She has been with me for a few months and only speaks with her sad little girl eyes. I am her grandfather, a long time widower, the only relative left after the death of her parents in that senseless, tragic explosion that rocked the world.
My own baby girl, happily married and full of life, is gone; obliterated as if she never existed. The pain in my heart is too sharp to bear just now, so I hurry to the library to wait for the chiming of the hour. That toll I have come to ignore over the years now summons me several times a day.
I make it to the comfortable old leather chair before she appears. With a studied indifference I watch her from behind my newspaper as she sidles into the room and stands in front of the magnificent antique timepiece. Her fascination has become a blessed distraction for me. The eight, deep resonations strike a gentle reminder that her bedtime is near.
I lower the paper and watch her lovely face in profile. What a replica of my sweet Callie she is with her clear skin and shiny dark hair. As soon as she has her fill of the mysterious hourly event, she pads over and sits on the tapestry covered stool in front of me. I pray she will speak.
“Grandfather,” she begins, barely above a whisper, “Is that God’s watch?”
My orderly, sensible mind races for an answer. I take off my reading glasses and reach for my pipe—a thing I do not smoke so much as fiddle with and try to look professorial.
“Let me tell you about that beautiful clock, Angelina. It was made in England two hundred years ago.”
The slightest crinkle to her little girl nose makes me change my mind about the pipe. I open the drawer to the table and put it away. I don’t need a prop.
“But how did you get it,” she pushes, as curiosity gives her a new boldness. “Mommy says we’re going on a boat to…”
Tears threaten to spill. I remember Callie telling me they were saving for a trip to England to visit the land of our ancestors. I hurry to stem the incoming tide of grief.
“As the story goes, Great-Great Uncle Cecil Waterbury inherited it from his rich wife who paid a high price to have it hand-carved to her exact demands.”
I stand up and take Callie’s newly trusting hand. We stroll over to the impressive clock and stop in front of it. There is a peaceful tick-tock-tick-tock that reaches out with a satisfying emotional touch to some deep part of us we cannot identify.
Its sheer durability over the decades boggles my mind as it stands there so stately year after year; doing what it was made to do. It never complains, is always elegant and on time; a memorial to seconds that become minutes which grow into hours and days and weeks and months until finally, whole generations have passed.
“You know, Angelina, this superb, well-crafted device has actually measured centuries of time.”
She looks at me and raises one eyebrow the way her mother did so well. It’s the perfect non-verbal comment that says I need to abandon my college-lecturing voice. I back up and try again.
“This old clock is more years older than you and I and all the staff in this house put together. If it could talk it would say it has seen things change in amazing ways. It was around before cars and televisions and movies and telephones and airplanes.”
Back to the old chair, she climbs up in my lap and puts her dear little arm around my neck. She sighs and relaxes, almost contented. The moment, though bittersweet, heralds a quiet shifting of gears as we begin to find our way forward, together.
Though the steady ticking will go on, and years will take her into adulthood and away from me, for now I thank God her interest in what I have come to ignore is becoming a fragile place for our connection; a base to share family history, including our abiding, strong Christian faith.
She falls asleep and I carry her past the clock and up the stairs to the waiting nanny who sees to her better than a mere grandfather can. I hear the soft, quarter-hourly notification of time gently slipping into years. Perhaps it is God’s watch after all.
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