A Diagnosis, Prom Night, and Two Special Strands of Pearls
In the summer of 2010, my husband, Todd, stopped at the mall after work. It was my birthday, and he hadn’t gotten me anything yet. His mind was still swirling a month after receiving an ALS diagnosis. The shock of it. The grief.
He walked through the mall looking for a present to mark my 33rd birthday. “Kristin is too young to be a widow,” he thought. We hadn’t even had our seventh anniversary, and our daughter and son were still little — our daughter was 4, and our son wasn’t even a year old. At the jewelry counter in JCPenney, the Sofia pearls caught his eye. He knew I was a natural girl, and I didn’t wear much jewelry, so a pearl necklace would be perfect. He picked out a strand and had the salesperson add a bow to the box.
I’m speculating about how my husband may have come to buy me a pearl necklace — again. I don’t know for sure that it was for my birthday. Perhaps it was for our anniversary a month later. Memory is tricky, especially when recalling events around such a stressful time, but I do remember telling my good friend Jana that Todd gave me the pearls and he had apparently forgotten that he had already given me a more expensive strand of Mikimoto pearls years earlier.
I didn’t tell Todd that it was the second time he had bought me pearls. It was the thought that counted, anyhow, and I appreciated having two sets. I pictured my daughter, Sara, wearing the Sofia pearls at some future date, on a special occasion such as her graduation or wedding, long after her father had passed away.
People with ALS have a life expectancy of only three to five years, so it was unlikely he’d be around to see Sara grow up. I would tell her that her dad had bought them, and we could each wear a strand of pearls and remember him. It would be a way to remain wrapped in his love.
I haven’t had many occasions to wear pearls in the 12 years since getting my second pearl necklace. Those moments were increasingly less frequent year after year, as my husband became progressively disabled. Amazingly, he is still with us. Both strands of pearls have been safely packed away.
But our now 16-year-old Sara had prom last Saturday.
“Do I need a necklace?” she asked as she posed in her dress.
“How about that necklace you have with the single pearl hanging from it?” I suggested.
She shook her head. “The chain is silver. It wouldn’t go with the gold in my dress.”
“I have a strand of pearls you could borrow,” I offered.
“Can I see them?”
I pulled out both strands of pearls and returned with the ones from JCPenney. Since Sara would be jumping around with a bunch of teenagers, I’d let her wear the less expensive necklace. They completed her outfit, and she loved the look of them.
I told Todd I was letting Sara wear my pearls.
“Tell her to be careful with those,” he said.
“I did. I told her they cost a couple hundred dollars.” I knew that because the JCPenney price tag was still on the back of the jewelry case.
“They cost more than that,” he said. “They were that high-end brand that started with an M, a Japanese name.”
“Mikimoto,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s it. Those were really expensive.” He seemed understandably concerned that she would be going to prom in them.
“I wasn’t going to tell you, but I’m going to,” I said. “You actually bought me two strands. I’m not sending her to prom with the Mikimoto pearls. You also bought me a set from JCPenney.”
“Really?!” he exclaimed incredulously. “I remember buying you Mikimoto pearls. I have no memory of the others. That’s too funny.”
“I don’t remember when it was exactly,” I said, “but I know it was shortly after the diagnosis. I remember telling Jana about it.”
“I can’t believe I did that.” Todd laughed. “I was in a fog for months after my diagnosis.”
“Jana said it would make a good story one day,” I said. “We both thought it was meant to be.”
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