In the summer of 1994, our young family went on vacation. Will was 2 years old, and Allison just turned 1. The plan was to drive to Vero Beach, Florida for a few days then to Disney World to meet up with other family for a week of fun. Our first stop was Lake Charles, Louisiana for a night at Jennifer’s parent’s house. Our family car at the time, a 1988 Grand Am had seen better days and Jennifer’s Dad offered us his car for the trip. We gladly accepted. When we arrived in Lake Charles, I moved all our traveling necessities over to the loaner car. This car, a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville, was a lot bigger and a little over a year old so we were looking forward to driving it.
The next morning, we got an early start since we had a lot of miles to put behind us. Traveling with young ones meant we had to make frequent stops, so we did not get as far as I had planned, but it was all good, we were on vacation and time was not critical. We stopped in Tallahassee, Florida for the night, the kids were so ready to get out of the car. We got a room on the second floor so that meant that once I helped Jennifer get Will and Allison to the room, I had to go back and make several trips to the car to get our luggage. We went to a 24-hour restaurant nearby for a meal then back to the hotel to rest up for the next long day of driving. As I got ready for bed, I emptied my pockets of keys, change then I took my watch and wedding ring off and put them on the nightstand next to the bed.
The next morning as we were getting ready for the day, I noticed Will picking up a coin at a time from the nightstand and taking them over to the air conditioning unit near the door. I heard the metallic clink of the coin as it was dropped through the top vent and make its way down into the air conditioner. Once I figured out what he was doing, I moved what change was left. That was when I noticed my wedding ring was missing. Oh no! He must have dropped that into the air conditioner too! I grabbed my flashlight and looked down into the vents to see if it was there. The way the coils were mounted at an angle inside the AC unit, whatever he dropped bounced their way passed those and to the bottom of the unit. I go everywhere with a toolbox; I call it my ‘Get Me Home’ box of tools. I went to the car to get the small toolbox from the trunk and brought it to the room. I took the top panel off the AC unit and tried to reach down inside but the way the coils were mounted, I could reach the bottom. I ended up taking that AC unit almost all the way apart before I could get to the bottom. Once I was able to access the bottom of the unit, I fished out all the coins he dropped in plus a few other things that had probably been there for years. But no ring. My fear was the ring bounced the other way and was deeper inside the unit that we did not have the time or wanted the liability of destroying the AC unit. I reluctantly put the AC unit back together. While I was doing this Jennifer and the kids looked under beds, tables, any place a ring could roll under when dropped. No ring….
We got the car packed, sat down for a quick breakfast and drove away from the hotel to continue our trip. As I steered the car onto I-10 East, I had a sinking feeling that I would never see that ring again. I did not blame Will, he was two years old, almost three and does what kids his age do.
Jennifer and I switched driving each time we stopped for fuel. After a long day on the road, we finally made it to Vero. We unpacked the car and looked forward to a few days with Jennifer’s brother Barton and his family.
I was on the back porch with Barton catching up. He is a pilot for Piper Aircraft, so I was mesmerized with his latest stories. Jennifer walked up with a big smile and said, hold out your hand. I held out my right hand, then she said, “No your left hand” I held out my left hand. She said “Palm down” I started to think, what is she doing? I followed her instruction. She then slid my wedding ring onto my finger. I got excited, “Where did you find that!” She said “it was in one of the suitcases. Will must have dropped it in there.” The rest of the vacation was looking up for me!
After a few days we said our goodbyes to Barton and Linda and their boys and headed to Disney World. We met my side of the family there. We all stayed at the Wilderness Campground. Each family had their own mobile home to live in for the week.
That was such a fun vacation all around. The only low point was the day I thought my wedding ring was gone forever but everything else was heaven on earth. Our family went back to Disney World most every summer. Not every year but when we could save up enough to afford it. In my mind, that was money well spent for the memories.
As for the wedding ring, it was a size 11 ring and I constantly work on car and engines. My hands seem to get larger over time as muscles in my hands and fingers develop stronger. Today I wear a size 13 so that first ring was retired to the safe as I upgraded several times. Today I wear a tungsten ring we bought last year when Jennifer and I went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for our anniversary. The tungsten ring does not scratch as I use my hands working on mechanical things. I wear a chain around my neck every were I go that has one dog tag with my info, a coin from Japan Allison gave me and the second gold wedding ring that I outgrew. The first ring I thought was lost is still in the 150-year-old safe we have.