The dance band plays an old familiar waltz melody. The vocalist moves up to the microphone to sing the lyrics. As he sings, we begin dancing.
"When your old wedding ring was new" That first line, and title, of a 1935 song (© EMI Music Publishing) brings back memories of a long life together. Over 60 years have passed since I placed the shiny gold ring on your finger that hot July night. The years have passed so swiftly, it is hard to believe the worn wedding ring is the same one I placed there that long ago Sunday evening. Although time and wear have dimmed the glitter of the white gold engravings (we could not afford real diamonds) and have worn thin the band, in my eyes, the wedding ring still shines as it did when new.
"And each dream that I dreamed came true" That, they did. As in every marriage, there are ups and downs along the way. But, we persevered and what I had hoped for, a lifetime with you, came true. It was difficult for me to believe you would consent to marry me and that my dreams would come true. But, you did, we did and they did.
"I remember with pride how we stood side by side" A memory that has come back to me so many times over the years. At the time, I could not believe that you really were to be my wife. As I look back, the feeling of wonder still is there. I remember knealing with you at the alter as Mrs. Reid sang "The Lords Prayer", all the while hoping my knees would not "crack" as they were prone to do. I remember lifting the veil and seeing your face for the first time as my wife. How lucky could one person be? I do not know how you felt. I hope you felt as did I.
"What a beautiful picture you made as my bride" The image of you coming down the aisle on the arm of your brother-in-law, Norman, with your scared, sheepish grin has never faded. You said you were so nervous you felt like turning and running the other way. But, Norm told you as you started down the aisle, "We'll make it Dosie." I hope you are glad you did make it down the aisle. I am. You were so beautiful.
"Even though silver crowns your hair" The line does not quite portray what I see today. As with so many women, you have refused to let your hair grow old gracefully. Only you and your hairdresser know your underneath-color, but at 80 plus years, I suspect it no longer the same as when "your old wedding ring was new." Whatever the color beneath that which she puts on your hair every eight weeks does not matter. The simple color of your hair does not dim my memories of when I put the ring on your finger.
"I can still see the gold ringlets there" Neither is this accurate. You were dark brunette. And, I do still see the dark brown hair that was a part of your attraction. The yearbook picture from your sophomore year shows your very dark hair. I clipped this small picture from the yearbook when I first saw you taking tickets at the Marvel Theater, before I wrote you and we became friends. After more than 63 years in my wallet, the photograph is creased and faded, but the hair is still dark.
"Love's old flame is the same as the day I changed your name" Even in times of strife, that love has not diminished. During such times, I had only to remind myself of how you looked that night and how lucky I felt. In times of stress one's emotions often become clouded and angry, especially as the years go by. Upon quiet reflection, however, memories of how I felt that Sunday night erase all anxieties and I feel as I did so long ago.
"When your old wedding ring was new." Although worn thin, and the engravings dulled with wear, I still remember how it sparkled when I placed it on your finger. And, as I looked in your eyes, they sparkled just as brightly. I was happy. I hope you were.
The vocalist steps back from the microphone. The band slowly plays the refrain again. As we move around the floor, a myriad of memories float through my mind, things that have happened in our lives since I first placed the ring on your finger. There were the Army days in Massachusetts, exploring exotic (to us) sights and sounds of picturesque, historic New England; going for "Kimball's Special" sundaes in Littleton; graduate school and postdoctoral research days in Ann Arbor; autumn Saturday afternoons in Michigan Stadium, listening to the marching band play "Hail to the Victors"; lunches in Haven Hall when you were Departmental Secretary in Political Science, a proud accomplishment for only 23 years old; our first little house in Whitmore Lake; Northwood Apartments in Storrs, while beginning my academic career at UConn; arrival of our two daughters, one in Ann Arbor, the other in Storrs; our new Dutch Colonial house in Storrs; sabbatical leave in Madison; University of Wisconsin hockey at the Dade County Collisium; the move back to the University of Illinois and our new larger house in Champaign; annual June trips to the Mammal Meetings; finishing your undergraduate degree in political science at the University of Illinois; the girls leaving for college, first Colleen to Smith College, then Allison to the University of Michigan; your 28 years in Horticulture; my 28 years in the Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution; ball room dancing lessons and New Year's Eve dances at the Regent; January trips to Savannah; summer trips to the Oregon coast; spring trips to England; cruises in North America, Hawaii, Europe, and the Middle East; University Club dinner dances at the Country Club; vacationing in the Beloins cabin on the Maine shore. These and innumerable other experiences along the way have defined our lives together.
All things eventually come to an end. The years caught up with us. We both have passed "four score" and then some. The aches and pains have become more pronounced and linger longer, the hands are shaky, our handwriting no longer resembles the flowing Palmer Method we perfected in Grade School, and we both have had our eye lenses replaced, "cataract surgery." Simply making it through the day is becoming an accomplishment. One of our daughters insists that we keep traveling with her, believing that it is important that we keep active. The other daughter wants us to move to an assisted living facility near her. We understand their concerns. But, it is difficult and tiring for us to fly. Even with a wheel chair or cart, gate changes are difficult. And, we do not want to leave our home, the back yard "garden" with its squirrels, and our dogs. We simply want to be by ourselves and cope the best we can for as long as we can. So, we have continued on. For how long, we do not know. Fortunately, we still have our memories. We can reminisce all the way back to "When your old wedding ring was new."
The vocalist approaches the microphone again.
"When your old wedding ring was new" I remember well when I took it from the pocket of my white tuxedo coat and slid it onto your finger. Your hand was trembling, as was mine. Were we nervous or simply scared? Most likely a little of both.
"And each dream that I dreamed came true" After sixty years of lying next to you at night, all those dreams and many more came true.
"I remember with pride how we stood side by side" And, so we have stood all these years. Memories of the many things we have done together, side by side, reflect how I felt that long ago Sunday night.
"What a beautiful picture you made as my bride" And so you did and still do. No longer a "bride" in time, but a bride in my mind. The picture of you in your wedding dress, coming down the aisle has not faded.
"Even though silver crowns your hair" We now joke about your hair color, lighter than it used to be, but from the hairdresser and not age. She does not recommend it be as dark as it was back then. And, mine white as snow tells all the world the years that we have weathered together.
"I can still see the gold ringlets there" Not gold, but dark brunette, so pretty against your white wedding dress. I still see your face and your dark hair as I turned back the veil.
"Love's old flame is the same as the day I changed your name" Well, maybe not with all the sparks flying as high as they did that long ago night. Age and familiarity dull a lot things, but the "embers" still smolder and the memories still "sparkle."
"When your old wedding ring was new," Although many years have passed, the memories of that long ago hot July night have not faded. You are as beautiful as you were "When your old wedding ring was new."