Posts Tagged ‘Parents’

There are, in my home, many watches. But for five years, I’ve carried only one.

My watches date from the Age of Steam to the Age of Jets, bearing the marks of craftsmen from Victorian, Edwardian, Nouveau, Deco, and Mid-Century eras.

I have watches that were used to keep trains running on time, mark a valued employee’s retirement, chime the quarter hour, and show the time in the dark with radium-lit dials. Some glister with ruby bearings and gears of gold, their plates tooled with filigree, their enameled dials bright, while others are of stamped brass, paper faces, encased in cheap tin.

They are the watches of men both rich and poor, bespoke or mass-produced, but all came to me in somnolent neglect and the silence of disrepair. For each of them, I cracked their cases, disassembled their movements, cleaned and repaired and replaced the parts that were begrimed, bent, or broken, bringing them back to life, allowing their spring-loaded hearts to beat once again.

I used to swap them out, carry a different one every week, its chain hooked onto my denim belt loop, the watch itself tucked into the tiny right-hand pocket designed solely for the purpose.

But no longer.

Waltham, Elgin, Hampden, Ingersoll, and the others, high-end or base-born, all now lie stored in cushioned darkness, their mainsprings having ticked down to quiet rest.

Now, my watch pocket is empty, for my wrist carries my watch.

It’s a scuffed and scarred thing, with a crystal that’s a bit scratched, a bit chipped. It isn’t very old—a score of years at most—and it is decidedly plain, with square hands and numbers on a simple white face. It doesn’t even have a mainspring, the coiled powerhouse of nearly every other watch I own, but runs on a battery.

It’s a run-of-the-mill Timex Indiglo wristwatch. And it is my father’s watch.

When my father died, five years ago, and I was cleaning out his last abode, his watch was included in his effects. It is the watch he wore every day, whether he was out fishing for steelhead, sneaking a smoke out back, or painting a landscape, and it is—as was he—basic, uncomplicated, quiet, easy to read, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

For five years, it’s been on my wrist doing yeoman’s work, ticking away, showing me the wee hours with its cyan glow, keeping perfect time. I’ve never changed the battery, not once in those five years. It is, as I said, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

Someday, it too will run down, its battery spent, and that day, I suppose, when the new battery clicks into place, that will be when the watch will stop being his, and will then be mine.



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Gossamer WheelI have been absent from this blog for a handful of days—something I try not to do. But in the course of human events, some things take precedence over others.

During my absence from these pages, I traveled to my hometown to see my mother, who is dying of brain cancer. Three months ago she was up and about, concerned about a pain in her back, but a woman to be reckoned with. Two months ago, after a diagnosis of cancer in her lung, she began chemotherapy. One month ago, ravaged by the treatment, she learned that it was worse than expected, and the cancer was in her brain as well. Two weeks ago, cancer was found in her spine, also: the cause of her original pain. One week ago, the cancer took her down to the mat, and the family decided to gather.

My family is a complicated organism. All intelligent, many artistic, every one of us as twitchy as the next, each in our unique way. Our mother is a powerful force with a gift for organization and a penchant for perfection. We have been well-trained.

We gathered, and pulled it off with near-military efficiency. Plans were proposed, decisions were made, information was disseminated. Food appeared when it was needed, without preamble or fuss. Schedules were synched. We were a hive of activity beneath a surface of quiet, supportive calm. We gathered, we wept, we laughed, we touched hearts and held hands. Those of us who, like me, live far away, did our best to say goodbye without actually doing so. We rarely say exactly what we mean in my family, or say it to the person who needs to hear it most. In matters of the heart, we are often indirect, and so we remain.

We created moments, for her, and for ourselves. We relished every smile we brought to her face, every tear we shed, and every comfort we could provide one another. I was, at the end of the weekend, immensely proud of my family.

In a few days or a few weeks, we will gather again. Afterward, we will be very different; we will not have that dynamo at our center, keeping our orbits in check. We must find a way to make the transition. We must learn a new way to remain together, else we will fly apart, separate worlds each on our own path through life.

But if this past weekend is any barometer, we will find fair weather again.

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