My mother gave me her ring. She can’t wear it anymore.
Her once slender fingers have become swollen with arthritis. Four perfectly matched diamonds are mounted in a row on a gold band. I always thought it was her wedding ring because she’s worn it for as long as I can remember. She recently told me she and my dad bought it when I was four years old. They were too broke when they got married in 1943 to afford a proper diamond wedding ring. They bought the ring when they sold some property at a tidy profit.
I wear it on my ring finger. My plain, gold wedding band no longer fits me because my fingers are also knobby with arthritis. Every time I glance down, I see my mother’s hand, so similar to mine, and I smile.
When I was a child, she’d wake me up on Sunday mornings with her hand softly stroking my face. She’d gently whisper, “Janie, me to get up for ‘kunny kool.’” That’s what I called Sunday school. She’d tickle my face until I opened my eyes.
Her hand dished out a spanking when I deliberately disobeyed her order not to climb on the roof. Why was it okay for my brothers, but not for me?
My mind’s eye sees her hand clasped with my dad’s as they square danced, a twice-weekly occurrence. I see her holding bridge cards, ruthlessly playing to win the five dollar pot.
During World War II, she worked as a key punch operator. Her fingers flew over the keys, faster than any of the other women. Even though she’s almost blind from macular degeneration, her hand still accurately finds the keys on the adding machine to punch out the numbers to balance her checkbook.
She and my dad built a motel and managed it themselves. At seventy years old, her hands scrubbed toilets when the maid didn’t show up. Her hands did a thousand loads of laundry and made hundreds of beds.
Today her hands grip her walker as she shuffles into the kitchen to bake cookies or muffins to take to the nurses at the doctor’s office.
When I look down at my mother’s ring, I see eighty-nine years of history in her hands. I see a rich legacy of work, play, hardship and reward. I’m proud to wear my mother’s ring.