When I asked her to marry me. I gave her the world’s tiniest diamond.
I bought the ring with cash I’d hoarded in an Altoids tin. I walked into the jeweler and said, “Give me whatever this’ll buy.”
He said, “This is the smallest diamond we got, sir.”
I left with a small box and a promise to pay the twenty-seven-dollars I still owed.
She wore a red blouse the night I fumbled my proposal. It surprised me when she said yes. She could’ve married a man of means—or at least someone with a nicer truck.
Instead, she got a rock the size of an Oxford comma.
To celebrate, we ate at one of those meat-and-three places. We ran into my uncle. Jamie showed him the ring.
He squinted and said, “Lord, if that thing were any smaller it’d belong in a saltshaker.”
Our wedding was in December, our honeymoon landed on Christmas. I wanted to get her a gift, so I bought a carriage ride and a carton of ice cream.
We moved into an apartment the size of a turnip crate. We ate Hamburger Helper for suppers. We had no internet, cellphones, or cable. Instead, we played poker on the floor using Cheez-Its.
She taught preschool. I crawled on people’s roofs with a hammer. In the evenings, we’d eat supper and say painfully corny things like: “I can’t believe we’re really married, can you?”
“Don’t it beat all?” the other would say. “You want some ice cream?”
You bet your Barbie Ring I do.
Then, we’d sit in the den eating, watching a console television I’d salvaged from a roadside garbage pile. When the picture got fuzzy, Jamie would cuss and kick until it improved—making her popular with the downstairs neighbors.
The fact is, our lives have been average. We’ve buried good dogs together, totaled two trucks, and lost one mobile home.
Last spring, they found a lump in her. They took her in for tests. A nurse led us into a sterile room and asked her to remove all jewelry. I tried to be tough.
Jamie took off her ring. I’d forgotten how small the thing was. All I could think about were red blouses, carriage rides, and console televisions.
“Please take good care of that,” she said, laying it in my palm. “It’s the most valuable thing I’ve ever had.”
And when they took her away, wearing her god-awful gown, sitting in that god-forsaken wheelchair, I said the same thing to God.
And even though the Big Man doesn’t owe me nary a thing in this life, sometimes I look at that puny ring…
And remember He’s held up his end of the bargain.