The ring in the sand.
When I was a child my grandmother gave me a green ring from her jewelry box.
Glittering emerald and gold filigree, it was beautiful in an austere, Grandmotherly way. Knowing her, it was probably “costume jewelry” but I treasured it anyways. A little girl doesn’t know or care if her precious items are real gold, or wire painted yellow. All she cares is that it came from someone special. And Gramma was very, very special to me.
I only had it for a few weeks, maybe a month or two at most, before I predictably wore it to a park during the summer and took it off — not wanting to lose it. I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, as I was quite young, but I know I took it off near a pile of sand, or a sandbox, and put it somewhere I thought would be safe from whatever rough-housing game I wanted to play.
When I left I completely forgot about the ring.
It wasn’t long before I realized. Perhaps it was even the same day? When I went back to look for it, I recall the panic I felt sifting through the sand trying to find this small, glittery ring. I can still see the early evening sunlight through the spruce trees; feel the grains of sand slipping through my fingers.
It was never found.
My grandmother was diagnosed with dementia soon after.
The ring was one of the last things she ever gave me that she chose for me to have, while she was still subjectively her.
Even before the diagnosis I instinctively knew something was “off”, and I think I somehow knew the importance of the gift.
She was lucid when she plucked it from the jewelry box on her tan colored dresser. She was still My Gramma when she placed it on my finger, a smile on her face. We were still Us in those moments; doting Gramma and loving Granddaughter.
Of course she was always My Gramma, until the day she died. But anyone with a family member stricken by cognitive decline or brain injury knows there will always be a difference between who they were, and who they become.
That was thirty years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
Just a few snippets of a moment, mere seconds of a childhood which has otherwise been lost to time. I don’t remember a lot from my early life, and the things I can recall are usually unpleasant. My brain likes to tuck away the years, repressing things that hurt too much to think about. That traumatize too much to relive.
But it is indiscriminate in its theft. It takes the bad, and the good.
And I’m left with just a second or two of my grandma’s smile as she gave me a ring.
And the utter hopelessness of sifting through sands trying to find it once it was lost.
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