I haven’t had much use for watches in recent years. Having nothing on my wrist has been preferable to having something. I balk at the stranglehold that seconds and minutes seem to have on us. Arbitrary designations to which we’ve given the power to judge the value of people.
A little more than a year ago, my paternal grandmother died. Set aside for me was a Bulova watch, a gift given to her by my grandfather. The watch was pretty but simple, not too big, and it didn’t have a clasp to scratch at my wrist. I liked it. It sat in my top drawer declaring the wrong time for a year, while I vacillated between mild interest and pining.
I know what I want for Christmas, I said to my husband finally. Take that watch to town and see if they still make batteries to fit it. Christmas morning, I unwrapped the watch. No battery required, you wind it, the jeweler had explained. My heart leapt the way it does when something that is old moves into my life. The love affair was official now. I began to wear a watch.
My grandmother was a woman who tried very hard. People who loved her have mixed feelings about her and usually a lot of them. Some of what people admired about her was about how hard she tried. To love God, to be a good person. I don’t know if she succeeded in these worthy goals. It isn’t mine to judge. The impact of the hurt and anger that she carried has echoed loudly through the generations. I look at my wrist and consider the painful parts of legacy. Why I wonder, am I wearing her watch?
Am I ignoring the emotional swaths cut into those she loved? Does it matter, I ask myself, how much you love Jesus, if your self-imposed burden to get everyone else to love him too, and the fear that you might fail makes you cruel and unkind?
Grandma’s flaws I do not deny. Despite my generous rending of their mention, few who knew her would approve my noting them at all. But I loved her. I still do.
I am not unlike my grandmother. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I am turning into her (sadly minus the ample bosom). The watch on my wrist is a gift of lessons. My flesh and blood, so in need of the mercy she was unable to offer, wore this watch. I will wear it, and people that I love will fail. They will fail themselves, and they will fail me too. My first reactions one through twenty will be a defense of offense. Choose mercy, my watch says. Stop keeping tallies. Be the woman who forgets what she can and forgives the rest.