“When I no longer need it,” said Great Aunt Flora, “you get this ring.” With long, bony fingers, she tapped the Ellensburg Blue Agate on the middle finger of her right hand. “My sister Cora found this stone herself back in…” her voice trailed off. “Well, let’s see, now…”
I waited silently while she concentrated in thought. At long last, apparently having checked and rechecked the calculations in her head, she softly said, “Why, it must have been pertineer 1890.” She fingered the stone. “Cora wore this ring up until she died, and I’ve worn it ever since.”
Great Aunt Flora was pushing hard on 90 when she promised me the ring in 1975. But knowing how it often goes that the first one to arrive after a death “takes all the good stuff,” I decided not to hold my breath that I’d ever see it again, and bought my own Blue in August, 1979.
I bought the ring to celebrate obtaining my master’s degree from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. I had the jeweler, who was much more a rock hound than an actual jeweler, design the ring to look like the sagebrush surrounding the area where both Gramps and I had gone to college.
Ellensburg Blue Agates are found only in an area 4 miles wide and 10 miles long. Nowadays, the public is only allowed in to hunt for them on one weekend in June each year.
Surprisingly, at age 98, with most of her wits still intact, Aunt Flora surrendered the ring to my mother to give to me. I had to cut off miles of masking tape wrapped around the back of it before I could put it on. Aunt Cora must have had very large hands, as I am sure in the half-century or so of wearing it herself, Aunt Flora never “wasted the money” to have the ring resized.
Today, I wear them both. The inherited ring is on the middle finger of my right hand, just like Aunt Flora had worn it. The celebratory ring I bought is on my ring finger right next to it—except that shortly after I got my “master’s ring,” my mother wrote me a check for the amount I paid and told me the ring would be my present from her.
Now every time I look at my right hand, I feel the presence of Aunt Flora and Mom right here with me. It’s a great feeling to know they’re both here still.