I’ve written before about my grandfather’s clock. It is now ticking away in my house, after two service calls from a local firm that repairs antique clocks.
The clock worked after the first service call, but just a few days later my husband and I left town for two weeks. When I got back, I couldn’t get the pendulum to keep swinging for more than an hour or two. These old clocks are very temperamental, and I was told by the second serviceman that I must have pushed the two hands together in a way that caused friction, which resulted in it stopping after a bit. I’ve now been instructed in how to reset the time.
Since the second repair visit, the clock has kept ticking. But it loses about three to four minutes a day. In my father’s house it kept excellent time. I haven’t considered the clock’s current problem enough to require another service call. We all slow down as we get older, and after well over 100 years, the clock is entitled to move slowly if it wants. I set it a little ahead when I wind it, and periodically adjust it during the week. Or I just let it chime the hours late until the next Sunday morning when I wind it.
The clock has shown me the falsity of my own memory. I wrote in February of this year that my grandmother kept the clock for years after my grandfather died, and that it didn’t come into my parents’ possession until she downsized into assisted living.
But last month I posted about my brother’s Eagle Scout ceremony in 1972. There in the background of the picture of my brother and me I can clearly see the corner of the clock. So it was in my parents’ home by September 1972. At that point, the only move my grandmother had made after my grandfather’s death was from Pacific Grove, California, to Klamath Falls, Oregon, when she remarried in 1967. Her next move was in 1972, after her second husband died.
Based on this photographic evidence, I have to conclude that my parents acquired the clock in 1967, and it must have sat in the living room of their home beginning that summer, just before I started the seventh grade. Until I saw this picture, I had no recollection of the clock being there.
Though once I focused on that photograph, it seemed right that the clock sat in the corner of the hearth seat where so many of our family pictures were taken. If I dug hard enough, I might find a family picture from this era with the clock in the background.
Now I must conclude that my father took over the task of winding the clock sometime in 1967. He continued winding it until January of this year when he died. For over forty-seven years he wound that clock. Every Sunday night.
I have kept the tradition of winding the clock on Sundays, though I have switched to winding it in the morning. I have a weekly reminder set on my calendar to wind it at 9:30 every Sunday morning, just before I go to yoga class. I left town for several days last week and wound it an extra time on Tuesday, in case I didn’t get back home on Sunday.
I have been winding the clock for several weeks now, but it still makes me nervous. I remember so many admonishments from my grandfather—and later from my father—not to touch it. It still feels wrong when I turn the key in the two holes that lift the weights—one for the pendulum and the other for the chimes. Winding the clock isn’t supposed to be my responsibility. It’s supposed to be the responsibility of the generation ahead of me. But there is no generation ahead of me any more.
The odds are slim that I will maintain possession of the clock for forty-seven years, as my father did. But perhaps I will have it long enough to become comfortable winding it. And to become comfortable in my role as the senior generation in our family.
Are there any responsibilities in life that you have had for over forty years (or at least for a very long time)?