Here’s a text message I got from Susan earlier today: “Your dad’s ring brought $42. It was platinum.”
There’s a story behind that news: if that ring had fulfilled its intent, I wouldn’t be here. I would not exist.
In 2002, a few weeks after my father died, I went through the filing cabinet that he kept by his desk, deciding on what to keep, and what to throw out. Most of the contents of that filing cabinet were vaguely familiar to me; toward the end of his life my father had sometimes asked me to find letters or documents in there. But my role changed when I had to look through it after he had died. I went from being a copy boy to a kind of editor. I had to make decisions about what to keep, and what to throw out.
At the very back of one the drawers was a small, black box that I had never seen it before. In it was a ring; silver, I thought. It was quite simple in design. The ring was nestled on the cushion in the box. Inside the top of the box I saw the name of the jeweler and where the ring had been made: “Pensacola, Florida.”
Pensacola was where my dad had been stationed while in the Navy during WW II. I had heard a few stories of what he was doing while there. Already in medical research, he was involved in experiments that tested oxygen levels in pilots as they flew high. I knew little about what his life had been like on the ground.
Once, when I was probably no more than 10 or 11, I remember meeting a couple from Pensacola who visited my parents. She was introduced to me as having been a friend of my dad’s when he was in Pensacola. I left immediately after being introduced; she was quite boisterous and everyone was laughing a lot about things that meant nothing to me.
I never saw her again. The last I heard – probably another 20 years or so later – was that she had died. About 20 years after she died, my father died. A few weeks after my father’s death I discovered that ring from Pensacola – that engagement ring from Pensacola – in the back of a drawer in my father’s filing cabinet.
I took it out, put it in my pocket, and took it back to Ithaca where we were living at the time. I saved it, though I couldn’t have told you why. But we’ve now moved five times since it came into my life, and we’ve been doing our best to divest ourselves of too much stuff – and too much history.
So, today, the ring sold for $42. Story over.