As you may have guessed from my posts over the past 18 months, family is a big part of my existence – my past, present and future. For my birthday this year, I received a very special gift. My grandmother’s ring. This isn’t the first time I have received this ring. I was 14 when it was first gifted to me by my mom for my confirmation in 1996. (It had been given to her when she was 16.) I wore this ring religiously. It was incredibly special to me – mostly because of its history and sentimental value.
In Fall 1999, I was eating dinner at Victoria College’s Burwash Dining Hall on the University of Toronto campus – an hour before my evening class. I looked down at my hand and with sheer panic and horror, discovered that my grandmother’s ring was missing its STONE. An emerald-cut pink sapphire. My fork dropped. My heart stopped. And before I knew it I was crawling on the floor teary-eyed desperately trying to find the family stone. I searched the tables, the floor, the entrance, the garbage….everywhere I could think. And nothing. It was gone.
My grandmother – Jesuina Amaral Calisto – died on December 27, 1995. Two days after Christmas. She was only 58 years old and her death followed a short two-weeks of invasive brain surgery and improper medical care. I was devastated. I was also 14. So like any teenager dealing with death and loss, I locked myself in my room for two weeks.
My grandmother was a huge part of my up-bringing. When I wasn’t with my parents, I was usually with her. She taught me what she knew. She wasn’t literate and never pursued studies or a career (not that she had the option anyway). But she knew about other things. She taught me those all important life skills so that I could care for myself and others. Before I was 5 I knew how to do laundry, bake cakes, wash a floor (on your hands and knees with soapy hot water, a rag and elbow grease is the only way to really do it). She even taught me how to polish silver (which later became one of my favourite pastimes. It’s surprisingly therapeutic.)
I spent a lot of time with her during my early years. You couldn’t help but want to spend time with her. She was extremely loving and caring to me. I always found her to be so genuine. She was the archetypal “grandmother”. I don’t remember her EVER getting angry with me or being cold toward me. She spoiled me in the best possible way. As all good grandmothers do. My favourite thing about her was her laugh. She had the greatest laugh. If I close my eyes and clear my mind, I can still hear it. My grandmother wasn’t a glamorous woman in her day-to-day. But when she dressed up, she wore what I call dangly earrings (i.e. drop earrings) and beautiful rings.
For a decade, the band and setting of my grandmother’s ring has been kept in a box in the hope it could one day be reunited with its stone. Although the family stone was lost, a new one has replaced it. My parents had the ring restored with an emerald-cut citrine – my birthstone. I am deeply honoured to wear it and with any luck, pass it on to my (future hypothetical) daughter some day.