It was the safest place on earth to me.

I grew up a Navy brat, so there was only one place I called home and that was my Grandma Laura’s house in the little town of Petersburg, Va.

If I close my eyes, I can still smell the coffee percolating in the kitchen.

Times spent there were always special and always an occasion for a big meal in the dining room with the good china. As you walked through the dining room, you could hear the china and crystal chime from the weight on the old hardwood floors.

She would send me to her bedroom, and at the foot of the bed was a cedar chest where she stored her silver in its case, waiting to be brought out and enjoyed.

When I married, the most important thing I wanted was china, elegant, simple, beautiful china that I could bring out on those special occasions with my family.

I spent many hours shopping for just the right piece, the one that would be present during our families’ Christmas dinners.

What I came to learn over the years was how few and far the times are to bring out the china and crystal. We live in such a hurried time that we fail to make those special dinners that would call for the need for fine china.

My husband was a saver. He would buy toys that he wanted to save for a special occasion to use. He had two Harley-Davidson motorcycles and two cars. He drove one car every day, and the other remained in the garage, covered.

He would bring out the special car during an event deemed worthy enough for us to actually drive it, Christmas Mass, graduation, maybe a birthday celebration or New Year’s Eve party.

I jokingly began to refer to the covered car in the garage as “the fine china.”

“Say, do you think we can bring out the fine china tonight?” He would just give me that grin as if to say, I know you think we should drive it every day.

On June 1, 2009, my husband was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. Suddenly and without any warning sign, our world was turned upside down. We had made plans for our retirement, trips we wanted to take and I was planning on taking golf lessons so we could play together.

As we spent the next 18 months battling the beast and hoping for more time, our lives were on hold and would remain there, indefinitely.

He lost his battle on Nov. 19, 2010, at 9:05 a.m. In the blink of an eye, our dreams were gone.

One spring morning, I uncovered the “fine china” in the garage and sat in it. The car smelled just like him. I knew I would never be able to drive it, so I put it up for sale.

The car he loved and enjoyed driving had to go. It had sat so long that the battery was dead and all the tires were nearly flat. A friend helped me get the car back in shape and ready for its new owner.

We listed it on an online site, and in a matter of a week, it was gone. As I spent the next six months putting my life back together, I often thought about all our missed opportunities and all the dreams we would not realize.

I was left with the task of going through all the things he was saving for the future. All his “special” things that he didn’t want to use right now and was saving for a special day were left behind.

His brothers came and took the motorcycles back to Columbia, where they ride them and remember their brother. My wedding band is back in the box it came in, tucked away in the back of my jewelry box.

The nice lady who bought the car lives in the area, and from time to time, I see the car speeding down the parkway, and I smile.

The “fine china” is finally being enjoyed every day.

On Friday night, I ordered a large cheese pizza from our local parlor for my daughter and myself. And just for fun, we ate it on the good china.

Donna Ford lives in Summerville with her 16-year-old daughter, and her son is a senior at the College of Charleston. She is general manager at the Embassy Suites downtown and enjoys reading and writing.