The Grandfather Clock

Last March, on a particularly cold but bright day, Mr. C stopped at a garage sale near my house in Denver. I was struggling to prepare the house, pack, and move. Encased in a corset style brace with strict instructions of: “no lifting, bending, twisting” put a damper on my actual participation in packing, cleaning, and staging a house.  It wasn’t enough he had fished me out of the lake after my miscalculated jump but the generous Handsome Stranger agreed to help me with these tasks. I was tired and sore from sitting in the truck but I wasn’t going to begrudge him stopping at a sale.    From the outside, it didn’t look like there would be much to interest him, the usual bad furniture, scattered household items, VHS tapes; all relics of the last century. I was actually surprised when I spied Mr. C lugging an over heavy box from the garage sale to the truck. He had a reputation of finding treasure or near treasure at auctions, farm or garage sales and this first time sale with him foreshadowed the amusement, delight, and confusion I would feel whenever he shares his finds with me.


“It’s an old grandfather clock, over a hundred years old.”

“In pieces?”
“Yeah but they are all there so I’ll put it together when we get home.”


I had no doubt he had the tools and the skill to reassemble the old clock but I couldn’t help the vision of a clock sitting in a box in the dining room until I was strong enough to move it to the shop. Watching him struggle to put it in the back of the truck made me realize it would be sometime in the fall (if ever) when I could move the clock to the shop.


Oh ye of little faith.


This clock taught me a lesson about Mr. C.   He is a self-confessed master procrastinator and admits it’s something he has tried to change and has failed to change.  I’m the queen of the work around so I manage to work around his procrastination. Plus, I’m hardly perfect and can procrastinate with the best of them. I certainly can’t judge people for their unfinished projects given I have projects in storage resting and waiting for me. But when something catches his attention and his imagination…there is no stopping him. The arrival of the clock was perfect, it was late March and he hadn’t started his or my taxes. The clock was the perfect project to bestay the drudgery of taxes.


He spent days tinkering with the clock once it was together. I was still commuting between Denver and Loveland but he would call me just to tell me the clock was running slow and the chimes weren’t correct. It was fascinating to me and I didn’t mind the calls that were more interesting and hopeful than stage four cancer hospice decisions. I was fascinated by his enthusiasm for this old clock. I like clocks, I like the ticking of a clock and I love chimes. There was a clock shop in Denver many years ago and I remember stepping in on the hour so I could hear all the clocks go off at once.


I thought the every fifteen minute chimes would annoy me but rather they serve to keep me on task; remind me to put things in the oven or pull things out of the oven; make my way to work. Every fifteen minutes as the hour passes, the chimes are different with growing complexity. The half hour isn’t as complex as the forty-five minute mark, and fifteen past is the simplest of all. It fits with my own need for order. There have been only three occasions in the last seven months I’ve blamed the clock for keeping me awake. When really it was petty concerns, needless worry, and stupid imagined indignations that kept sleep at bay. The clock simply mocked my over active mind and imagination.


Mr. C is very proud of the clock and for a few weeks after it was put in order and the time keeping checked daily; anyone who called or visited was treated to an explanation of the clock. When he left this June for his work away from the yellow house he assumed no one would keep up the winding. But I do. I wind it every Sunday evening and Thursday morning. I test it against the smart phone and yes, it’s still a minute fast. I think it always will be because I watched Mr. C tinker with the weights, the pendulum, and god knows what else to make it keep Atomic Clock worthy time. And yet, it’s still a minute fast and 7:00 a.m. only chimes six times. In essence, it’s six o’clock three times at the yellow house.


The weights are heavy and the effort of winding them up towards the clock face from the bottom of the longcase was too much for me until May. A week before he left, Mr. C showed me how to wind the clock not too tightly and how to finagle the lock. I was honored he trusted me with his beloved clock and I promised I would care for it just as he had.


The chimes are loud enough I can often hear them announce the time during the day while I’m working at the opposite end of the house. Rather than make me impatient and worried I’m running out of time, the clock reassures me I’ve enough time to complete whatever it is I must do. But the baritone chimes can be like a reproachful and parental voice, when they strike more than ten after dark, as they admonish me for staying up too late.

About Laura

When my nest emptied I moved from the big city to a little big town to tend to a ramshackle yellow house on the edge of town. These are my Yellow House Days.
This entry was posted in at the heart of things, Mr. C. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Grandfather Clock

  1. I love the idea of a GF clock, I do. I love the sound of chimes. But I do have trouble sleeping & would be concerned. Of course, I can sleep soundly in a downtown San Francisco hotel with window to the street hearing cable cars clang…so maybe i’d find the chimes comforting, too!


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