It was about the same height as she was herself,
and it ticked with a smooth kind of groove….
Well, alright, it’s not a classic. I woke this morning with the lyrics of “My grandfather’s clock” running through my head, a slightly creepy song if ever I heard one, what with the line, “but it stopped, short, never to run again, when the old man died…”
When you live with a clock that needs winding every seven days or so, this refrain isn’t heartwarming. It reminds me of me poor dad, who once had a flu that gave him arrhythmias. The ambulance men came and hooked him up to a portable monitor that they nicely placed on his tummy while transporting him, so that he could see his heart rhythm badoomp badoomping along. Then suddenly, he flatlined. My dad stared at the monitor, unbelieving. Was he dead? Shouldn’t someone DO something? How come he could still move? Barely believing he could do so, he reached out a trembling hand and gently touched one of the attendants, gestured at the machine. “Oh I’m sorry,” the fellow said. “We just unplugged the leads to transfer them over. You’re fine.”
This, by the way, is one of my favourite stories about my dad. First, that he would believe he would know stuff after dying, and second, that even in extremis, he was always a gentleman.
Much like my Cousin Grace, who always, always, was the perfect lady. It’s her clock I have hanging in my dining room, measuring the seconds. I am so grateful to have it – it’s an oldie, one that you have to wind backwards, and only 13 times or the spring gets cranky (though I’ve worked it up to 14 on a good day). I’ve worked with it over the years, and despite the fact it keeps pretty decent time, it always has a little sashay in its tick-a-tocka. It hints at perhaps a little wildness in its past, a remembered sambo or tango, perhaps a foxtrot that lead to more. Or maybe just too much Lawrence Welk.
My Cousin (second cousin, really, or something I never really figured out) was a big part of our family – she’d join us for family events, dressed to the nines in a perfect suit and coat, the most awe-insiring but never over the top hats, the softest furs. She wore dusting powder that made us all sneeze, but she always smelled like Cousin Grace. I never saw her with her hair awry, or nails undone, or in anything but full stockings and heels. Surprisingly, she loved us and thought the world of us, in our messy messy lives and house and our tangled hair and seventies “fashion”.
But I’ve always wondered about her. When she was a young girl, she travelled the world – unusual for her time. She taught home economics, she looked after her mother. She never married. But that clock, I think, saw some times now and again. After she died, her diaries were found (note to self: with dying breath, set fire to house and burn diaries). Sinners that we are, we read them. They are fascinating in their tales of the life of a Quincy woman in the 1960’s to 80’s – how I wish I had the older ones to read. Most of her life seems banal – going here and there, doing her laundry, changing the curtains, meeting people for lunch. They are reminiscent of the stories of Jane Austen, tales of relationships and conversations, abbreviated. Woven between the daily rounds are visits with a man, someone she asks to join her for dinner, someone who takes her out now and then, someone who comes and flips her mattress and does the heavy caretaking for her. There’s never a hint at anything more; just his presence on the pages. And then suddenly, he’s no longer there. He isn’t mentioned ever again.
Of course I am consumed with curiosity about what happened.
But I can’t help thinking that if that clock could talk, there’d be a story behind that swinging beat of its pendulum.