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Unexpected Treasures

Terry Ratner, RN, MFA | Jul 2, 2012, 6 a.m.

mag·net 'mag-nət n.

  1. An object that is surrounded by a magnetic field and that has the property, either natural or induced, of attracting iron or steel.
  2. An electromagnet.
  3. A person, a place, an object, or a situation that exerts attraction.

I found a Hide-A-Key today on the back side of my wrought iron gate. The black rectangular box, exerting its attraction to an alloy, blended in with its surroundings. I thought about the magnetic field adhering to the iron post, how it hugs the metal as if inseparable, clinging, afraid to let go.

My discovery of the box yielded an excitement equal to finding a hundred-dollar bill stuffed in an old dresser drawer or spotting a corked bottle floating to shore with a personal message from a stranger. It was like digging up a buried treasure in my flower bed or finding a thank you note from my late husband that says, “Terry, Thanks for being there. I love you, Michael.” (I happened to come across this note two weeks ago while dusting a shelf in the bedroom closet. I didn’t remember when I received the note or why my husband wrote it. It was a bit of a mystery, but also a reminder of our attraction and devotion to one another.)

The black case I found today was a small treasure. I discovered it while repairing the mesh around the bottom of the gate so the dog wouldn’t be able to escape when she saw a cat prowling the property. I opened the sliding mechanism on the back of the box, wondering what I might find. I didn’t think it would be the key to our outside gate, mainly because we had one on the patio side of the yard. Inside the box was a small, brown bag with the hardware store name and logo printed across the top, looking brand new, folded neatly in fourths.

I opened it slowly, wanting to preserve the crispness of the bag, and discovered a small, silver key. I thought it might fit the keyhole in our mailbox, but it didn’t. I then proceeded to try the key on the outside garage lock. It fit into the keyhole, and with a slight turn of my fingers, the closed garage door began to open.

Like a sleuth, I thought about when my husband bought the extra key and why he neglected to tell me. I wondered why it was never used and if he forgot about it when his health declined. I slid the key between my forefinger and thumb, rubbing it as if it was magic. Then I began to wave it in front of me and silently ask for my wishes to come true. This small silver key, never used or talked about, suddenly transformed my day. Not because I had a way into the house in case I locked myself out, but because I found a piece of Michael’s heart a year and five months after his death, and in a place where I least expected it.

I know he thought of me when he bought the Hide-A-Key. I know he thought of me when he placed it next to the iron, the magnetic force causing the gate and box to become one. I know he thought of my safety when he became ill and knew he could not take care of me in the same way he used to. This unexpected find brought about a resurrection of our love story, of the man I married. There was something magical about the experience, something calming, and something reaffirming about two people attracted to one another, weakened only by an illness that destabilized the magnetic field that had bound them for so many years.

Terry J. Ratner, RN, MFA is a health educator at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. Visit her website at www.terryratner.com. Send comments to info@terryratner.com.

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