Valentine’s Day 2021

By NANCY PATRICK

This past Valentine’s Day found me held hostage in my home by a rare Texas blizzard and power outage. As I shivered beneath a thick comforter, I reflected on February 14, 1967, when my husband Mike proposed to me. Passionately in the throes of young love, we had attended a Sweetheart Banquet for our church that evening. Mike had the perfect backdrop for the romantic and life-changing event.

Of course, I accepted his proposal, so we went to my family’s home to share our news with my parents. My dad, readying for bed, had already removed his dentures for the night. When Mike asked him to wait a bit so he could ask him a question, my dad stopped his trek to the bedroom and waited. 

Mike, naturally nervous, looked at Daddy and said, “Buddy, Nancy and I thought we would get married if it’s okay with you.” A clown by nature, my dad responded with his toothless mouth and impaired ability to enunciate with the words, “Y’all in love?” And so began the story of “us.”

When Mike and I were married at the ages of eighteen and twenty, we had absolutely no idea what marriage would entail. As with most young lovers, we felt as if youth, health, opportunity, and passion had no “use by” dates on them. Surely, we would always exist in the beauty and promise of spring.

We soon learned that life, just as the calendar year, has its own seasons. I really enjoyed our seasons of youthful marriage and family building as we both pursued our educations and careers. Those years, though busy, active, and sometimes chaotic, provided a wealth of joy. 

Now that I’m in the winter season of my life, I find myself feeling nostalgic about the wonder and magic of the life-building years. So many things blessed me: faithful parents who loved me, a good husband, a loving son, and a fulfilling teaching career that spanned more than thirty years.

Nancy Patrick’s rings left to right–promise ring, winter 1967; engagement ring (summer 1968) welded to wedding band (November 1968); plain gold band,1993; diamond band, 2015

Retirement years have made me nostalgic about many aspects of my life. One of those relates to a few particular items that I treasure. When Mike and I were first engaged, he did not have money to buy an engagement ring, so he gave me what we called a “promise ring.” It has a tiny chip diamond in it.

The summer before we married, he had the opportunity to purchase a cut diamond and setting from a wholesale jeweler. He bought the matched set of an engagement ring with a solitaire and the matching wedding band. On two separate occasions over the next twenty years, my solitaire fell out of the setting.

The first time I lost it was in Princeton, Illinois, in 1975. This was Mike’s first full-time pastorate, and we lived in a lovely parsonage that sat on a nice piece of land that accommodated the church building as well as the house. Between the two buildings lay a gravel parking lot. Imagine my dismay when I got home from church one Sunday and noticed that my diamond was missing! (Don’t panic yet.)

The second time I lost the entire ring. My son Jason and I had walked to Bonham Elementary School from my parents’ house on Hawthorne Street to play pitch. When we returned to the house, I pulled my baseball mitt off and discovered my naked hand—no ring!

I saved the good part for this paragraph. The first time I lost the diamond, Mike discovered it by lying flat on the floor in the parsonage and angling his eye, hoping the sun might glint off the stone. It happened! I could not believe that in all the possible places the diamond could have fallen, it fell in my own kitchen. 

The second time, I walked up and down the alley that connected my parents’ house to Bonham Elementary until I finally caught that glint of sunlight on my precious ring. At that point, I decided I had used all my luck, so I had the rings welded together and began wearing them to church, school, or other events where I was not likely to lose them.

In the meantime, I had told my dad that I thought I would feel safer wearing a plain gold band rather than the diamond, so he presented me with his wedding band that he could no longer wear. I had it sized and polished and cherished it even as I still wear it today.

One more ring figures into my story of love and rings. When my mother died, I inherited a diamond ring my dad had given her years before. Its setting did not fit my lifestyle or personality, but I wanted to retain it as part of my mother’s gift to me.

I designed a setting appropriate to my tastes and had a local jeweler make me a beautiful new ring with my mom’s diamonds. I sometimes wear it as my wedding band and as a reminder of the years of relationship signified in that ring. My parents’ marriage lasted sixty-five years before Daddy’s death.

These lasting relationships change with time, but they do not have to break. As I look at the rings Mike gave me as a teenager and the plain gold band my dad gave me and then the one I had made from my mother’s ring just a few years ago, I have so many memories of what went into the making of those rings. As I wear each ring, I think of events surrounding the gifting of that ring, and I treasure the relationship symbolized by each.

 Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing

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