I had this post worked out in my head for weeks. I had it built until about four hours ago when someone decided that “Hey, when we say something is due on X day, that means whenever, right?”
The concept was simple: This summer, The Missus, The Midget and I went to the Wisconsin Dells for a summer get away. One of the things we did was the rather campy tourist trap thing known as “The Dells Mining Company.” They sell you a giant bucket of sludge with raw gems in it and then try to get you to up the ante by getting a few of those things turned into polished gems and jewelry.
The Midget pulled a lump out of her sifting bin and stared at it with a scrunched up face. “It looks like a meatball!” she said as she rolled the round rock in her hand. She was happy to have it and planned to keep it.
The lady at the counter told us it was a garnet, which sent my wife’s eyes a’sparkling. She has always loved garnets, so much so, she has forsaken her actual birthstone and adopted the red gems as her own. After a bit of back and forth, we agreed to have a couple stones cut from the raw rock. It would take 6-8 weeks and they’d be mailed to us.
I hatched a plan in my head to ferry away the stones from the mail, have them put into some nice earrings and have them for her on our anniversary, which is today.The lady at the jewelry store swore that it would be no problem to have these by the 28th, or even a day earlier. She told me to come back on the 27th and everything would be fine. We chatted a bit about how these stones came to be and what it took to get them there. How it was that something so big and lumpy and non-descript could be polished and shaped into something so worthwhile.
Then, I started thinking about my post. I wanted to do the perfect metaphor post. It was a lead-pipe cinch.
If you knew me back when I met her, you’d know that I was probably the least likely person on Earth to land my wife. I was rough, crude and off-putting. In other words, pretty much like now, but imagine it magnified. It took about a dozen stops and starts, a “OK Fuck It” move to Missouri, about $600,000 in long-distance charges, a midnight run away from Wisconsin with nothing but 10 sweaters and a broken coffee pot, a shaming moment from our parents, a series of epic misfortunes and 18 months of eating Ramen so we could save enough money to do our wedding the way we wanted to, but we got here.
However, my wife isn’t great for these reasons. She’s great because she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. She rubbed away the dirt, cut away the crap and tried to polish me up so that I could see what she saw, and maybe other people could, too.
Over the past 10 years, we have worked the problems we faced, we have found our way and we have done it because of her. She took the initiative to give me one more phone call after I was in the “I’m not talking about her anymore” phase. She realized that we fit together, even if neither of us really saw how at that point. She cut the gem, whatever it was, from the heart of the mess and shined it.
So, here I was today with this post that had info about gem cutting and jewelry making and this wonderful metaphor of life. It was done and waiting for the earrings to arrive. The closing was going to be tonight when I gave them to her at dinner.
I stopped by to pick them up, only to get a blank stare from the woman at the counter. Turns out, that instead of putting “Due Date 9/27” on the package, she needed to put “Due Date 9/27 RUSH” on the package. Apparently that’s the difference between having earrings for my wife and not.
The woman who sold them to me was apologetic. The owner was apoplectic.
I offered to drive to the goldsmith’s and pick them up. They balked. I guess telling a random guy where a shit ton of gold has been sent isn’t a good business plan.
I then offered to meet the goldsmith at a coffee house or a freeway exit ramp or something. No dice.
I told them if they didn’t want to have me drive to the goldsmith, I’d
pay for the gas for them to drive out there. That apparently didn’t work
They told me they’d call me in an hour but they’d work it out. Turns out, that meant that the earrings weren’t done, but they would be done and they’d be happy to give me a pair of earrings to “present” to my wife as a symbol of what was coming.
Right. Because nothing says, “Happy Anniversary” like saying, “Here are some great earrings, but they’re not actually yours.”
Like so much of everything else that happened to us leading up to that wedding, this wasn’t going to be easy.
In July of that year, her grandfather died.
In August of that year, my dad’s mom died. I still have the invitation response card she sent back to us in June. “If the good Lord is willing,” she wrote on the back of the card. “I’ll be there!”
Two weeks before my wedding, my uncle died
My grandmother (mom’s mom) was the reason we were ever able to make that leap of faith and run away from everything and cling to each other. She was so goddamned stubborn that she swore cancer wouldn’t take her before she saw us wed.
After we opened gifts that following morning, I drove her home and hugged her goodbye. When we left her house, a sadness came over me.
“What’s wrong?” my bride asked.
“I can’t say for sure,” I began. “But I have this horrible feeling I just said goodbye to my grandmother for the last time.”
I was right. Three weeks later, she was gone.
I was pondering this when the phone rang. It was the jewelry store. No hope of getting them until Monday. The goldsmith sent a picture for me and the jewelry store sent along a gift card as an apology.
I stopped for a minute, thinking I should be really pissed off. I smiled instead and said, “Thanks for trying. I’ll pick the stuff up this afternoon.”
Maybe it wasn’t the gem that typified who we were. Maybe it was the process.
We improvise, we adapt, we overcome. We try, we fail, we forgive. We love and we cherish.
And we also love to tell stories.
We can add this one to the pile of them we built together over the past 10 years.