Over the last several months I have had many moments of reaching for or dealing with the phantoms around me. The phantom voice in the house, the reach across the bed for the movement that couldn't have happened. These I suspect are all normal things and with time they will slowly disappear, perhaps to my chagrin. I tried to cover the phantoms, keeping things piled up on her side of the couch so the emptiness wasn't there, putting teddy bears on her side of the bed. I even started making the bed daily, something we didn't do at all, but this made it less clear that there was a missing impression on her side of the bed.
Yesterday, I managed to create my own phantom. The phantom ring. I was still happily wearing my wedding ring and really had no direct plans to remove it back in July. In July, I got notice from my class officers after my 25th reunion that our class ring was again available. I hadn't been able to afford a class ring when I was in college so I jumped at the chance to buy one now. Last Friday my ring arrived and I decided at that point that I would stop wearing my wedding ring. 3 days later I took it off and handed it to a jeweler along with my wife's ring and the original diamond from her engagement ring. They are going to work on a pendant for me to wear. But then I started out of the jeweler and had to fight the urge to go back in, cancel the order and get back my ring. I fought the anxiety all the way home, and then called my mother-in-law to talk about...well socks :D. I thought by the time I got home I was doing pretty well, then overnight the anxiety won and I woke up in a cold sweat and shaking from head to toe. It took me a good 15 minutes to resettle myself which makes for a rather tiring start to the day as I lost a good 45 to 60 minutes of sleep. For 24 years that ring had always been on my finger, I could probably count on my two hands the sum total of days that a ring was not on that finger. It was like losing another companion.
So when I did get up this morning, I started messing with that section of my finger. It took a moment, but then I recalled that it was a nervous habit of mine for 24 years to fiddle with my wedding ring. Now my habit has nothing to play with. I started scratching at the spot without thinking about it, trying to spin the ring around my finger which isn't possible. The ring on my right hand is very different than a wedding ring, doing what I did with my wedding ring with it would leave my fingers bloody most likely. It has square edges and a tall face. And now I wonder how long it will take me to stop reaching for the ring. As much as the thought of having our two rings combined into something I can wear, a part of my is crying out to have my ring back on my finger.
I know I wasn't required to do this, or even pushed into it by anyone but myself. But sometimes doing what I think is best, may be just a little too quick. You can't race through grief, you can't check boxes off on some sheet of paper and suddenly come out on the other side. You can't wash it away with soap and a towel. Some phantoms have to be endured for a while to let them stop having a hold on you. And I am sure some phantoms will never go away. So now I will be slightly stressed for 2 to 3 weeks while they make something for me, waiting eagerly to see if this will calm the war inside my chest. I know I could always buy myself another basic ring to put on that finger if I really had to, or I could wear the temporary ring I bought when I had to have my original ring resized down 3 sizes. But it wouldn't hold the meaning and so I doubt that the simple comfort of having something there would really last.
I have to be a bit in awe of the people who have managed to get through these hurdles so far. Every step brings a little pain but once I muscle through it, it starts to feel okay.