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Nostalgia April 2017

Musings of an Undefeated Matriarch

Stopped Clocks Don’t Stop Time

By Sharon Kennedy

It might be silly to talk about clocks, but that’s another reason retirement is such a wonderful reward for years of hard labor. Our lives are no longer chained to the numbers on a timepiece.

In a corner of my living room stands a Howard Miller grandfather clock that belonged to my Uncle Steve. It was purchased in the late 1970s when my uncle redecorated his living room. The clock’s hands stopped at 4:20 on a summer afternoon in 1992. That’s the day Uncle Steve left his home for a room in an assisted living establishment. The exact day is lost to memory, but the clock stands as silent testimony to my uncle’s faithfulness in keeping it going and my lack thereof.

That’s the way it is when we pass on and our belongings pass to the next generation. My uncle loved his clock. It was the most expensive piece of furniture he owned. He took great care to keep it in pristine condition. The yellow gloves he used to raise the weights are right where he left them in the bottom of the case. I’ve never touched them and probably never will.

In the vestibule of my mobile home is an old black Westclox that was in my parents’ bedroom. I rescued it from the family home before it was taken down two years ago. Long before the introduction of clock radios, we were awakened by the shrill alarm of a wind-up clock. This one stopped at 11:11 in August of 1968, the month and year my folks moved into this trailer. Like the old house, the clock was a relic of the past and stayed on the nightstand where it had been for 25 years until I brought it here.

On the shelf of one of my bookcases is a miniature gold tone Xanadu clock I bought when I was an Avon representative in 1997. It stopped at 6:06. On another shelf is an Avon ceramic Quartz in the shape of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s a pretty clock in mint condition except for a crack on the plastic face. The hands are frozen at 5:12. Another bookcase is home to a 1980s handcrafted Septarium stone clock. The face of the timepiece resembles a fish swimming westward. The hands stopped at 10:04. Farther down the shelf is a Shontek mantle clock I purchased in 2001 from a mail order catalog. Because I didn’t replace the battery, the hands tell me it’s perpetually 8:59. The 2010 Bedford clock on my desk quit telling time at 1:16.

I like clocks as much as Uncle Steve, but unlike him I have no interest in keeping them wound or plugged in or filled with fresh batteries. I mentioned my favorite clocks but many more are scattered throughout my home. Only two work and they’re in the kitchen. I depend upon the digital one on my stove. If it ever stops working, how will I know when my almond cake, lemon bars, or oatmeal cookies are done unless I check the plastic Sunbeam from Walmart? And what if the battery in it is low and I overbake my goodies? Yikes. Something else to worry about.

It might be silly to talk about clocks, but that’s another reason retirement is such a wonderful reward for years of hard labor. Our lives are no longer chained to the numbers on a timepiece. When I stopped working, I put away my wrist watches and unplugged my bedroom clock. Time comes and goes and I awaken at the same hour every morning. I don’t need a clicking, clanging, ringing, buzzing noise or a radio announcer yelling at me to get up. My internal clock tells me when to rise and hopefully shine.

And so it goes. Years pass and things once considered important are now insignificant or downright nuisances. One of the pluses of outliving the necessity of a clock is the amount of leisure time we have. We come and go as we please. We make afternoon appointments to avoid the morning traffic rush. We linger over coffee with a friend, mindless of the second hand sweeping across numerals and equally oblivious to the minute hand ticking away in an endless chase after its companion, the big hand. In the prophetic words of Martin Luther King, “We are free. Free at last!”

But even without a watch or a functioning clock, I know time is on the move. We can’t stop it or switch it to slow motion. In one way, it’s our friend allowing us to heal from old hurts. In other, it’s a foe, an invisible enemy we’ve been facing all our lives.


You know what I mean, don’t you?

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