This is the clock that hung above my Grandpa Woolard’s television set, it’s a 1960’s model made in Chicago. I don’t know where he bought it or how much he paid for it. All I know is that it hung there for as long as I can remember. I traced its round face and starburst shape in my mind a million times, listening as it ticked at night- deep into the dark night- as his house would eerily settle and creak. I’d poke my older sister to see if she was sleeping then cover my head in a thin blanket desperate for morning when I could see the face of the clock again in the harmless daylight.
Grandpa lived in a little village in Newton County, Missouri, where the Indian Creek ran under a long, old bridge and time stood still. The general store was boarded up and there was only one filling station in town where Grandpa went every morning for coffee owned by a man named “Click”.
We played in the creek for hours until pebbles swam inside our creek shoes against our cold, wrinkled feet. We’d skip up the hill to Grandpa’s house wrapped in towels, shoes squeaking, asking what was for dinner. Anything but fish. We were told to take baths against our will in his bachelor’s bathroom where weird smelling soap sat next to his frayed toothbrush.
We were bedded down in the living room after a bowl of brown beans and cornbread. I stared at that clock above the TV knowing bedtime was closing in, when Hee-Haw came on and we all laughed at people who lived simple lives- maybe simple like us. I looked at that clock and counted the hours until morning, homesick. But when morning came, we’d roll out of bed and sit down to breakfast to the sound of pancakes baking on a cast iron skillet. Nobody fried pancakes like Grandpa.
With homesickness gone and a basement to explore, we put on dirty clothes, didn’t do as we were told, made up stories about who was murdered in the house across the road, snooped in the neighbor’s yard, ate bologna and cheese sandwiches for lunch as Grandpa ate slices of onion like apples. And at last that same clock would bring mom and dad back to pick us up and find us standing by the door smiling like angels and Grandpa not far behind, a little worn and frazzled.
The clock hung there during my adolescent years when visiting him was no longer “cool” and I waited impatiently with my Walkman and earphones by the door of the car, and during my teen years when my visits were few and far between. The clock hung there during my young adult years when I was too busy raising kids and making a life to take the time. The clock kept ticking.
The clock hung there until 2009, after I stood beneath the tent at the graveyard and gave his eulogy, when everything he owned was removed from his house piece by piece- including the clock.
Now, the clock, one of my prized possessions, rests on a shelf in my office. Unplugged. At rest. But still ticking with memories.