Ettie Newlands

The woman, a stranger, said she couldn’t help noticing my watch.

She wondered, she said, why I was wearing it.

It wasn’t completely weird that she asked. She was selling antique jewelry at an antiques fair, and I was looking through it.

She commented that my watch looked ‘industrial.’ She said it was “so much less feminine” than the cameo and pearl earrings I was wearing.

For a minute, I was definitely put off by her scrutiny.

But again, we were both at the antique jewelry booth, so she obviously had an interest in old bling.

My watch, however, was anything but.

Old, yes. It was my father’s ancient Speidel. Bling, not even a little bit. ‘Industrial’ was a good word.

It has one of those Twist-O’-Flex watchbands with half the metal worn off. The face is huge, and there are just lines to indicate the numbers.

My husband had it re-sized as a gift for me about 20 years after my father handed it to me, a week before he died.

Until then, I’d just kept it, along with the unfortunately growing assortment of things that belonged to other loved ones who are gone.

And when I put it on, I thought of the line in an Emily Dickinson poem, “Death sets a thing significant that never was before.”

The only thought I’d ever given to my father’s watch before he died was that I wished he’d get a new one.

We all cajoled him about how long he’d had it, and how beat up it looked. But, he always said it still kept perfectly good time and it was good enough.

So here was a complete stranger commenting, semi- tactfully, about how non froo-froo the watch was, and asking why I was wearing it.

“It was my father’s,” I told her, thinking that would pretty much explain it.

“So it makes you think about him?” she asked me.

I told her the watch made me think about time. Not nearly enough of it with my father. Too much of it with people not nearly as loving. Way too much spent regretting things I can’t change.

It makes me think about how quickly time passes. How there are no “do-overs,” with time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

It makes me think about whether I’m using it in the absolutely best possible way.

And yes, it makes me think about my father who I miss, every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

“You probably don’t want a new one then, do you?” she asked.

I smiled and moved on.

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