My finger looks weird.
“Weird” may be too mild a description for what’s going on with the ring finger of my right hand. It looks like someone tinted oatmeal brown, put it in a hand mold, dumped it out and then stomped on that finger. It looks oddly liquid, misshapen. Wrong.
But that’s a good thing. A bittersweet thing that’s resulted from being widowed, the worst thing that ever happened to me. But you might as well make good things out of the bad, right?
So what I’m saying is that I took my wedding rings from my marriage to my husband Scott off this week. For the last time. And while it feels important and big, it wasn’t a tortured decision, or one made with any pageantry or ceremony (and y’all know I love pageantry.) I just looked at my hand a few days ago and realized it was the right time. So I did it.
It feels like the end of a chapter, because it is. And endings are sad. But beginnings are hopeful.
It’s not the first time that the rings have moved, and there are some funny stories attached to them. When Scott and I got married in 2010, he gave me an inexpensive band that was a placeholder for what he said would be something wonderful. And not long after our first anniversary, he walked me down the steps at the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach County, pretended to head towards the Champs Sports store (his second home) and then doubled back to Zales, where he’d picked out a vintage white gold band with diamonds. Classy, that guy.
The ruby ring that now sits with that band in a box on my dresser isn’t the one he gave me, at least not directly. The pink topaz stone he’d proposed with at the Zales in the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale (shout out to South Florida Zales, y’all!) popped out while I was running, not long after our fifth anniversary. I told him to replace it at Christmas. But he was dead before Labor Day. So when Christmas came around, I used some of the life insurance money he’d left to buy a new ring myself. I put it right on top of my wedding band, right where he would have put it. It seemed right.
About a year later, I moved both rings to my right hand. I was no longer married in a legal sense, and I was beginning to date a little, in the most halting and stupid way. But I wasn’t yet ready to let the rings go. I was still grieving. And they were really pretty rings. And I was used to having rings, to look at and to fidget with. So they stayed.
About a million things happened since then – my son’s adoption was finalized. A dumb relationship that was my first confirmation, nevertheless, that I wasn’t dead in my heart and lady parts. A book. A pandemic. A move, a career change, the purchase of my dream home and then another career change to go into business as an independent writer and 50-year-old rock mom about town. And through it all, I healed. I began to feel less married to Scott, right now. I will always have been his wife, he will always be my love and I will always be his widow.
But I am not married to him, right now. I wish that wasn’t true. But I am living right now. I am attempting to date. I will not find a replacement for Scott, because he is irreplaceable. Still, I’d like to have a partner or at least a non-idiot man in my life. And I just decided that I have to do that without holding anything back. Including my finger. It’s just an external symbol, but it is a symbol, not just to myself but to others.
“How does a man know you’re not married?” my friend Adam asked me a few weeks ago as we were having dinner in Oregon where I was visiting him and his wife Libby. I was complaining that I didn’t get asked out, and Adam was like “Men don’t know what hand a ring goes on. They see a wedding band on your finger, they think you’re married.”
Adam has always had an infuriating way of being right, and he was, in this case. I sorta went “Huh” and finished my cocktail. It wasn’t a conversation that loomed large over me, or that I kept wrestling with. But it did pop up this week as I was texting with a guy from an app who hopefully will not be a disaster. I glanced down at my ring and thought “I should probably take that off.”
It wasn’t about this man. I don’t even know him. It was just like “I am a single woman dating single men and I’m wearing a wedding ring. Huh.”
I am not telling anyone they ever have to take off their ring. You don’t have to do a damn thing you don’t want to do. Your grief and recovery are on you and for you and at your pace. It was weird holding the rings in my hand and not on my finger, and for a few seconds I was like “I will never wear these rings this way again” and that hurt a little.
But then I kissed them and put them in a box, and took this photo of my finger. That indentation will heal. My heart is healing. That loss will never be OK. But I can’t do anything about that, so I can just move forward.
There is no telling if I will ever wear another wedding band. And that’s fine. I got to wear this one. And I am grateful for it. And I am grateful to be here to tell its story.