I’m not a sentimental person, but I am attached to the two rings on the third finger of my left hand. They’re not very valuable rings in cash terms but in terms of their symbolic value, they are priceless. One is a gold wedding ring placed on my finger thirty five years ago; the other is a silver ring with a heart-shaped, stone a present from my husband for no other reason than that he loved me. I’m used to them now; they are as much a part of me as hair on my head. Problem is now that these rings only serve to stir up memories of the happiness I once knew. The rings seem to mock me, they taunt me, they tell me I no longer have right to flaunt them. Since the trauma their symbolic value has been destroyed. It’s almost twenty months now and I sometimes wonder if I should continue to be constantly reminded of happier times. Is it time I made the final break and moved on?
The only other jewellery I wear is ear-rings. I tend to wear the same pair day in day out until I lose one – which I do with worrying regularity, my carelessness has increased lately and I seem to get through a pair a week. I’ve gone through most of my earrings now except for the diamond ones, not suitable for everyday use. Time I stocked up again.
It’s our son’s thirty third birthdays on Tuesday and we’re going out to celebrate at a posh restaurant, so today I took a trip to town to buy his present. I usually buy clothes and a book. I was never particularly imaginative and original when it comes to present-buying, and whatever modest skill I did have in this department has been stripped away by grief.
I’m in Debenhams; I buy my son’s birthday present and stroll over to the ear ring section. There’s a sale on: 20% off most jewellery. I choose a few pairs of ear-rings and as I’m about to pay I notice them: rings. I make a hasty decision. I’ll replace the familiar rings that have lain undisturbed on the third finger of my left hand for over thirty years. A part of me as familiar now as the nails at the end of my fingers. I prise them off with some difficulty and place them in my pocket. I ask the young sales assistant to show me a silver diamond ring and a plainer one – as near as possible as the rings I have worn for so long but without the symbolic content. I choose two rings. The young sales girl reaches under the counter for gift boxes; I tell her not to bother and leave the rings on my finger.
As I open my purse to find my credit card it happens. Something that I thought was now under control: the tears flow unbidden and unwelcome. I turn away hoping it’s not noticed. I’m disabled by silent sobs as I search for a tissue. ‘Are you all right madam? Would you like a glass of water?’ Oh why does everyone offer me water at these times? I blow my nose and try to locate my credit card.
‘Yes, I’m all right love. Don’t worry. ‘I place the card in the machine and wipe the tears way. Her concerned young eyes rest on my face as if seeking an explanation. But how can you explain the heartache of a life turned upside down.
‘It’s okay love. I’m just having a bad day. I’ll be okay.’ A phrase I use a lot to people when my feelings get the better of me. ‘I’ll be okay’. But I’m not. I’m not okay and as I write I dont think I ever will be again.
It’s Tuesday evening. Son and wife arriving any time so I must get ready. I wash my face. I carefully don my new ear-rings and my black dress. I put some lipstick on and comb my hair. They both kiss me when they arrive.
‘You’re looking great Mum, ‘my son says.
‘Lovely dress, it suits you,’ says my daughter-in-law. ‘How are you doing?’
‘Oh I’m fine. I’m doing okay.’ I say, lying through my teeth. It’s my son’s birthday. He and his wife have been so supportive of me, always seeking signs that I am mending. I try not to let the shoddy repair job I have done on my heart show. The fragile threads must hold the jagged seams together for tonight. And so I put on a smile to hide the pain and take a deep breath as we leave for the restaurant.