I casually glanced down at my hand, but instead of a wedding ring and an engagement ring, there was only the narrow gold band.
"Randy!" I yelped. "My engagement ring is gone."
It was Valentine's Day, and my husband, Randy, and I were on our way from my niece's wedding, which had taken place in one town, to the reception, which was being held in another city about fifteen miles away.
If there hadn't been other cars behind us, I think my husband might have been tempted to slam on the brakes.
Of course, one of the things I have always admired about Randy is his ability to remain unruffled during a crisis. Like that time one winter when the landlord had arranged for contractors to build a sloped roof over the flat roof of a house we were renting, and the next thing you know, the snow trapped between the two roofs started melting, and then gallons of water began dripping into the house and THEN the ceiling caved in?
Or that summer when I had agreed to help teach a one-week summer school course at the university for high school students and had come down with a terrible case of the stomach flu on Monday, and Randy had cheerfully agreed to take my place. All week he divided his time between teaching the class and then rushing home to see if I needed anything?
Or the Thanksgiving right after my father had died and we were hauling home some of my parents' furniture-all that I had left in the world of both of them because my mother had died seven years earlier-and it had started to rain part of the way through our 250-mile journey. Randy stopped the pick-up truck we had borrowed from a friend to cut his shoelaces into pieces so he could tie the tarp down better to keep the furniture dry?
In each of those instances, my husband had been an unshakeable source of strength who came to my rescue.
And he didn't disappointment me this time.
"Where did you have the ring last?" Randy asked as he calmly kept driving.
I thought back over the hectic events of the day -
Let's see?just before we left the church, I was busy buttoning up my niece's train?and before that I was occupied with watching the ceremony and trying not to cry?and before that I had been busy pinning on corsages and boutonnieres while the photographer impatiently breathed down my neck, never mind that he was late getting to the church?
When HAD I last noticed I was wearing the blue topaz ring with the delicate gold swirl around the stone?
That was part of the problem. I was not accustomed to seeing the ring on my finger. A few years earlier, I had decided I would only wear it for special occasions. Between cold weather in the winter and gardening in the summer, I put on hand lotion about ten times a day, but if I don't take the topaz ring off every time, then the little crevices get all disgusting, and yet, I was afraid I would lose the ring if I kept taking if off?
"THAT'S IT!" I exclaimed. "Hand lotion!"
My husband gave me a sidelong glance. "Huh?
"Just before we got to the church, I took off my ring and laid it in my lap so I could get some more hand lotion, but I didn't put it back ON."
By this time we had nearly reached the reception hall.
"Check the floor," Randy suggested.
I frantically thrust aside the floor mat?but there was no ring.
Then I groped under the seat. No ring there, either.
Randy quietly asked the next logical question. "Did it somehow fall into your purse?"
I hurriedly checked my purse. Nope. No ring.
"Could it have fallen into your coat pocket?"
My coat had big, horizontal pockets?but?no ring.
"All right," Randy said, as he searched for a place to turn around, "that must mean it fell onto the ground when you got out of the car."
Fell on the ground!
I could feel my throat growing tighter. "What if somebody drove over it?" I wailed.
"Don't get yourself all worked up for nothing," Randy said soothingly.
"For NOTHING? But - it's my ring?the one you gave me when you asked me to marry you?"
Actually, Randy didn't give me the ring. Santa Claus did. In a crowded mall. In front of a group of parents who were there with their kids. When Randy got down on one knee, everyone applauded?
"We'll find your ring," my husband said. "Don't worry."
Although the drive back to the church seemed to take twice as long, we finally reached the parking lot.
"Now, let's see," Randy murmured, "we were parked over there?"
And before I could manage to unbuckle my seat belt, he had stopped the car, thrown open the door and?
"Here it IS!" my husband shouted triumphantly, scooping the ring off the ground.
If I'd felt like crying tears of consternation before, I felt like sobbing with relief now.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Randy said with a smile. "Hold out your hand."
As he slid the ring onto my finger, however, I noticed HIS hands were shaking. And not just a slight tremor.
I pointed this out to him.
"Yes, well," he said, "it's not every day your wife loses her ring in a parking lot and then you spend the next half hour hoping it didn't get stuck in somebody's tire treads."
I stared at him in disbelief.
Oh, sure. For years I've been under the impression that the man didn't have a nerve in his body - that nothing ever rattled him.
And now this.
Then again, it also means that I have discovered one more reason to admire my husband. Even when he's rattled, he can still think calmly in a crisis.
If only he could teach me to do the same thing.
About The Author
LeAnn R. Ralph is the editor of the Wisconsin Regional Writer (the quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Assoc.) and is the author of the book, Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) (August 2003). She is working on her next book, Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam, which will be available later in 2004. Share the view from Rural Route 2 - http://ruralroute2.com