I suspect that I have something rather precious. I know that I will never know for sure, though.
My sister, Keri, raised me. I come from an extremely dysfunctional family. The word dysfunctional seems cute, almost lighthearted, in that context. She died less than two months ago at 41 years old from a combination of illness, drug abuse, and anguish. I went home this weekend to right the wrongs that I could.
One minor, but pertinent fact is that her second marriage was failing when she died. She was in the first steps of her second divorce, in fact.
My brother-in-law gave me a few of her things while I was visiting. He has not given anyone anything of my sister's unsolicited, with one exception: he gave me one of her rings. It has no objective value. It's a large unisex ring, about 3/8" in band width and a hearty 3mm thick or so in most places. It's silver tone and decorated with repeating XOXO's across it in a childlike script. I don't remember a time when my sister (or her husband) did not have the ring. She probably got it sometime before she married her second husband; sometime shortly before I was 7 or 8 years old, at least 16 years ago. It's extremely worn. The ring is no longer a circle. It has been beaten into that certain triangle-type finger form that sturdy but cheap jewelry finds itself abused into. It fits onto my left pointer finger, my biggest finger. (Everyone who has worn the ring has worn it on this finger, out of necessity and ritual. We're a sentimental people.)
My brother-in-law doesn't tell anyone anything and he copes by not feeling. (That was one thing that attracted my sister to him. His ability to completely shut off in a crisis and fight when attacked stood in stark contrast to her soft, feeling nature.) The gift followed an extremely emotional conversation that I forced upon him for the sake of his children. (We both know that in this world the children he and my sister shared are now loved most of all by the two of us.) He didn't say much, but what he did say was very interesting.
He told me that he wanted me to have this ring. It was Keri's. She wore it before him. She gave it to him and he wore it on his left pointer finger for many years. But for the last few years she started wearing it again. Now, he wants me to wear it. He said that it was so big she had worn it on her left pointer finger too. It would probably fit best that way for me as well, he told me.
He watched me put it on. It was meaningful.
The approximate times he gave me lined up with the approximate times that she truly loved him. I wonder if this was some token of my sister's love. They were too poor for him to have a wedding ring. This might have been the ring he wore as a wedding ring. (I vaguely remember that a week prior my mom had said that he doesn't wear a wedding ring. I had told her that I thought he never even had one.)
I wonder if he has a formal wedding ring. Next time I see him I'll look at his hands. I wonder what kind of guilt makes you give your sister-in-law your wedding ring without admitting it. He has sons and a daughter. (My sister died alone while he was sitting in another room of the same house, avoiding her out of spite.)
He would never be so open, but my sister and I had literally no secrets. We were too open, sometimes. She lived a hard life and the knowledge I have in her aftermath has left me torn apart and picking up pieces, instead of grieving like I should be. He knows that.
But still, I wonder. I like to turn the ring, the one bent to our fingers, and imagine. Was this a ring that was connected to a promise of love? Is this a physical sentiment? It would certainly fit her character. She would always do things like that. Our family was devoid of love so anytime we could find, or even imagine, some of it we would commemorate it and lock it away with a token and wear it. I wish that he would tell me the story. (As the holder of all family secrets, it's only fitting that I should wear the wedding ring that the husband was forbidden from wearing by his dead wife.)
Instead of knowing, I'll just cry and twist the ring on my left index finger, imagining the promises of love that this silver potmetal ring probably held.