The pendulum’s tick as it swung from side to side was a daunting sound. It was the heartbeat of Father Time, the pulse coursing through his veins.
He ignored the ticking as he ran past the old Grandfather clock outside his bedroom, careful to cut the corner tightly as he ran out of his room with his cowboy boots on and his hat and cape, not wanting his mother to poke her head around the corner at the end of the hall and point her finger at him yet again.
“Watch that clock!” she would say, always.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Simply; “Watch that clock!”
And he did in a way, but not in any way that would matter. He watched it for a brief moment to be sure he didn’t collide with it as he came around the corner. He watched it as he slid down the hall, the hardwood floor like ice beneath his socks as he stopped just shy of the old clock, that ticked in a way he had learned to completely drone out.
As he grew, it became easier to ignore that clock. He would walk past it with his knapsack thrown over his shoulder. He would close his door without even hearing the swaying of the pendulum, the ticking of the moments, as though the clock was keeping time of his every moment.
And it was, but he didn’t watch it. Not anymore. He had grown out of such things.
Life seemed to happen quickly for him. Before he knew it he was a Junior and he brought his girlfriend home for the first time, even though he had been dating her since the 9th grade.
His mother had raised a brow at her as she came in shyly pushing her hair behind her ear and reaching out her hand. The way mother’s did when they wanted to tease you but knew better than to embarrass.
“You have until 9:00.” She smiled at him as his girlfriend has walked down the hall and into his room. “Keep the door open.” She had grinned. “And watch that clock.”
She had meant it in a different way now. They had school tomorrow, and both had a curfew. He paused to look at the clock as he quickly followed behind his girlfriend who pointed to the clock. “It’s beautiful.” She had told him.
Taking a moment, he looked at it and shrugged before taking her into his room and closing his door as much as he could without him mother running down the hall after him to open it once again.
They spent a lot of time together in that room after that.
Moments with the clock ticking in the background, chiming at the hour. There were times when it annoyed him, telling her of the time so she would break the kiss that was just beginning to get hot and hurry out realizing how close to being late she almost was, or chiming the time his mother would be home so they could quickly get dressed and move to separate areas of the room to lessen the suspicions.
It was heavy.
He struggled to hold onto it as him and his best friend carried it down the hall and up the ramp into the moving truck that would be taking him to University. He wasn’t sure why his mother had insisted he take it, but after weeks of telling her he didn’t think he needed it, he sighed and agreed just so they could stop talking about that stupid clock.
She walked out of the house, her eyes glassy, wiping her damp hands with the kitchen clock as she looked at them walking into the moving van that would be taking him away. “Watch that clock.” She told him as his hand slipped for a moment. He adjusted the weight and sighed, forcing a smile.
He watched it, careful. Not wanting to hear what his mother would say if he broke it. Knowing how much it would hurt her, he watched it.
He watched it when he sat on his bed in his dorm room, holding his High School girlfriend’s hands in his lap as he told her he thought it was best for them to live a little bit. They were both young, and now was the time. They both had so much life left to live.
He watched the clock so he didn’t see her eyes fog over, watched her face contort with pain before she took her hands back from him and used them to drop her face into before sighing heavily, grabbing her purse and leaving.
That night, he watched the clock more than he ever had. He watched the seconds pass as he questioned his decisions, and let the pendulum rock him to sleep.
Time passed and he watched the clock more and more. He watched the clock as the blonde from the bar slept beside him, wondering when she would wake up and when she would go home. He watched the clock as he struggled to get through assignments, amazed by how much time had passed and how little work he had done. He watched the clock, and then checked his watch to be sure the time was right before grabbing his keys and coat and rushing out the door.
Before too long, his mother had come to visit him. She had fussed around his room the way mothers did, picking up sweaters and folding him and stacking his books more neatly on his desk, she asked him about the sweet girl who spent so much time in his room, she looked back over her shoulder when she said it with a sly look he would expect more from a friend teasing him about bringing a girl home then his mother. He told her they had split ways a while ago but may pick things up later, when they both of lived a little.
Looking back at him she frowned, grabbing her purse and telling him she would take him out for dinner. She paused at the clock, touching the wood lightly as she said his ex-girlfriend’s name again with regret in her voice. “Well, watch that clock.” She told him.
Rolling his eyes, they went out for dinner.
Many girls later, and many years, he was moving that clock once again. He had landed a job right after graduation and was moving it into the house he would call his dream house.
As he walked around the house, he took in the mouldings and the bannisters, and then he realized this had been her dream house.
Looking at the grandfather clock, he figured it wasn’t too late in the evening to call her. Picking up the phone, he called her number.
She had the same voice, innocent and light. She asked who it was and when he responded, she went silent. Then she cleared her throat and said hello, asking him in the most polite way she could manage what he was calling about. He told her about how life seemed to come full circle and he had, without even noticing, bought her dream house. She laughed, and told him that she was jealous, but happy with her own.
He told her he thought he had made a mistake, and he wanted to see her again.
There was a long silence.
When he tried to repeat himself, she cut him off. She told him that so much time had passed and she had gotten married that year, and was pregnant with her first child. She would always care and think about him, but life was about timing, and he had missed his chance.
He hung up with a heavy heart.
His mother had come the next day to see her dream house. He had given her the tour and ended it right in front of her old Grandfather clock. She watched it, with eyes that seemed mesmerized and asked her if he had called his ex-girlfriend. He told her about the phone call.
She listened and then sighed. “You didn’t watch the clock.”
“Mom…” he moaned.
“I got his clock from my great grandmother. She had brought it with her from Holland and it was given to her from her grandmother. Her grandmother had given it to her as a wedding present. She had been married when she was very young, still in her teens and not yet a woman. Her grandmother had winked at her and told her to watch that clock. And she had, she had kept a close eye on that clock, counting the moments of her life and careful not to waste any. It wasn’t long until her husband, who was much older than her passed away and she was finally able to marry the man she loved. When she gave it to my mother, it was when I was born. My mother was terrified and didn’t know what to do with a baby. She smiled at her and told her to watch that clock. Before she knew it, she was a wonderful mother wishing she could get those first moments back, when I was small and not moving out of the house. She gave it to me when I was married and having trouble conceiving. She told me the same thing, and before I know it, I had you. No daughter to pass this clock to… only you. You were like gold to me.”
Turning she looked at him. “I do think a daughter would have gotten my advise earlier.” She teased.
His brow was creased as he looked at her, waiting for her to explain.
“It was never about the clock, just a reminder about how precious time is. I saw the way you loved that girl, and I knew that if you watched the clock, you would have wanted more time, not time apart. These moments you let pass unnoticed, the ones you give away, they are ones you can never get back.”
“So what do I do?” he asked her. “She is married, a baby on the way.”
His mother walked over to him, her eyes staring into his own as she smiled at him. “Watch that clock,” She whispered. “Maybe time will bring love to you again.”