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Mark Bennett B-Sides

June 17, 2012

MARK BENNETT: Full circle

Dads can still have an impact, even after they’re just a memory

Waiting is a lost art.

We expect answers, results and satisfaction with the speed of a Google search. By contrast, waiting requires patience. Patience comes with maturity. Maturity takes time. Which brings us back to waiting. In 21st-century life, that process gets circumvented. Wants can’t wait.

Decades ago, my dad was walking on the white-rock driveway outside our family’s house. He spotted something shiny in the gravel. He moved it with his shoe and then realized what he’d finally found. Dad bent down and picked up his long-lost ruby ring. The discovery overwhelmed him.

My mom gave him the ring before they were married. They’d been high school sweethearts, who grew up in a small Indiana town along the Ohio River. Dad was heading off for training in the South with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. In those uncertain times, he wondered whether she could endure the wait for his return home. She bought the ruby ring, and had the answer to his question inscribed inside its gold band …

I’ll B Waiting 4 U.

She did.

The ring was Mom’s reminder to my dad, yet he also possessed that characteristic — the ability to wait, exhibit patience and develop maturity. It’s emblematic of people who grew up during the Depression. Lord knows, answers did not arrive instantly in the 1930s. The economic collapse did not heal in a few months, or a few years, or by itself. Today, such delay is, obviously, no longer tolerated.

Once the war ended, my parents married, began raising a family of five kids, and moved across Indiana to Terre Haute. Somehow, some way, that ruby ring slipped off Dad’s finger and fell into the driveway. I can picture how it probably happened. We had an old Gravely riding mower — a loud and cantankerous piece of, uh, cutting-edge 1960s lawn-care technology — that needed frequent maintenance. I’m guessing he was tinkering with the mower, kneeling in the grass beside the white rock, and sweating in the hot July sun, when he leaned under the Gravely and the ring slid off.

Now, understand, my father did not keep things for no reason. He discarded anything that wasn’t being used, and regularly hauled unwanted clothes and housewares to Goodwill or the Light House Mission. This man was not a pack rat. If he kept something, it was important.

Losing that ruby ring deeply bothered Dad. He, and Mom, kept looking. For a long time. Patiently.

The day he found it, he walked into the house and, with misty eyes, showed it to Mom.

On Father’s Day, most of the 70.1 million fathers in America wonder whether any qualities they’ve displayed in front of their families will leave a lasting, positive impact. “What will they think of when I’m just a memory?”

I’m fortunate. My dad gave me plenty of good to remember. Playing catch when he was probably tired from long days at work. Letting me be independent and trusting me. Having an infectious sense of humor. Respecting and loving my mom. And being patient — something that anybody who knew him would verify, guaranteed. (I know, I was lucky.)

I was the father of youngsters when Dad passed away. His ruby ring was the main keepsake I received from Mom. It doesn’t sit in a jewelry box, collecting dust (which Dad wouldn’t appreciate). It, and his memory, have been present at virtually every significant moment in the life of my family. I’ve worn it as my wife and I watched our kids go through confirmation at church, and graduations, and when we said goodbye to loved ones.

Earlier this month, as one son married his high school sweetheart, our other son wore Dad’s ruby ring as best-man in the ceremony.

Once again — 70 years after Mom gave it to Dad, promising to be there when he got home — the ring served as a reminder. Some things are worth looking for. Some things are worth waiting for. Some things are worth keeping.

Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

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