Before I can tell you that story, I need to tell you this: most Japanese men choose not to wear a wedding band. Apparently, they think it seems ostentatious. I'm not sure this is true, but I do know that you won't figure out a man's marital status by looking at his left hand. I also know that, while many Japanese women friends of mine received stunning diamond rings for their engagements, they placed them in safety deposit boxes instead of on their fingers. So, if we really want to talk about symbolism, we have to give Ren props for deciding to wear his wedding band at all--it certainly symbolizes a willingness to be different than the men around him.
Then Ren's wedding band just disappeared. It happened one day about 4 months after our wedding. Ren was mystified and spent the next several days looking for it. I couldn't believe he'd lost it--then again he did have a bit of a habit of losing expensive things (his wallet, his watch, cash), so I could totally believe it. It's hard not to read too much into your spouse losing his wedding band, though. So, I bit my tongue and let him search.
After days of searching, he finally dug it out of the ashes of our fire pit. How he figured out it was there, I'll never know, but when he finally uncovered it, it was totally black, coated with soot. Never have I been so glad we went with the platinum bands instead of gold. Gold would've melted in those flames. Once Ren wiped the band, it looked good as new, maybe even better.
The next time he lost it, we were spending our first winter in the Midwest. For a guy who grew up in southern (western) Japan, the snow was a totally new and somewhat unwelcome phenomenon. The night Ren lost his ring, we had 6 or 8 inches of fresh snow, and as he went to unlock the front door, the ring slipped off his finger and into a snow drift. It melted into the snow so quickly, there was no hope of finding it. Ren had to wait for the thaw to find it under a bush near the front porch.
After that, we had the band re-sized.
Since then, Ren's only taken the ring off three times. Each time has been for a surgery. In the 15 years we've been together, Ren's had six major surgeries: three shoulder, one eye, two back. Since the ring was re-sized, he's had three. Each time, he slips his ring off and hands it to me, and I hold on to it until he's out of surgery and recovered enough to get it back on his hand. There is no fire or ice, but holding his ring feels symbolic just the same. When I'm holding the ring, it feels like we have slipped into a liminal space--we are neither here nor there. We are waiting, wondering how our lives will be altered when the dust settles. I don't like holding the ring, but I know I am the only one who can.
Today, Ren took off his ring for back surgery #3. No telling whether this one will do the trick. We're hoping, at least, that he will regain some mobility. Only time will tell, but in the meantime I will sit here, wearing his band on my wrist until he's ready to wear it again.
Nothing seems quite right when I'm holding the ring.