“My watch isn’t working,” he said, looking down at his wrist.
“Again?” I asked, hoping silently it was just off by a few minutes.
As my dad has aged, seasons and time have come to mean nothing. Yet, he wants the security of a band encircling his arm, reminding him of the hour and day.
Right as fall changed to winter, and snow was coming down outside his apartment, I said,
“It’s so horrible outside right now.” I had driven on slippery roads to get to him to be sure he was okay.
“Spring is coming,” he said.
I pointed to the large clock displaying the time, day, and month.
“What does that say?”
“It says December 28th.”
“When did winter start? What day?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“You just said spring is coming. Winter just started on December 21. How many days ago was that?”
He often goes silent while calculating numbers in his mind.
“7 days ago? It’s only been winter for a week?”
“Spring is still coming, though.”
“When isn’t it?”
The other discussion he has with me a lot lately is how long my mom has been in heaven and the length of time he has been at an assisted living.
“How long have I been here?”
“Three years this summer.”
“What? I thought it was less than a year. Where have I been all this time? I don’t remember almost three years going by.”
“Mom has been gone that long?”
“I’m losing it, Chris. I really am.”
“It’s okay. What difference does any of this make? As long as you are safe and have help. Nothing else matters.”
To cut down on the confusion, I try to ensure that the time is correct if he has his watch on. So when he said it wasn’t working, I looked at it.
As with everything he has ever owned, this particular timepiece was probably in his possession since the pioneer days. He comes from an era that gets rid of nothing.
Less than a year ago, I had replaced the battery because he wouldn’t let me buy him a new watch. He had two, and both had stopped functioning. He sent me on a mission to have fresh batteries installed.
I walked into a department store, thinking the person at the jewelry counter could help. A guy was trying on sunglasses from a case. As he put each one on and looked in a mirror and handed them back, she had a disinfectant wipe at the ready.
“Can I help you?” She said while Mr. Ray-Ban was preoccupied with himself in the mirror.
I took out both watches and told her what I needed.
“You will have to go to a battery store. Since Covid, our store policy doesn’t allow us to touch personal items anymore.”
“How do these look on me?” He asked like I had shown up as his personal fashion assistant.
“Great,” I answered, wondering how one virus had taken away so many things, except for vanity.
I went to the place she suggested. One was quickly fixed.
“You will have to go to a jewelry store specifically for this other one. I don’t have the proper tool to open it.”
I paid for the one, got back in my car, and went to destination three to see if they could help. You will go to great lengths for the ones under your care.
The second one was put back in working order, and I took them to him.
When I showed him they were fixed, it was like his lifeline to the world had been restored. He promptly fastened it back where he felt it belonged.
The familiarity of it, I realized, was an anchor for him, somehow helping him be grounded in a subtle way.
One of the two stopped working immediately.
“Just forget it, Chris. I can use this one.”
Well, that one less than a year later was now starting to fade again, and I didn’t want to go through the process of a battery change.
“This has quit working.”
“Should I get you a new one?”
The question was going to yield an answer I could not guess. I was assuming he was going to cling to the old.
“Yes. I think I want something else.”
Talk about throwing all caution to the wind!
That small change for a person nearing ninety is quite the step.
Happy that I didn’t have to go through the hassle of the battery, I went to the store. I realized I was not aware of the assortment of watches that there are to choose from. I needed something simple.
I use my phone to see the time. I was delving into an arena I hadn’t been paying attention to since the 80s.
No, I don’t want to monitor his heart rate; he worries enough, and knowing him, he would watch the numbers go up and worry more. No, he doesn’t need a stopwatch function because he isn’t running track. No, it can’t have five million buttons on both sides. Yes, it required a large face with two different hands.
I laughed when I saw the display for Casio. I instantly saw John Candy in Trains, Planes, and Automobiles trying to sell it so he could get a hotel room.
I found a rare one that only kept time and had a small window showing the date.
When I arrived, there was an activity about ready to happen with a lady playing the piano. I showed him the watch.
“I will set it for you while she plays,” I said.
He glanced down at his wrist, remembering something was absent.
“I don’t have the time.”
“I think you have quite a bit of it unless you are now working a full-time job that I’m not aware of.”
“No. I have plenty of time, just not something to tell me how slow the day is going.”
While sitting next to him at the social event, I was trying to read the fine print. Not just fine, but super small, like I needed a magnifying glass. I held up the tiny paper away from me to try and focus.
I heard him laugh slightly. I squinted. I moved the instructions closer.
He leaned over and said,
“You need a new pair of glasses now that you have bought me a new watch.” I didn’t have my glasses on.
“And a refresher course in a foreign language because I just realized I was trying to read in Spanish.”
After I got it set, I slipped it on his arm.
He looked at it and said,
“It’s not working, Chris.”
“What? This is brand new.”
Sure enough, it had stopped for no reason.
“I think you have lived past your time,” I said smiling, and he laughed again. “This is a sign your time is up.” He has been in multiple situations where he has dodged death, so I knew he would not take me seriously.
When I tried to snap the band back in place, it wouldn’t. I thought I had succeeded, and it fell to the floor. But, it was running right. So that was going in my favor.
“When things are fighting me this much, I’m thinking you are not supposed to be concerned with time at all.”
After a lot more struggling, I had it, and so did he.
Sighing, he said,
“Nothing seems easy anymore. I need to move on from all of this.”
“You will someday,” I said.
We all will. The one thing we all can count on besides a Timex that keeps on ticking is our departure. But no one wants to really talk about it.
A few months ago, I took an online course to be certified as a death doula. Just like there are people devoted to bringing babies into the world, there are those who want to help people go on to eternity.
When my dentist asked me what I was up to, and I told him, he said,
“You are a death angel? Is that what you are? People see you coming and run?”
He also asked if I needed less novocaine since I was so in tune with the afterlife.
In one of the chapters of the material, there were resources listed that a person could use to discuss the topic with more ease. One way this is happening is death coffee shops popping up. I have had a cup of coffee or two taste like death, but these places are expressly set up to have people get together and converse solely about their demise. Instead of avoiding it, they are planning what they want and making sure to write out what they don’t.
We aren’t accustomed to not knowing what is next. You can pull up a guide on your remote, and it will list every single show that will be on for days. If you are going somewhere, you can map it out and see precisely where you will be and when. Almost every electronic device has a timer, so you can set it and know it will turn on and off at certain hours.
But when it comes to the ultimate end, we don’t fully know, which causes many not to want to think about it. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says,
Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it. (Message)
You aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow, and while that sounds morbid, it should prompt you to live today with a more significant awareness of the people God has put into your life for a reason, that the minor irritations that come your way, like getting delayed, mean nothing in the vast scheme of things, and that you are a vital piece of the puzzle, needed to fulfill your life purpose.
Colossians 3:2 will help keep your focus on what is important:
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (NLT)
A sense of peace will come when you decide to do that. This will help you go through your days, knowing that you are not doing this alone and God is watching.