One year ago today, Barbara Caren and her husband, Harvey, left Macon after three days at the Cherry Blossom Festival.
It was their first visit to Macon. They were enamored with the city’s springtime beauty and charmed by its heaping helpings of Southern hospitality. They attended several events at Central City Park, dined at downtown restaurants and watched the parade.
There weren’t many blossoms on the Yoshino trees during that opening weekend of the festival, so they rode around until they found some.
On March 19, 2013, they left to return home to the village of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., 40 miles north of New York City. It was a 14-hour drive.
When they stopped to spend the night in North Carolina, Barbara looked at her husband’s left hand.
His wedding ring was missing.
“We were married for 55 years, and he never took it off his finger,” she said.
They were shocked and heartbroken. They searched the car to see if it had fallen on the floorboard or tumbled between the seats.
They were married at a synagogue in Brooklyn on Nov. 2, 1957. A jeweler in Manhattan designed their wedding rings. Barbara could count on her own hand the number of times Harvey’s ring had not been snug against the skin on his knuckle.
Retracing their steps was out of the question. Macon was six hours in their rear-view mirror. She notified the hotel where they stayed and contacted restaurants where they had eaten. They said they would keep an eye out for the oval-shaped band, with the Florentine design -- bright, gold borders around a soft, brushed gold.
“I was pretty confident he must have lost it in Macon,” she said. “We were down at the (Central City) park watching the dogs catch the Frisbees, and the people who ran the show let us sit under the tent. Harv was petting some of the border collies, and it could have slipped off.”
Of course, that is only one theory. She knows it would be like finding a needle in a giant haystack. And now a year has passed, making the long odds even longer.
Her husband was 84 years old and had been in declining health. He was weak for much of their trip. He had lost some weight, so the ring no longer fit his finger the way it did when he was a younger man.
Two months later, on Mother’s Day, Harvey suffered a heart attack. The doctors said his heart had been operating at only about 25 percent capacity. He was hospitalized for two months, then required round-the-clock care when he returned home.
But he never complained. He was never cranky. He would smile and blow kisses to Barbara from his wheelchair.
He died on Aug. 22, leaving a big hole in her heart.
Barbara contacted me last week and said she had not given up on finding the ring. When I followed up with her Monday, she was at Marco Island, in Florida, and she had just finished walking on the beach. The walks bring back the memories of her husband. They traveled all over the world, but Marco Island and Naples were among their favorite places to visit.
Unfortunately, the ring has no initials or other identifying marks. I could have tried to convince her it was buried in the dirt beneath some magnolia tree in the park, hocked at some pawnshop or taken to where they twirl those “We Buy Gold” signs.
But you never want to suggest somebody give up hope. Maybe someone out there found it and wants to locate the rightful owner. I’ve seen it happen.
Over the years, I’ve shared many lost ring stories with happy endings. I have written about rings recovered from storm sewers and the bottom of mountain lakes. I wrote about a former Macon man who lost his high school ring on a field trip to Washington, D.C., and got it back 22 years later. And a Cochran man who lost his 1957 high school ring in a field only to have it turn up after 42 years. I wrote about a Macon native’s college class ring that was found inside a baby grand piano by a woman in Florida 28 years later. And one Macon man who placed his college ring on the bumper of his truck while practicing golf swings in his yard, then forgot about it. A truck driver’s daughter called him 16 years later.
See, it’s not impossible.
Barbara still sleeps in her husband’s pajamas and wears his windbreakers when she walks on the beach.
“It’s just another way of being close to him,” she said. “I know I don’t have him, but finding that ring would be like getting part of him back.”
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.