A pocket watch

I’m not a sentimental person, but something about now having my grandfather’s pocket watch has really gotten to me.

I never knew three of my four grandparents. My father’s parents never came to the U.S., and so I never met them. My mother’s mother died when I was 14 months old. My mother’s father died when I was 6 years old, and I have only a precious memory or two of him.

Over the weekend, my grandfather’s pocket watch became mine. (It’s a convoluted story.) My wife presumed I’d not be interested in it, and I admit I still can’t come up with the right words to tell her why it does. My 17-year-old son, who was with us at the time, was absolutely amazed that a watch had a “twisty thing” you used to “turn it on.” I was more amazed the watch still worked. Elgin went out of business in 1968; so if anyone reading this knows someone still alive who worked for the company, please tell them this was the best watch Elgin ever made.

I don’t know if I’ll use the pocket watch on a daily basis; heck, I’ve not worn a wrist watch in probably a decade. Why would I want one that I had to take out of a pocket if I needed it? But that misses the point.

The story of the pocket watch is one I wish I could tell. Who gave it to my grandfather? When? Was it a birthday gift? A retirement present? To all those questions and others, I can only shrug because I don’t know.

I’d like to tell you whether he used it every single day, or if he brought it out only on special occasions. I just don’t know.

Nine of his 10 children are gone now, and the lone surviving daughter is 94. She’s riddled with dementia, and she on most days has no clue who almost every person in her life is. There’s no way she knows any part of the story behind the watch.

And maybe that’s a good thing. To borrow a cliche, I can wipe the slate clean. The watch has no history, so my wife, our sons and I can begin a narrative that maybe will extend many generations. And let’s hope the pocket watch is still working!

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