Monday, July 8, 2013


I habitually wear two rings. One is my wedding band, nestled on my left hand for the past quarter century, nudged there by Eileen and left in place so long that the skin has crimped around it.

It's been dinged over the years, smudged with diaper ointment along the way, glooped with barbecue sauce, coated with cookie dough, and had a few dog hairs caught in it.

But it remains what it started out to be: an unbroken symbol of the promise we made to each other 25 years ago and that we work diligently to keep day after day, year after year.

The one on my right hand has not been as steady.

Initially, the right-hand ring was from the Class of 1981 Cardinal O'Hara High School. The rectangular red stone was immediately identifiable -- even at a distance -- and unlike other graduates who lose interest in their class rings after a number of years, I wore mine proudly into college.

It was replaced in 1984 with the class ring of St. Joseph's University, a rounded blue stone that sat high on a gold mound encrusted with dates and seals and Latin... and, of course, a Hawk that will Never Die.

In 2006, that SJU ring was replaced on my right hand with the ring I'm wearing now. Taking that action -- ditching my school ring(s) -- was not something I took lightly. I worked hard for them and enjoyed the badge of honor they represented.

But the replacement meant even more to me.

The replacement was my father's ring, a 1950s-era gold band with a solitary diamond nested in a square setting.

I wear it as much to honor him as the story behind it.

Dad entered the U.S. Navy at age 17, diverting his college attendance several years while he served his country. Because he did not receive a ring from a university in his early 20s (as many of his friends did), his parents bought him a ring, tiding him over until he earned one himself.

He did eventually attend LaSalle University and wore its ring. But that piece of jewelry was lost at a baseball practice, when Dad slipped his hand out of a mitt and accidentally slid the ring off with the glove, losing it in the tall grass of the field. Despite a hands-and-knees search in the waning sunlight (this was well before hobbyist metal detectors), it was gone forever.

So he went back to wearing the ring his parents gave him. Usually it was on special occasions -- weddings, funerals, Christmas -- when he was all dressed up, suit-and-tie style. I remember distinctly that if Dad was wearing cufflinks, he was also wearing his diamond ring.

I also remember him tapping it in rhythm to the tunes on the AM radio in his car, creating a cheery pinging counterpoint on the horn ring. Back when cars had horn rings!

I always admired that piece of jewelry.

When Dad passed away in 2006, Mom asked my brother and me if there were anything of his that we particularly wanted.

I wanted the ring.

And with very few exceptions, it has remained on my hand ever since. Glancing at it while I'm driving or playing the organ or cooking or typing at the compute -- as I'm doing now -- seeing it glint in the light... it all works to keep him close in my memory.

Which is why it has supplanted all other rings on that right hand.

And probably always will.


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