Written in April 2010, I’d like to share this on Father’s Day:
My heart was pounding and I couldn’t breathe. I stared at the watch. 8:15 . I took out my cell phone to compare. 8:45. “You forgot to wind it this morning,” I told myself. Deep down I knew that I indeed had wound it, but I put my thumb and index finger on the stem and tried to wind the watch again. No movement at all – it wouldn’t budge. I stared intensely at the tiny second hand, willing it to move with my eyes. Nothing. I broke out into a sweat. Please, please don’t be dead. The same thought I had nine months earlier when I sat by my father’s bedside as he left this earth.
This tiny part of my father had kept ticking, staying alive for months after he died. Time kept moving. It would have been comforting if his watch had stopped on the anniversary of his death, or on his birthday, or my birthday, or anybody’s birthday….anything with a connection. But that was not the case. It stopped randomly on April 7, 2010.
Dad wore this watch for fifty-five years. Yup. Fifty-five years. My mother had given it to him for a college graduation gift and the only times I ever remember him not wearing it were when he was in the hospital. Even then the watch stayed wound, ticking faithfully, patiently waiting to return to where it belonged, on my father’s wrist.
At some point during their marriage my mother bought my father a newer, more modern watch. You know, the ones with a battery that you don’t have to wind. It stayed in his top drawer, under his socks, because he loved his other watch so much, and saw no reason to trade it in for a newer model. Mom never seemed to really understand why.
I understood. That was his watch. Full of years and meaning and memories and nostalgia and, well… time. I wore my Seiko watch, my high school graduation present from my parents, for twenty-five years until it died. We never had a lot of money growing up and it was, by far, the most expensive gift I had ever received. That wasn’t why I wore it every day, though. I wore it because it was a part of me, it had meaning, and together we had our own memories, our own history. Same as Dad and his watch. As long as that watch kept ticking, a part of Dad was still alive. Now it is dead and I am mourning once again.
You see, this just happened this morning. As a matter of fact, I am still wearing the watch. Every single morning after Dad died, I carefully wound the watch and put it on. I loved feeling the flat steel back of the watch on my wrist, thinking that it had also touched my Dad’s wrist for fifty-five years. That same warm leather strap that hugged his wrist was now hugging mine. I don’t want to take it off. Once I take it off, that’s it. I’m not going to put a dead watch back on again. I find myself staring at the watch every so often, hoping that it is still not frozen at 8:50 AM, the time that I had reset it to when I realized it wasn’t ticking. Kind of like a one last ditch attempt to save it. I had thought that maybe if I reset it, it would start ticking again……like bringing someone back to life with electric shock. It didn’t work.
So I will wear it for the rest of the day. Then I will put it to rest, this watch that was so much a part of my father. It told him when it was lunch time, and when it was time to leave work so he could go home, eat, look at the watch again, and head off to his night job. It told him when his favorite radio or TV show was on. And it was there with him for so many monumental events. I imagine him glancing at it every few minutes while he was pacing at the hospital, waiting for his first child, my brother, to be born. Then again with me. He was wearing this watch when his parents died, when his children got married, when his grandchildren were born. He was wearing it when he was diagnosed with cancer…….twice. He would look at it anxiously many times, as he waited for doctor’s appointments or test results. The watch kept ticking, but now time had taken on new meaning. It was oh so very, very precious.
My mom and my husband both said the same thing to me, as I choked back tears while telling them of the watch’s demise. “I bet it can be fixed,” they said. But it is not mine to fix. It is Dad’s watch and I don’t think he would have had it fixed either. It has lived its life and now it is time to let it go. Even though it is really, really hard.
At least I have my memories. One of my favorites is of Dad sitting on the sun porch at my parent’s cottage in New Hampshire. Dad loved this spot, where he could watch the magnificent sunsets over the lake. He would often look at his watch and announce the time. That’s just how he was. “Sunset, 7:58 PM” he would say with a satisfied smile. Another completed day.
So time has stopped, yet still marches on. How could that be? I am grateful that a small part of my dad lingered on with me for a while, helping me through these tough months. But tonight, when I take off the watch, I know it will be time to say good-bye. To both of them.