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Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Writing Hood: Upgrade

Paul has told me on more than one occasion that I can get an upgrade on my engagement/wedding band someday--all I have to do is ask.
Indeed, compared to the beautiful settings and platinum bands of my friends, my wedding ring is rather simple. First of all, it's gold. I apparently didn't get the memo that gold was out back in 1999, but I don't know anybody else my age who wears a gold wedding band. Not even my husband---and we're supposed to match.

The second supposed issue with the wedding band is that the karat is small. And by small, I mean it's somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 of a karat. An attempt has been made to conceal the size through the setting, but it's not fooling anybody.

Paul bought the ring at the local Kay's Jewelers. He had left the military two months earlier, and was taking classes at the local community college while making ends meet with two jobs. He spent his days working with traumatized veterans at an outpatient mental health clinic, and his evenings driving a truck, picking up donations for a thrift store.

The mental health clinic was right across the street from a methadone clinic, and people would wander in occasionally, quite agitated, and perhaps needing some counseling of their own. But the addicts' demons came from the needle, not the battlefield, and Paul would send them on their way.

At the time, the clinic treated veterans of the first Gulf War, and a handful of Vietnam veterans. The issues ranged from family counseling, to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder), to addictions counseling. I often wonder how that center is functioning today. Surely, they must have needed to hire more staff, and add more chairs to the waiting room. All those demons. All that pain.

Paul's evening job was note-worthy because Paul was the only employee that did not have a criminal record. Paul would load up the truck with members of the Aryan Brotherhood or various gang bangers. On especially magical evenings, both!

Paul is a quiet man to begin with, and he was quite happy to do his job, and keep his head low. While my husband is not a wimp, he just didn't see the point in arguing with a six-foot, two hundred and fifty pound ex-convict. Especially an ex-convict that told Paul, right off the bat, "I get really angry when people try to tell me what to do."

This was the context of Paul's life while he was shopping for my engagement ring. He found the ring, and set up a payment plan of $50 a month. He paid these payments for the entire year of our engagement, and occasionally had to work extra hours to make it work. I was a second year teacher, pulling in a salary around $23,000 a year. Times were tight.

How did I know that things would change? How did I know that Paul and I would be successful in life? When Paul talked to those veterans, he looked each patriot in the eye, listened to their stories, and treated them with honor. Despite the fact that he worked long, evening hours with former felons, Paul never complained, and never deemed himself "too good" for honest labor.

I'll always remember one evening with Paul. We were at a happy hour with some pretentious folk. One of them said, and I forget the context of the conversation, "It's like being a lumberjack. I mean, have you ever met a real lumberjack?" He spoke as if the concept was ludicrous. And I suppose, if you went to Dartmouth and never found a brie you didn't like, it was.

Paul took a sip of his beer and said, "Yes, my grandfather. And my uncle. And my aunt. Good people."

He didn't have to say anything else.

This man---who truly listens, who hates snobbery above almost anything else, who works hard, without complaint---inspires me to do the same.

I will never upgrade this ring.

24 comments:

Victoria KP said...

I love this post! Paul sounds like a great man. I feel the same way about my ring. A friend of mine was recently talking about upgrading her ring and said, "Every girl wants to upgrade, right?" I just couldn't relate.

Kristy said...

Awww, so sweet. I love it. I have a gold ring too. Got it in 1998 - JUST before silver was ALL the rage. I truly do love my ring though, and hey, what do you know - gold is making a come back!

mama-face said...

What a wonderful tribute to your sweet kind husband. None of us knows what our future holds, and I love how you express the way your past is linked to how you feel about your ring.

I'd love to hear more of your story...was Paul your first love? (I'm guessing so from the challenge. When and where did you meet...etc. yeah. I'm kinda nosy.

clearness said...

I agree.........The ring symbolizes the love you had at the time you met and the time of proposal.........

My ring is gold. I happen to like gold. And the diamonds are from his grandmothers engagement ring. It has an antique cut diamond. Old Miners Cut or Old European Cut...something like that. Means more to me than any old diamond or any old ring.

Kim said...

What a lovely tribute to your husband. My ring is about on the same level as yours but I did get the memo and at least ordered us two white gold bands from Costco. I told Shaune to get me a diamond when we win the lottery.

I think I may be in love with Paul:)

Carrie said...

My husband has told me I can upgrade my engagement ring if I want. But why would I? This was the ring HE chose. It's special, just like yours.

Great story! Visiting from Red Writing Hood

The Drama Mama said...

Such a sweet story!! And you know what? My ring set is pretty, but it will be out of style one day, and its not even very large.And I'm okay with that, too. It's the symbol of our love, he picked it for me, and I cherish it. I wouldn't upgrade on him, why would I upgrade on the ring?

Cristina said...

he sounds like an amazing man.. and it isn't about the ring, really. It's about what it signifies. Love your piece

Cheryl said...

I also wouldn't upgrade my ring. It's nice (yep, it's platinum) but to me I love that it signifies where we were at the time we got engaged.

Sounds like your Paul is a very, very good man.

(Florida) Girl said...

Fantastic. Someone very close to me is going through a divorce. I am positive if she could have chosen she would have opted for the steadfast husband not the huge ring.

Ms. Moon said...

Yep. It is the man who gives it and when you know it's the right man, the symbol of your marriage isn't the important thing. The marriage is.
Beautiful.

Nichole said...

You've left me all choked up.

There is little that I respect more than a man who is real. I grew up in Maine, where an honest day's work is respected above all else. I love that I found a man who is kind and honest and real.

Like your Paul.
Beautiful piece. Truly beautiful.

Michele R said...

What a great man. What a great couple.
I met mine when we were both in school. I didn't want to start out in debt. I didn't want a diamond. I don't like it when an advertising campaign is the one that states what is a precious stone. But my wedding band.....it is unique and I would cry a river if that $150 ring was ever lost.

Ratz said...

This is such a sweet post.... so true and so beautiful... I am so happy for you.

Erin said...

Paul sounds like a very special, incredible man----which is likely why the two of you make such a fantastic pair.

I will never upgrade my ring either.

Freakin' fabulous post.

dbs said...

I respect your husband, and you for your choice but also for writing this. What a great testament to friendship, gratitude and marriage.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I'm not sure it would be possible to get a better ring when the memories associated with this one are so perfect. Great story. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Cheers, jj

StarTraci said...

Nancy,
Yet again, I feel as if we were separated at birth. I have a yellow gold engagement band with a diamond nebulously between 1/8 amd 1/4 and a yellow gold band. It is not hip, modern, or large but it is the most beautiful ring to me. This Saturday will mark 16 years and even if we have millions to spend, I will never trade this ring.
Beautiful post as a testament to a beautiful love!
:-)
Traci

Unknown Mami said...

You guys are my kind of people.

Ash said...

Gold here too my dear. And in my current circle, it's a speck, but I'd never trade it in.

What I like best about your Paul? That he's raising two little men with you. Gives me hope for future generations.

Elaine A. said...

Tim gave me a new ring last year for our 10 year anniversary and I love it but I usually wear it on my right hand since my left should be for my original ring that is quite similar to yours. We also didn't get the "no gold" memo in 1999! :-)

noisycolorfullively said...

Beautiful. Paul sounds like good people. No lumberjacks here, just cotton mill workers and fishermen. But good people, too.

I like your family more and more, Nancy. And my ring is tiny, too. And "flawed," and I love it.

The Empress said...

Exactly.

How did I know my husband was the one?

Purely because he was kind to my mentally challenged brother, when everyone else wouldn't even give him eye contact.

That right there, is the moment I made up my mind.

I loved this post.

Marla said...

I love Paul. And I love you. I love you both. Going to cry now.