The mystery of the watch

Stephanie had a watch that she liked. Nothing ornate, just an old-style watch with an hour hand, a minute hand, and a second hand. What made it a little different was that the face had an interesting design, with clouds and a sun or moon at noon or midnight. It’s rather nice, for a cheap watch. She had that watch when we first met, but it eventually stopped working. She tried replacing the battery, but time still stood still. Yet she continued wearing it, occasionally glancing at her wrist, then frowning and asking me what time it was.

So we went watch-shopping at a department store, and she was delighted to find that the same watch design was still available. She bought a new watch exactly like the old watch that had stopped. It wasn’t expensive, but it also wasn’t too well-made, and after a few years the new watch also stopped running. Again, she continued wearing it, even though it only told the right time twice every day.

By this point Stephanie was in a wheelchair, and a trip to the department store would have been a bit of a chore for her, so she asked me to find a replacement. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a third watch of exactly the same design. After checking several stores and searching on-line, I bought her a watch that was similar, but without the pretty design on the face. She was briefly disappointed, but wore that third watch for the rest of her life. I brought it home from the hospital, among her other effects.

As I was cleaning the bedroom at home and sorting through her possessions, I found one of the watches that had stopped. It wasn’t forgotten at the back of a drawer or under dust deep in a box; it was on her nightstand. Picture me scratching my head. Is this the replacement watch, or the original watch? They’d both stopped, and I had assumed that they’d both been tossed in the trash. They were $19.99 watches, not keepsakes. Whichever watch it was, it hadn’t told time for years, yet she kept it within arm’s reach beside the bed.

Connecting the clues, my suspicion is that the watch held some special significance for her, more than merely a watch. Perhaps it was a gift from someone? Perhaps she bought the first watch during her travels to Russia or England? Perhaps there’s a story more interesting than that? Whatever that story might be, Stephanie never told me, so I’ll never know.

Posted 11/17/2018.

More about Stephanie.

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