Truly “Grate”ful

Just over a year ago, on the day after Thanksgiving 2008, a fisherman in East Texas’ Lake Sam Rayburn pulled in an 8 lb bass. Inside it, he found a beautiful blue-stoned class ring engraved with the name of its owner, Joe Richardson. Through the Internet, the fisherman located Joe who had lost the ring 21 years earlier while out fishing just two weeks after his 1987 graduation from Universal Technical Institute in Houston. His mom had bought it for about $200 and was not pleased when it went missing.

My ring story isn’t quite as dramatic.

This past summer, my daughter Tamara and I were in the kitchen when I removed my rings in preparation for baking. We both watched in horror as my engagement ring rolled off the counter, bounced along the floor and dropped into the hot air grate.

If this was a shot I was trying to make, I don’t think I could have managed it, but there we were, staring at the floor hoping that the ring would bounce back up. No such luck.

Whatever activity we had planned was immediately cancelled. We lifted the grate and took turns reaching into the venting trying to feel the ring. When that brought no results we stuck masking tape on the end of a broom and fished around, bringing up quite a bit of lint but unfortunately no ring. Our third attempt had us placing pantyhose over the vacuum cleaner wand in an attempt to suck up the ring. By the end of this try we had a very clean heating vent but still no ring.

Thinking that perhaps our eyes had tricked us, we thoroughly swept the kitchen in case the ring had hit the grate but rolled elsewhere. No luck.

A few weeks later, Tamara left for a year’s study in Jerusalem and the months passed with my husband and me occasionally saying, “We really should call the insurance company,” but never doing so. To tell you the truth, I don’t think my husband ever really believe the ring went through the vent and so he didn’t know what to say to the insurance people. He knew that Tamara and I thought we had seen what we said we saw, but his imagination just couldn’t wrap itself around the physical realities that had to coalesce for the ring to have actually fallen through the grate.

Furthermore, the ring’s financial value is hugely exceeded by the sentimental value. And while I admit to an emotional twinge when the ring was out of bounds with no recovery in sight, it actually seemed pretty unimportant. Contrary to Hollywood norms we got engaged without a ring and in fact it only came into being because my future mother-in-law disassembled a brooch of hers and lovingly offered three small stones to her son. At the time I accepted the ring it was a token of promised affection and commitment; over thirty years later tokens are nice but blessedly redundant. The proof has been in the daily pudding.

Then, about a week ago my husband heard an ad on the radio for a business that cleans out the crawl space under houses. He called the company, related our tale and asked the person who answered the phone if he had any ideas. This person went the extra mile.  Although his company couldn’t help us, he recommended another company that specializes in cleaning hot-air ducting. The owner of the company himself answered the phone. It turned out that Jack was a long time radio fan of my husband’s and he offered to come over and see what he could do.

This past Friday this kind man drove up, taking time from his work day to poke around underneath our house. He found my ring. It had not only gone through the grate but had then rolled quite a way down the hot air ducting.

The word “grate”ful has taken on a whole new meaning.

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