I know. It’s only a wristwatch. Even the jeweler says it’s worthless. I’ve sent it off, paid four hundred bucks. They took it apart, replaced gears.
I don’t know why I wear it. My father’s watch is dead weight.
You have no reason to care about this, but my daddy wanted to be a pilot since childhood. When folks asked the redhead what he wanted to be, he gave the same four-word answer.
“I wanna fly airplanes.”
By high school it was a five-word answer. “I’m gonna fly Navy planes.”
Truth told, that’s hard for me to imagine—Daddy with such youthful ambition. The only man I ever knew was a steelworker who sweat buckets for a pittance and rode tractors after work.
He could make dead trucks run, hum every hymn, and strike an arc with the best stick-welder.
He was no pilot.
As a young man, Daddy signed up to take the Navy aviation physical exam. The smooth-faced version of my father sat in the waiting room, knees bouncing.
I’ll bet he glanced at this very wristwatch every couple seconds. Because on that day, this thing would’ve been brand new. He paid a lot for it. It’s an aviator’s timepiece.
The Navy doctor checked his vision. Daddy had hawk eyes.
The next exam: his ears. My father was deaf on his left side. It took ninety seconds for the doc to show him the door.
He stood outside on the sidewalk. I don’t know whether he cried, but I do know he threw his new watch on the pavement.
And that was the end. My father was landlocked. No one would ever know him as anything but a dirty-faced welder. Including his own boy.
I remember a family get-together. My cousin brought a young man she was dating. Blonde kid.
A Navy pilot.
He and Daddy talked until the wee hours. They sat on the back porch. He asked the young man what flying was like.
The kid said it was indescribable.
It made Daddy smile. Not a happy grin, but the kind you give at funerals.
Then, the kid said something else to Daddy.
Daddy cocked his good ear toward him. “Say again, son?”
The kid repeated, “I said, nice watch.”
Daddy shook it and listened to it.
For the life of me, I don’t know why he wore that broken thing. Maybe because people can love dead things just as much as living ones. Or, perhaps it reminded him of youth. Of how bad he’d always wanted to fly.
And that’s why I wear it.
Because some glad morning he finally did.