The hospital visits began with an afternoon phone call from Sandi’s son, who lives on the West Coast. Sandi had gone to the hospital in the morning. Tests run by the emergency room doctor revealed kidney stones and she was having a rough time. He couldn’t reach his sister who was out in the countryside where cell reception was spotty. Could I go to the hospital?
Sandi had kidney stones, but the ER doctor also found a mass on her kidney. A kidney doctor said he needed to take care of the kidney stones in her good kidney before he could remove her cancerous kidney.
After her kidney stone problem was eradicated, her cancerous kidney was removed.
Not long after, a routine colonoscopy revealed a large tumor in her colon. A doctor removed the tumor, which she said looked benign, and sent it for testing. Cancer.
We hoped the cancer hadn’t spread, but a body scan revealed cancer in Sandi’s liver.
Over the next couple of years, I lost track of my visits to see Sandi when she would be in the hospital.
On one visit, I stopped by the hospital’s gift shop before I left. Hospitals have the best gift shops. I walked through the shop, letting time stand still. I looked at the beautiful gifts for sale, gifts for women and men and children and newborns. Scarves, purses, jewelry, crystal figurines, frames, vases, toys, books, stationery, slippers, clothing—a smattering of everything.
Before leaving the shop, I bought a cup of coffee and a cookie. I scrutinized a circular rack of earrings on the countertop. A pair of earrings caught my eye. I bought them, knowing they would remind me of Sandi and my trips to the hospital to see her.
By the time I bought these earrings, the cancer had already shown up in Sandi’s colon and liver. Her family and friends all hoped for a cure, but I wondered if each new procedure or treatment designed to beat back the spreading and recurring cancer had scraped away their hope like it did mine.
I wore these earrings while Sandi was still alive. She liked them. Although, they were a bit subdued for her taste.
Sandi rarely wore earrings, except when she went on a cruise. Then she wore long dangling earrings with lots of glittering crystals and colorful beads. She called them her “slutties,” and she wore them with formal evening attire to dinners on cruises. She bought a new pair for every cruise. “Look at the new slutties I bought for my cruise,” she’d beam. “It’s not easy being eye candy, you know.”
I wore these earrings after Sandi died. I wondered if she’d chosen a pair of her slutties to be buried in. I don’t remember which earrings I wore to her funeral in September 2018.
One morning in November 2018, almost three months after Sandi died, I wore these earrings to work. After I returned home, I discovered I had one naked ear. I hadn’t worn the rubber backs. The wire hooks were so long, I thought they couldn’t fall out.
You’d think I’d learn. [Read: Thirty Days of Earrings.] I was devastated. I tried to find the earring when I went back to work. I asked coworkers. I checked the lost and found. It was gone. My earring was single.
I began a quest to find another pair. I bought these earrings in 2017, so in 2018, they were last year’s design made by the company Silver Forest. For years I’d seen their earrings displayed in many gift shops. So, whenever I entered a gift shop in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan, I checked to see if they carried Silver Forest earrings. I often found their displays, but I never found the same pair of earrings.
Then it occurred to me to look up the company on the internet. Turns out they will repair a broken earring or replace a lost earring if they still have the design elements. But I had to send the remaining earring back to them so they could match the new one to it. For sentimental reasons I was afraid of losing the remaining earring.
Already in the spirit of internet searching, I turned to Amazon. I searched through almost one hundred pairs of Silver Forest earrings, but I found them. Now I have three identical earrings. I don’t know which one is the original mate of the lost earring.
When I told this story to someone, they asked me if I still had the original earring. “Of course,” I said. “What if I’d thrown it out then found the other one?” I know a woman who lost an earring but refused to throw the other one away. Months later, in the spring after the snow and ice melted in her driveway, she found her lost earring. And it was unscathed.
I like to think Sandi has my lost earring in heaven with her, and when I see her someday, she will hold out her palm with my earring and say, “Did you lose something?” before she even says hello.
And I will respond, “How the heck did you get that?”
She will answer with one of her favorite retorts, “Let me splain it to you, Lucy. It doesn’t matter how long the hooks are on a pair of earrings—always wear the rubber backings.”