My Ring

by Ken on April 15, 2011

Jewelry has never been something that I value much. I  skipped the bracelets and the necklaces for the most part – other than to perhaps buy something for a significant other. I do like watches but recently purchased a Timex to replace my broken Citizen’s watch (paid $35 for it) and have liked that watch as much as any I have  owned before. Good bye expensive watches!

But I say the above with one exception – and that is my right hand ring. In 5 short years I will have had and worn this ring for 50 years.

This ring is not really valuable – it is of standard gold, has a chipped star Safire as its center piece which is  surrounded by an assortment of 6 semi-precious stones – actually 5 now that one fell out somewhere along the line. No one would look at the ring as having great value.

It has survived an active life on my hand and shows the nicks and bruises that come to all material objects in this universe.

It is the object I’ve owned the second longest – other than my body itself – and they tell me even it has recycled many times in the interim. I do have a Teddy Bear a bit older.

My father had it made for me in 1966 while in Vietnam. He was a 36 year old father of two sons (and two daughters) whom he left behind with his wife in the States as he served a year as a fighter pilot flying F-4 fighter jets through 100+ combat missions over enemy territory. I can only image the thoughts that would range through one’s mind as life was risked daily; existing among folks not known the year before, knowing his family of 5 remained and needed him at home some 12,000 miles away.

I can imagine the thoughts I would have in such a situation. I know that among them would be the fondest thoughts of my family and some concern if I’d be able to leave an adequate legacy to my sons should I not return.  I know he had those thoughts and they must have compelled him to create and to leave something special.

What he did was to design two special rings and have them made there in Thailand.

After they were made I later learned that he wore them, one on each hand, during at least one of his combat missions. Dad is no sentimentalist but I believe that many of us, in our hearts, can understand why he did it. Perhaps an internal symbology – maybe part of a  prayer? Regardless of our religious certainties or doubts, among the vagaries of our thoughts, prayers tend to come to us all.

I remember his return, in early summer of 1967. We had all coped with the year’s ordeal – in our own ways. While his return was the greatest gift, he also bore gifts of a more material nature. We stood in Mom’s and Dad’s bedroom on the second floor of our Dayton home as he passed out the accumulated trinkets of his year away.

Mike’s and mine were the rings. Somehow calling our two special gifts “material” or “trinkets” would be an understatement.

I’ll speak now in present tense – for the ring still exists (unfortunately Mike’s got away from him somehow – I don’t think he was yet 10 years old at the time – and I know he regrets it).  Around the safire is a series of letters: A “K”, an “I”, two “C’s” and two “P’s”. Each is round and prominent. I’d never seen anything like it – and in the years since I still have not.  It was designed, uniquely, by Dad for his two sons.

What did the letters mean?

Ring 004 (Large)

He had evidently thought long on this. I was a 14 year old lad with the normal problems of a 14 year old. I’d not thought deeply on life at that time. Yet Dad handed to me something that summarized certain principles of life that are true  that I don’t believe that happiness can be achieved without them.

He explained that these were, he considered, the key principles that a young man should always live by. These, of course, applied to men and to women – but these were for his sons.

He explained: The “K” stands for “Knowledge”; the ”I’ for Integrity. One of the “C’s” stands for “Courage” and the other “Conviction”. The “P’s” stand for “Purpose” and for “Perseverance”.

I listened and perhaps only partially understood, as a child might understand a Van Gogh painting.

I had a vague understanding of the first one – “Knowledge”. I had heard of “Courage” but only had glib ideas of its true meaning. “Purpose” made sense to me. “Integrity” I had to look up in the dictionary to attempt some sort of understanding as well as the word “Conviction” – which I had never heard in that context. “Perseverance” was also a new word to me. I looked up each. Each was, really, a new concept to me – my first introduction to philosophy and to basic principles of life.

I have gazed upon this ring, on my right hand, for nearing 50 years now. And each age I have lived has brought new meaning to these words. Each period, each game, each adventure as left me gazing at those letters and their meaning wondering if I have lived up to them. At times I have not. But occasionally I have.   Sometimes I’ve learned extended and fuller meanings which escaped my earlier grasp. “Courage” has become something much broader to me as time as passed – and I have found, interestingly, that the six concepts are each related. It is difficult to have any without the other five. They’re joined.

At times I look and I see a new twist, a new insight into my own life or perhaps the lives of others.

This ring – a small symbol of wisdom from a father to a son. A priceless gift.

I can say that I value this ring more than any single object I own.

How did Dad pick those perfect words? What was his inspiration?Ely & Papa 3

I try to live my life by a stated philosophy and thanks to my father, and to this ring, these concepts were introduced to me at a young age to perk through my mind and to, perhaps,  mature through the passage of time.

These are concepts that we intrinsically know – but still need them pointed out to us. Certain concepts must be stated to be truly known.

Not long ago dad looked down and saw the ring on my finger.  He seemed pleasantly surprised that I still have and wear it.  I told him  how much it has meant to me over these many years.

He paused and looked at the ring for a moment or two.

Then he asked, “What did those letters mean again?”

And I told him.

I will always be in my father’s debt.

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