...in the spring of 2002, Joey and I were sitting on the bed next to each other one evening, talking about the future, and I asked her what kind of engagement ring she wanted someday. She thought about it, then said, “Something old, I think. Maybe something antique that has some personality and history to it...”
That’s strange, I thought. Then I remembered something but thought, No, I shouldn’t mention it. But Joey kept talking about how she liked silver and platinum and diamonds that have unique cuts to them. So I got up from the bed and walked across the room to the dresser.
From the back of my sock drawer, I pulled out a little leather box and nervously carried it over and sat beside her on the bed. “You mean, like this one?” I opened the box, and inside was exactly what she had described. An antique engagement ring from the 1920s made of platinum, with little blue sapphires on the sides and an oval-shaped diamond sparkling on the top. Joey’s eyes lit up.
“It’s not what you think,” I said. “I bought it for another girl a couple of years ago. I gave it to her. A few times... I was trying to make something terrible work. It ended up being thrown across the floor of an Alan Jackson concert. And I just never figured out what to do with it. I need to take it somewhere and sell it.”
Joey slowly slid it on her finger... and it fit. Perfectly. “Don’t get rid of it,” she said. “I’ll wear it if you ever decide that you want to ask me.”
What? I thought. What is she talking about? She should be mad at me right now. Upset that I still even have such a thing or that I would show it to her. Instead, Joey treated me as though I had done something good by buying that ring and hanging on to it... as if I had just given it to the wrong person. She made me feel like all the ring needed was time... to find the right left hand.
God, I loved her.
That's chapter 32 in the book I first wrote about a couple months ago in the blog post 'from blog to book'. Part of it anyway.
I love that story, for lots of reasons. Because it makes no sense... how Joey was. So forgiving. So secure in who she was and what mattered and what didn't. Because it makes me cry, thinking about how God took that ring and the commitment we made to each other two months later and turned it into something more beautiful than neither Joey or I could've ever imagined at the time. And I also love that story because it reminds me how lucky I was. How lucky I am now. To have loved her. To love her still.
There are hundreds of stories in the book like the one above about the ring. Stories where I am amazed by Joey. Or amazed by God. Or both. Stories about my mother's strength and my father's weakness and how both of those things are inside of me now. All part of a bigger story about the man that I was, and the man Joey married and also the man that I'm learning to become.
The folks at Thomas Nelson, the publishing company who are putting the book out in stores this coming Valentine's Day have been very kind to me. They took the seventy-something thousand words and the stories that I wrote and made very few changes to them... knowing that it was important to me to be able to tell the story in my own 'voice', even if technically I may have broken some rules of grammar and punctuation now and then.
Knowing that I had written the book over a couple months time on my laptop and turned it in electronically... Matt, who runs the imprint of Thomas Nelson, printed out the whole book at his office for me and gave it to me a week or so ago. I keep staring at it. Turning pages and picking it up. Feeling how heavy it is. It's incredible for me to see my life, or a good bunch of it, on paper for the first time...
And like that stack of papers with the rubber band around it, what the book is about is heavy too at times... but it's also light. Full of light actually. The kind that it took me a lifetime of darkness to really see. And a great woman's love to really feel.
Joey would be so proud of this book. I know she would. She's always encouraged me to share our story and to one day, tell mine, and how she became part of it. And it's finally come to be. Because of her. She's still making my dreams come true, even now. Though it was my hands that typed the words and my name will be on the front cover, it isn't just my book. It's ours. Joey's and mine. Half of the book is about her. About us together. About me without her now.
The final editing and typesetting of the book are now complete and it will be heading the printers shortly. And before long I'm told, I'll be able to hold the actual book in my hands. And everyone else will too.
Matt and his team also told me that the book goes on sale today. Pre-sale that is. And as I understand it, they are including the first couple of chapters of the book when folks pre-order it online.
If you'd like to learn more about it, or pre-order the book, go to www.thislifeilivebook.com
And Joey's engagement ring now?
It's on our middle daughter's hand. Hopie wears it so proudly everywhere she goes.
When she comes over in the mornings from her apartment above the big barn and I see it on her finger... it makes me smile and remember that day in '02 when I first showed the ring to Joey. And also remember that day last winter in a makeshift bedroom in Indiana... Joey slid it off her own finger and smiled as she slid it onto her daughter's.
Knowing that when one chapter ends - another begins. And that Hopie's was now the right left hand.