Doing the right thing quietly
It was August in 1958 and I was visiting Barbara who was teaching 2nd grade and living at home in Bay City. Our engagement announcement would be in a month. I don’t remember ever specifically asking her to marry me and she didn’t remember accepting. We knew how we felt and that’s all it took.
She was a sensible girl and knew I didn’t have the money so we decided we would get along without a ring for now and I would make up for it when I could. I had two more years of medical school ahead so it would be a while. But there was a catch.
Barbara’s family owned a very successful jewelry store that served a wide area in mid state and had been in business for more than 100 years. It didn’t seem like it would be possible for her not to have a ring, but we elected to let this issue settle itself. We were in love and committed to our plan.
On a Saturday during that visit Mrs. Hiss asked if I would take a package to Mr. Hiss at the store. When I arrived, he took the package made a comment about the weather and asked if I had any plans for an engagement ring. I was caught flat footed and while I was searching for words he continued. “How much do you have for a ring”?
Reflexively I said, “Sixty dollars.” This was all the money I had and I knew I was not answering his question.
Immediately he said, “I just made a very good buy on a one carat emerald cut diamond in a platinum setting with two fully cut baguettes. I can let you have it for sixty dollars.”
Dumbfounded, but also knowing a ring like that would retail for several thousand dollars I said, “Thank you sir. Barbara will be pleased and I’m happy she will have a ring.” What followed I don’t remember clearly. I did pay the sixty dollars and got the ring two weeks later and gave it to Barbara.
Over the next ten years until Mr. Hiss’ death not a word was said about the ring and that included no comments by Barbara’s sister and brother-in-law both of whom worked in the business.
Over the years that ring was replaced with a larger stone that I bought as soon as we got on our feet financially. The original stone was reset in a pendant for Barbara and later became a family stone. It and another like it were made available to the young doctors in training who married our two daughters.
My father-in-law was a kind, loving, and wise family man who was able to help people in a quiet way neither calling attention to himself nor making the recipient in any way diminished. But that did not mean the recipient didn’t receive the assistance without a profound feeling of gratitude and a firm obligation to carry on this act which I am still trying to do.
By Savvy Senior
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