I am standing with my niece in front of my father’s bureau, and I show her the gold-plated watch with the “Hamilton” typed out across its face. My father loved pocket watches and there are a couple of them still sitting on his bureau so it takes me a moment to find the right one. The watch I select is cool against my palm, and surprisingly heavy. “Do you know the significance of this one?” I ask her.
She is planning to write her senior thesis on my father’s poetry, and has asked my mother for permission to go through the papers which, destined for the Renaissance Center at the University of Massachusetts, still sit in boxes piled up in his study and out in the garage.
Hearing this, I take her immediately into my parents’ bedroom to show her the gold watch. “No, I don’t,” she says. “Should I?”
We get better with every generation.
I have known this beautiful young woman since she was born, arriving at the hospital in Baltimore within a day of her birth. Although she was ultra-feminine as a little girl, fastidious about her things, perhaps even a little prissy, she has turned into a first-class soccer player who not only knows how to take a joke but also how to deliver one.
She was the valedictorian of her high school class, and captain and leading scorer on her college soccer team. She is an All-Ivy scholar and an All-Ivy athlete, at once smart, pretty, personable, and modest. And when I hear about her senior thesis plans, I can’t help thinking that there couldn’t be a greater tribute to my father, nor anything more flattering to the rest of his family.
That’s why I show her the watch and then set it down on the bureau, carefully now, as he would have done, because I wouldn’t want to scratch it.
The note from Newman’s said
it needed cleaning,
but I wind it and it goes.
Its hands with delicate gesture pointing
like vanes around the face resume
an hour of your life.
Sunlight in the room
and memories, clear
as water. In the mirror as you lean
to tie your tie I see
the Hamilton on its gold chain.
Ten after eight:
initials on the knife, reversed.
Where you stood on the rug
it wears. I say my name
and hang your picture to remind me.
Another time; your breath
unclouding in the glass.
© G. Stanley Koehler