The day love stopped time

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Have you ever stopped to think about things you couldn't live without? What few things you would put in the ragged old duffel bag of your life, if you had to go away and start again?

Funny how few of your things really matter when you think of it that way. Out of all of the goods you've worked so hard for so long to get, how many really mean something?

Four years and thousands of dollars worth of college to get those important jobs. Endless overtime and weekends worked to climb an endless ladder to buy a little more stuff. Does any of it really touch our hearts?

So, if you left it all behind, what couldn't you do without?

A pair of $200 tennis shoes, or a pair of $90 jeans that make your butt look skinnier? I hope not. The TV that's smarter than its viewer? That big car in which you just HAD to have satellite radio? Won't last, not any of it.

Trophies for achievements in sports or business that really don't mean much more than the wood, metal and glue they are made of, if you stop and think about it? Jewelry or other "valuables?" Without a special meaning, the biggest diamond is really just another rock.

Photographs of your loved ones? A scrapbook of memories? A song that inspires you? The old family Bible? Ah, better.

Strange, I can't think of a thing I've bought with all the hard-earned money that I'd really, really need. Not one I couldn't walk away from.

I'd want the first drawings my children ever crayoned out for me. A woodcarving knife a special person gave me. A tiny charm in the shape of the sun from a friend in South Africa. A tiny angel stamped into a piece of metal, from a kindred spirit who is far away but not forgotten. A faded book that came from a dear old pirate who sails this world no more.

Odd collection of junk and talismans, kept close - you never know when you may may need to cut and run.

The arrowhead my mother found as a little girl - when I hold it, it's like she's back again. A worthless and wrinkled Vietnam bill from someone I looked up to who went away to war long ago. Torn out scraps of stories and poems that remind me of pure, sunny days or moonlight moments - or goodbyes I never wanted to be. Music that always make me smile. The guitar intor to "Wish You Were Here"... mhmm. You have some. Can you hear it?

None of it worth anything, not to anyone else. Priceless to me.

And I would take a watch that's never run a day since I've owned it (or perhaps since it has owned me...)

If that seems like the most impractical choice of an impractical lot, I suppose it is.

Even if it worked, I really have no need for a clock. I tend to wake up when I'm able, and go to sleep when I can - to the constant frustration of all those who long to pound a stubborn peg into a perfect 9-to-5 hole. I've never been fond of chasing anybody's schedule.

This pocket watch isn't about telling time, it's about telling stories.

It rests in a scratched-up case of thick tin, sort of a tear-drop shaped affair. It fills your hand, with a hefty, solid feel. Its face is a little yellowed by time, with a couple of nicks and dings. You have to insert a little key to wind it, but there's no point to that, since the hands are frozen permanently in place, just at 5 o'clock.

Family legend is that my great-great-great-great grandfather carried the pocket watch to war that his lady love had given him. He, and it, came through many ferocious Civil War battles without a scratch.

The story goes that when he came marching home, she was still waiting, and ran to squeeze him so hard that the faithful watch in the breast pocket of his coat stopped dead still at that moment - forever.

She was a tiny little Irish girl, but apparently she knew how to hold on tight to what mattered.

So the watch doesn't work for me, but the story sure does. It is one possession I will hold onto while everything else comes and goes, and then I'll pass it one to my son to travel on.

I have no idea how a broken old pocket watch managed to survive in the family. Nothing else has endured nearly so long - all of the things that must have been of worth and pride to my ancestors long since forgotten or left behind, while a worthless old clock continued to move smoothly through the generations, never keeping time, but always telling its timeless tale.

Years ago, I did visit one of the battlefields where the man fought, and I thought I felt something there, too. But that's another story. If that timepiece could talk, it might tell it.

Years ago, I took his watch to a clock-maker to check the date behind the family folklore. He asked me if I had any idea what it was worth, and I told him the story.

Yeah, that's what it's worth.

He said it was possible to fabricate new parts to make it run again, but that's the last thing I'd ever do.

I like it the way it is, stilled forever, at 5 precisely 5 o'clock in the evening on a peaceful day in the spring of 1865.

I may never know what time it is, but I will always be reminded of those things that are stronger than time.

Not much that I own matters to me, I suppose. Things come and things go. But wherever I am, I can look at that pocket watch and think of the day that my great-great-great-great grandmother stopped time.

And smile.