Santa and little girl

Over 50 years ago his rings gave this Santa a way.

Men wear rings for as many reasons as there are men, and then there are some who don’t wear them at all.  There was a family tale told by my father about his wearing a ring during his younger years. In the early1930s it could have been a wedding ring.  Whatever it represented is really not important.  By the time he was rescued from the side of a threshing machine where he hung by that ring, his third finger left hand, and his grappling right hand searching desperately to find a saving hold, the ring was history.  With his feet firmly planted on the ground, my father said he pulled the ring from his finger and threw it as far into the field as he could.  Never again to wear any rings until he had retired and my sister gave him a birthstone ring, which he loved.  I suppose he felt by then it was safe to garnish his hand with an emerald set in gold.  My dad was fortunate, and seriously, anyone who works around machinery or construction should leave the rings at home.

When Ken and I married we exchanged rings which had been engraved on the inside with our initials and wedding date.  Romantic as it was, we never looked at the lovely cursive letters after our wedding day because we never removed the symbols of our marriage until they were near worn through and we bought replacements.  But long before the replacements, I purchased him another ring for his birthday.

I had received an introductory coupon for a jewelry store in another city – not far away – but not in our shopping hub either.  The offer was good enough that I drove the miles to see what I could find as a special gift. With the coupon and my tight budget I found just the ring I knew he would like.  The design was probably quite common and might even still be available.  Engraved in black onyx was the head of a knight in full armor, and at the time I thought it was somewhat unusual and very handsome – just like the soon-to-be recipient.  He opened the box, smiled his approval, and slipped the ring on his finger where it remained until it needed repair.

My husband was really very hard on jewelry.  Not removing the rings when he did honey-do jobs around the house or replaced a fence, mixed concrete or changed a tire is not the way to keep rings looking their best, especially when I noticed the palm view.  “Good grief,” I once said, “they’re both bent out of shape.  He reassured me they could be straightened when the time came.  I suppose he was right and being the busy, active man he was I didn’t fret over his decision.

As soon as our children started school, he was involved in PTA, and in our school’s Dads’ Club as well.  There were dozens of activities throughout the year.  Not only projects for the school – building sets, planting gifted trees — but fun events for the children:  picnics for the Traffic Patrol, Easter egg hunts on the school grounds, Halloween parties and bringing Santa Claus to the Dads’ Club Christmas party.

Our close neighbors John and Fred, and Ken were all involved in working together for the good of the schools and the children.  They were almost like brothers, and when they weren’t working with the school, or some other worthy organization, they were helping one another almost every Saturday.   Being close friends, we were constantly in and out of each other’s homes almost on a daily basis.  It was a wonderful neighborhood for bringing up children, and we loved their kids nearly as much as we did ours.

While pleased with their father’s involvement, the children of our three families found there was also a down side.  “I know their costumes were great, but I can’t judge them the best, nor can we allow Fred or John’s kids to win.  As judges and workers in the club, it would look like nepotism.  People would think they won because of us,” Ken explained.  I knew what he said was true, but it just wasn’t fair.

The following year our daughter Julie wouldn’t allow her father to see her costume and arrived that evening as a tombstone which I helped her put on after we arrived at the school because she couldn’t sit down.  Clad in an oblong cardboard box painted gray with the appropriate R.I.P. lettered across the front which covered her head and body with arm holes so she could keep her balance Julie was unrecognizable and a contender.  It was all right that she didn’t win, but she did receive the well-deserved credit despite her father.

With Halloween over, the club jumped right into preparation for the coming Christmas party. “Hey, Ken,” asked the club president.  “Will you be Santa Claus.”  Well, of course, he would be Santa.  He loved that sort of thing, and not even our own children knew who Santa would be.

All the neighbors were there and during the program part where we sang the wonderful old hymns of the Baby Jesus lying in the manger, Silent Night and Jingle Bells while the little ones anxiously watched the empty chair next to the Christmas tree on side stage. Ken sat with me and the children, together with our neighbors and their children.  Our Kevin was best friends with Steve and Doug who were the sons of John and Fred, and all three were among the anxious little boys waiting for Santa.

Ken had slipped away to get into costume, and as the children clamored and began to form a line to visit with the jolly old elf no noticed his exit.  One by one the children took their a turn sitting on Santa’s lap telling him how good they had been and reciting their list of hoped-for toys to be delivered on Christmas Eva.  Santa gave each visitor a gift and they went their merry way.  Many of the small ones still believed and came away wide-eyed and excited about their experience.  Steve, Kevin and Doug wanted to believe, but they knew better all the while rattling off their list of wants and accepting the small gift.

Later that night as Fred and his wife Phyllis were putting Doug and little sister Lisa to bed Doug whispered to his dad, “I know who Santa was.”  Fred looked at his boy disbelieving, yet smiling, and replied, “No, you don’t.”  “It was Ken,” said Doug. “I could tell by his ring.”  I guess that’s why Santa should always wear gloves.

Many years later, and it was no wonder, the shank on the knight ring broke so it was away to the jewelers for repair.  Other than a few minor chips on the onyx the ring looked almost new when we picked it up.  Pleased, Ken slipped it back on his finger.  There it remained; the knight on the right hand and his wedding ring on the left.

Several years into Alzheimer’s when the mind begins to play tricks, and forgetting is the usual, I noticed he began to fidget with things: rearranging decorating items or taking them, putting magazines under sofa cushions, hiding keys, confiscating the remote control, insisting it was one of his engineering tools – more signs that AD was winning.  He also began slipping the rings off and on his fingers, playing with them like prizes from a gum ball machine.  One day I found the rings rattling around the bottom of my washing machine after removing a load of laundry.  Ken, no doubt, had placed them in his shirt pocket, soon to be forgotten.

A few days later he asked, “Have you seen my rings?”

Reluctantly I returned them explaining where I had found them and suggesting that he leave them on his fingers.  A week later while dusting in the living room I found them looped onto a fern nearly lost among the greens.  Enough, I thought, I’ll just put them away for safe keeping.  I believe he asked about them once.  I told him if I found them I would give them back.  I didn’t, and soon they were forgotten.  Apparently, the sentiment and the value of cherished items had slipped away with so much of who Ken was.  The rings:  Still put away safely until one day, perhaps, one of my grandsons will grow up to be someone’s  knight in shining armor — just like his grandpa – and I will pass them on.

Originally posted 2011-12-17 04:08:47.


  • Chessa Honey says:

    Good morning aromick, you are putting words to my memories. We had to gently remove Gigi’s rings and her other jewelry during her time with AD. Sometimes we would find earings wrapped in paper towels all folded up in little used make-up containers or once my mom found my Gigi’s mother’s ring in the bottom of the magazine basket. I think the scariest time was when she lost her emerald and diamond right had ring that Papa had given her for their 35th wedding anniversary. Thankfully after much searching we found it deep in her bed, by her feet. Sometime in the night she had awoke and took off the ring and it got lost in the covers. Her wedding ring is the only ring she did not take off, we eventually took it off for fear of it being lost. Recently, my mom took in to the jeweler what she thought were the beautiful strand of pearls my Papa had given Gigi for an anniversary. They were in the beautiful black case they came in but they had broken sometime over the years. When she took them to the jeweler she was stunned to find out they were fake. In a bit of panic for a day she went home and found two more strands of pearls just randomly laying in the bottom of my Gigi’s jewelry box. Praise the Lord that one of those random strand’s was the real strand! Why the fake ones were in the black box we will never know but what a mercy of the Lord to find the real ones. They had such special meaning to Gigi and Papa. Papa wore his original wedding ring until near his death when we had to take it off. The same precious ring over 65 years, they were so deeply in love. Even when she did not know him he loved her immensely. I love the sound of the neighborhood you raised your children in. It sounds very much like the one my grandparents raised their children in. I loved hearing the stories over the years. I miss my grandparents terribly. Thank you for giving me a little place to share my memories.

    • aromick says:

      So nice to share memories with you and find a common ground of not only AD, but the good times we have enjoyed before AD took over the lives of our loved ones. Your grandmother reminded me of my mom (also an AD victim), and losing her rings, but not so far gone because she remembered not knowing where she put them. Eventually they were found. I felt kinda bad taking Ken’s rings, but I also knew they would be lost if I didn’t. He missed his good watch as well so I bought him a cheap one which he checked often even though he had broken it beyond recognition which didn’t matter because he had forgotten how to tell time. It’s a good thing that we are blessed with wonderful memories that get us through the tough times. Remembering who he was and who we were as parents with growing children are treasures. I visited your blog and see that you have five children: correct? Our children: 3 boys and 2 girls, all grown with mostly grown children of their own. Our lives have been filled with joy, and even with the dreaded AD I find gratitude that we had so many good years together.

  • shel9 says:

    As I read towards the end, I was thinking how unimportant THINGS are. Only the significance that we put on them, makes them important. The real important thing is the sealing you have. There will be plenty of time later to remember things.

    • aromick says:

      So true. It is the significance we place on our things that gives them importance. Yet, during our brief time here we do “enjoy” and appreciate that which we have acquired for whatever reason. In the end, though, our stuff goes on to others to do with as they choose, significant or not, while we take with us what is of real importance. Thanks Shelly

  • Chessa Honey says:

    Hi aromick…I am sorry I forgot to come back and respond to your previous note. Yes, we also have 3 boys and 2 girls! 🙂 Our oldest who is 15 1/2 now was 3 when Papa and Gigi came to live with us so until now our youngest 4 have never known life without Papa and Gigi. Photos and memories that replay the joys of the years are treasures beyond words.

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