Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Golden Ring

I have a picture on my desk. It is of my Mom and Dad on their 50th wedding anniversary. Mom has her familiar smile and Dad is trying very hard to look stern. But you can see it, that very faint tightening of the cheeks that was his smile. It is the smile I remember. It is the biggest smile I ever saw him make until he started having grandkids. He would smile at them.

I was close to Mom. She would spend time with me. We would talk. She would cook for me. I don’t mean just at mealtime. I mean at midnight, with a bunch of friends. She would cook and talk and listen. She knew what we were up to because she would listen. And we didn’t mind her listening because she was cooking. She knew what made boys tick and she kept us ticking with lots of good food. I remember coming home and reviewing my day with her. When I was dating seriously, she always wanted to know about the girl. It was fun to talk to her. She would tell stories of her life and I always liked to hear what things were like "so long ago". I never doubted how she felt for me because I could feel it.

I didn’t think I was so close to Dad. We spent a lot of time working together on the ranch. He probably didn’t think it was so much, but it seemed like a lot to me. Sometimes we would work for hours, side by side, and not say a word. We each knew what had to be done and we just did it. I think he actually took delight in that, that we could work as a team and not have to talk. He saw some trouble in his time. He was a teenager in the Great Depression. He saw the country go through two world wars and many conflicts. As a young man he worked on his dad’s farm with horses and wagons and by the time he was 55 or so, he saw men land on the moon. He worked hard his whole life. But it was not a big deal to him; that is what a man did. He actually liked it. So he didn’t smile a lot. Just that faint tightening of the cheeks. And sometimes there was that sparkle in his eye. Everyone knew of the sparkle. If you could get that sparkle, you had it made. I remember the sparkle when he would say, "Let’s go get a malt". And off we would go to the drive-in. He would get strawberry and I would get chocolate. I remember the sparkle on Valentines Day, when he would knock on the wall and claimed it was the Valentine fairy and we would run to the door and there would be heart-shaped candy boxes for everyone on the porch. I remember the sparkle at Christmas when he would point to the box of See’s candy the feed company always gave us and say, "I wonder what’s in that one?" and we would have to check… what a surprise, candy! We would have to sample it once we knew it was candy. You would see the sparkle when he talked of his berries, or peaches, or tomatoes ("Do you know how much it would cost to buy all this at the store?). If you really wanted to see the sparkle, you just needed to bring in the grandkids. There was no doubt the biggest sparkle was for the grandkids.

On their 50th wedding anniversary Mom and Dad bought each other new wedding rings. Dad was sort of proud that he had a gold ring with a diamond. He held out his hand to show me the ring and said, "Look at that, I’ve got a diamond!" The diamond sparkled. His eyes sparkled.
In the picture you can see their smiles, their eyes, and their rings. And you can see the quiet little sparkle they had for each other. When Dad died, my sister asked, "Who would like Dad’s ring?" I didn’t speak up at first because I am the youngest and thought someone else might want it. But no one spoke up, so I said, "My son would like it, I’ll give it to him". I put it in my pocket and waited for the right time to give it to him. In the day or two that it spent in my pocket, I kept taking it out and looking at the diamond. It’s not a big one. It is sort of small, like my Dad’s smile. But every time I looked, it sparkled. And every time I saw it sparkle, I thought of my Dad and all he did for me. I guess we were really closer than I thought.

So I decided to keep the ring. I decided to look at it and remember my Mom and Dad. I decided to wear it for thirty years and then give it to my son. I decided to let it remind me to work hard, and listen, and smile, and sparkle. I decided to tell stories of what it was like "so long ago". And then, after the legacy is assured, then I will give it to my son. And I will ask him to tell the stories. And maybe after thirty years he will give it to his son, and he will know it came from a man whose eyes sparkled when he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to say it, but his eyes showed it. And eventually we all knew it. And I remember it every time I look at the golden ring

Jerry Jorgenson