Remembering Time

I’m in the middle of repairing a 90 year old clock! Who doesn’t like the comforting pulse of the gentle tick or the consoling chimes marking each hour from a distant mantel top? Well, so it seemed when I bought a handsome though broken Seth Thomas at a favorite antique store a few years back. Thankfully, we have a friend who just happens to be a member of the extremely dedicated and increasingly small Twin Cities Clock Makers Guild. Ivy generously offered her wisdom, guidance and well equipped “shop” for the task.

Last week we tore apart the innards and cleaned a gazillion little pieces in a bath of ammonia and then alcohol. We had to gently, ever so carefully, release the tension on the over-wound spring that keeps time. The spring that powers those comforting chimes had proverbially sprung, bending sprockets and brackets in its wake! Today we begin putting the pieces back together. Easier said than done! But this is an absolutely fascinating process and I am guided by a patient, forgiving master teacher. Whoever came up with this technology back in the 15th century, each piece hand-crafted and painstakingly calibrated, were geniuses of the first rate.

Today is also the seventh anniversary of my sister, Della’s death. It seems appropriate to spend time this afternoon tinkering with an old clock and carefully reconstructing its inner workings. Do we pay enough attention to the time we have? Can we gently release parts in our day that are wound too tight? How do we repair that which has sprung and damaged the way we operate? Do we sufficiently treasure each methodical tick in our day? Are we consoled by the marking of time and gladdened even more by chimes ringing forth the later hours?

Today I miss my sister with her quirky humor and sometimes maddening idiosyncrasies. I loved her. Della loved me even when I acted unlovable. Yes, it is a gift to disassemble the inner workings of our lives and restore the reassuring sounds of time. She is a master teacher and – when attentive – we recognize the wisdom of the ages, discovering both memory and promise.

2 thoughts on “Remembering Time

  1. Dearest Richard –
    Thinking of you on this anniversary of Della’s death. This and your capital punishment column remind me of the deep connections, sometimes unconscious, of our family, forebearers and siblings. I heard from my brother Jerry last night, who opened with, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s.” I’d left messages on those days, but delighted to hear how his own fractured and re-formed relations had taken his time lately. The greatest of news for him: After divorce life is so much better than what he had settled for. He has a new love, who laughs with him about the quirks that drove his former wife crazy. He said that it was a story about Target research that shaped his thinking about life. The research, which tracks customer preferences, has found that people who have made large life changes such as the birth of a child or divorce, are more likely to be open to other changes. So Jerry stopped buying cheap beer, he bought a sports car (OK, I know… typical mid-life move) having decided he was willing to forego rent on the other half of his garage, found Joanie (with some effort), and started going regularly to folk concerts – sometime he always thought he’d enjoy but never did. He said that he is much happier now. He’s grown accustomed to Joanie’s little dogl, something he never envisioned. The big change made him open to many other changes that have made his life rich and happy.
    So, your reminder to treasure both our family connections, but also to love the portions of our lives that we have tamped down, is a great one.
    Delight in Della this day and all that she opened you to.

  2. Richard,
    Thank you for remembering MOM-Della! It has been 7 years but she has not aged. Her smile forever young. Do you recall her grandfather clock in the hall? The “chime” on the hour- 24 hours a day. The grandkids talk of Nana’s clock all the time. It has not chimed for 6 years…… TIME to start tinkering.

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