Wednesday, June 4, 2003

My grandfather’s watch

After eight weeks and ruinous expense, I got the watch back from the jeweller’s recently. It needed a lot of work on the mechanism (it’d stopped winding) and a new loop made for a fob chain.

It’s gorgeous: professionally polished, running smoothly, and with a lovely, rather square, new loop. The watch does not flip open, it’s glass faced with straight hour markings rather than numbers or roman numerals. Thin and flat and silver, it feels like a large, unusually light coin in my hand.

It needs a silver chain now, and it’s the devil’s own business finding one in silver, let alone slender enough to look right. I’m also reluctant to take something of such sentimental value to England. It’s not necessarily that old. Perhaps as little as twenty-five or thirty years (I need to discuss that with Mum), but it was Poppa’s.

Sedentary would only just begin to describe my grandfather. He worked the same office job all his life, and I mean the same work at the same desk. He bought one house in Sydney and lived there until Nanna’s death. He did little he was not pushed to and seldom gave the impression of enjoying travel. He had a passion for cricket, and when he could no longer play cricket, bowls. When he could no longer play bowls, he followed the TV news. He had one memory from before the family left Scotland, sitting on his grandfather’s knee. His biggest adventure was probably moving to Canberra into a little flat after Nan’s death to be closer to the family.

The flat wasn’t too far from the place I shared with Marissa. I tried to drop in often, but it would probably have wound up being only an afternoon a fortnight. He always took such an interest in me, my studies, the job I had lined up in Sydney after graduation.

He died, distressed and disoriented, while I was in Sydney. I never saw him in the hospital, it was a rapid deterioration – but the weekend I could have driven down to visit, all advice was against it. He’d stabilised, he wasn’t recognising anyone, he had months, he’d improve. It wasn’t to be, and I missed my chance.

I don’t recall our last conversation (they were fairly superficial), and I don’t feel I ever got to say goodbye.

But I have his watch.

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