”

Janet stepped back, “No way!”

About then Alma spoke up. “Mother always loved me. I’m not afraid of her — or any curse. I’ll wear the ring. ”

Willa nodded her approval.

Auntie Alma wore my grandmother’s wedding band nearly twenty years. Now it is my turn. Like my mother, Willa, I’m not afraid of a curse.

Wearing Grandma’s ring is an honor.

Frances Fritzie

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