Rings. It’s more than just a Ring.

“Do you like me better than you like Antonio?” Crystel asks last night at bedtime. I laugh. She laughs. I shake my head back and forth. She knows that I won’t answer that question. She’s asked before. “There is an abundance of love,” I tell her.

Sometimes as parents we are asked to put into practice what we say.

Last May, Crystel, Antonio, and I designed a ring for Jody’s 50th birthday. The children were very cognizant that their individual birthstone represented their ten-year-old self and jockeyed to have their stone be the closest to Jody’s birthstone.

One evening, after Jody received her ring, Crystel and I were lounging on the couch together. She told me that she wanted to create a ring like we did for Mama Jody with her and her birthparents stones on it. To clarify, I asked, “Just you, your birthmom, and your birthdad?”

“Yes,” she replied.

I felt a twinge. Why not one with Mama Beth, Mama Jody, and Crystel?

Then I was touched that she felt safe enough to tell me what she wanted and that she wasn’t worried about my response. There is an abundance of love. Right, Mama?

I got my laptop. We went to Jared’s website to design the ring that she wanted. First, she picked the design. Second, she took the laptop from me and put it on her lap. Third, she moved her birthstone to be in the middle, her mom’s next to her, and then stopped.

“What should I use for my dad’s birthstone?” she asked.

“For now, you can guess,” I said. “We will ask your mom when your dad’s birthday is. She is the one who will know. For right now, pick the one that you think it is.”

Her mom’s birthday is in September the same as hers. So, in her mind, since her dad was probably older, because all dads are older, it must be October, November, or December. She picked November.

Looking at the cost of the ring, Crystel saw that it would take her life savings. And, she still wouldn’t have enough money. It would take six more months for her to have a total of $225.00.

The ring for Jody was a symbol of her family always being with her and of our love for her. Crystel designed her ring with this same sentiment. Her mom and dad would always be with her. She was loved.

I felt proud of her for taking care of a want that she had. She wanted a representation of being loved by her mom and dad. She wanted them to be real to her. She wanted them always with her. Her ring was a way of her taking charge of her story. Yes, she was adopted. Yes, she had a family in Guatemala. Yes, she was thee Crystel.

She was living out the adage … don’t wait for someone to buy you flowers …. bless yourself.

Crystel was going to do for herself instead of waiting for something that would never ever happen. That could never ever happen. She wasn’t going to be bitter about it. She wasn’t going to be angry. She wasn’t going to be depressed. She was going to design a ring, put herself in the middle of her birthparents and be cradled by the universal belief that she was loved.

In June, during our visit with her mom, I asked the birthdate of Crystel’s dad and jotted down February in the small notebook I carried.

Crystel continued to save her money.

$225.00 dollars later, Jody, Antonio, and I accompanied Crystel to Jared’s to place her order. The person who was helping us suggested that the purple stone (Amethyst) be in the middle of the two blue stones (Sapphire). That would be more aesthetically pleasing, he said. I looked at Crystel. She shook her head.  I understood. She wanted to be held in her parent’s arms. She needed the middle spot.

“No,” I said. “Blue (mom), blue (Crystel), and Purple (dad). Just like she wants them.”

There was much discussion about the sizing of the ring. Which finger would be best as she grew from being a 10-year-old to a young adult. We determined that her middle finger was the correct size and as she grew she could move it to another finger. Jody and I talked to her about how we never take our rings off and that she didn’t need to either. She could always have her birthparents with her.

There is an abundance of love.

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Companion for the Journey

Several close friends and I are immersed in the heartbreaking work of caring for elderly parents who are fading.

One friend’s father is growing more and more forgetful. When she asks what he had for dinner, he can’t recall whether or not he ate. But they conclude he must have eaten, because his caregiver would have made sure he did. He’s in his 80’s and his heart condition is responsible for the memory loss. It’s so hard to realize that this man, who had been an incisive school administrator with a sharp wit, can’t recall if he took his pills or not.

Another close friend’s 86-year-old father is very frail and losing the battle with congestive heart failure. He’s thin, weak and his heart and kidneys can’t keep up with the demands of moving blood and removing excess fluid. The sports teams he used to love to watch barely stir his interest now—he’s too tired and worried to care about a touchdown.

My 91-year-old mother has grown more forgetful in the last six months, and she knows it. For years, she could be counted on to manage all of the household and financial details while she cared for my Dad, whose health was deteriorating. Her sister Corinne was also in poor health recently, and Mom helped manage her affairs, too.  Now, however, Mom

Mom, me, Aunt Corinne

relies on extensive notes so she can recall phone conversations, her plans for the day, or what to tell the doctor—not just a list of topics to cover with him, but the logic behind her requests. Today, she’s still able to manage living in her own home with the help of my siblings and me. But who knows how much longer that will work?

My friends and I are all take-charge women. We know how to solve problems and get things done. What’s hard is the realization that there’s little we can do to change the course of events. We can’t “fix” our parent’s health issues—whether memory loss or congestive heart failure. For them, there’s no going back to great health. Instead, we try to slow the decline, help them stay as long as possible on each new plateau.

I’m working on accepting the inevitable. I’m trying to be Mom’s companion for the journey.

I’m doing my best to enjoy Mom while she’s here. So we talk, I give her homemade cookies, I help with household chores when I visit, and when she says, “You know, I’m not going to be around forever,” I look her in the eye and say, “Yes, I know.” I believe it’s important to let her say what’s in her heart and not dismiss her feelings with fake cheeriness. But the moment passes and we refocus on having fun—a good meal, a good laugh, a good memory. A lot of days, that’s enough.