"My" Wedding Ring Story

My grandma, Janice Roege, died when I was two. A couple days shy of my third birthday. She was only... I just Googled her name to find out her exact age when she passed, and only found this on an ancestry website, "According to Jean Jacobs, she had polio, was beautiful and died young." 

I have no idea who Jean Jacobs is.

Ironically, the only things I do know about my grandmother are that she was beautiful, she had polio, and she died young. And, also that I liked to comb her bangs, I cried when she tried to paint my toenails, and I once fell asleep on her lap in the back of an old car... according to the three photographs I have with her. No actual memories.

Growing up without a grandma, I'm sad to say, I didn't miss her much. I honestly didn't know what I was missing. My mother was so shaken by her sudden loss, she rarely spoke of her. I only knew that my mother had regrets, and was sad that her mom was gone. I couldn't tell you much about the woman she was or the life that she lived.

When I went to Arizona earlier this year, newly engaged, I explained to my sister that I just wanted a simple wedding ring. She retreated to her room and came back with a box that contained my grandma and grandpa's gold wedding bands, and offered either one as an option. I immediately grabbed the petite gold band and crammed it onto my finger, insisting that it fit perfectly. She urged me to take the larger one, but without any thought, I knew that Janice's was the one that I wanted.

My grandpa was a good man, I think. I actually remember him as an old curmudgeon who yelled at me not to drag my feet on his carpet and told me to go play on the roof. And, I remember being bored to death watching his beloved Cubs play baseball. But, I see pictures of him smiling and hear stories of his warped sense of humor, and I have no doubt that I would love to have a beer with him, and talk sports, politics and business.


But, I have no interest in wearing his ring.

I put my grandmother's ring on right then, and have rarely taken it off since. My immediate nostalgic reaction to this inanimate object has surprised me. There have been moments when I hold onto it and tears roll down my face. Moments where I feel more connected to the women in my family, and powerful because of the history and legacy that it holds.

It seems a bit silly to me. It is just a thing, and she is almost a stranger. But, it feels like something bigger. It feels like a connection to the woman I never knew. An understanding between my mother and her mother, and the loss that we all share. A chance to keep them both with me.

Today I spent the afternoon making wedding plans, and was feeling extra sentimental about embarking on this journey. Then it occurred to me that it was September 21st. The day engraved on "my" wedding band, which I never knew was their anniversary until I read, 'JR & GR 9.21.46.'

Today, sixty-nine years ago, before my mom, my aunt, me, my siblings, polio, cancer or anything else that's happened in life was even an idea, they were a young, handsome couple in love, full of dreams and possibility.

I want to reach into these photographs and hug them. I want to re-write their story. I wish that I knew more of it -- more of them. I wish that they were here. I wish that they knew me, and Julia. I wonder what they would be like... if they would approve.

But, I am grateful to be a part of their story, no matter how small. And, I am happy to wear her ring.

Happy anniversary, Gene and Janice.