Written Winter 2008
One of my dad’s favorite songs to sing in the last years of his life was “Grandfather’s Clock” by Henry Work. His signal to sing began with a beckoning to his grandchild to get the “yellow song book” from the piano bench. Then he took the child on his knee and with an earnest bass voice sang all 4 verses of the synchronous yet somewhat morbid ballad. Each grandchild especially loved the chorus:
But it stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering, tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering, tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.
I never could figure out why he seemed so fascinated with this song since he had never sung it when I was growing up. Was it that the children loved the “tick, tock” or was it that one of his favorite earthly possessions was his grandfather’s clock that he built himself? It might have been both because between hearing Grandpop’s deep bass voice and hearing the clock chime just a few feet away, his grandchildren were usually spellbound.
When I was in high school Daddy built a grandfather’s clock from an Emperor Clock kit and he was never the same. He was proud of his accomplishment but there was something more, like he had a relationship with his clock. If the clock were losing time, Daddy could not rest until he resolved the problem. It was only in his later years that anyone besides Daddy fixed the clock. So, perhaps this song hit a familiar chord with Daddy and his clock.
Now his grandfather’s clock chimes in our home, and Daddy would be pleased to know that it runs perfectly. It doesn’t seem to have the same omnipotent presence that it once had while residing at Halteman Road with my parents, but it always reminds me of my father. Sometimes I even apologize to Daddy when I’ve forgotten to wind it. Daddy had an intricate relationship with this clock, one that I can’t relate to, yet I always find the clock’s presence comforting and faithful. We all know “our hour of departure” will come, but as for now, let’s enjoy the precious moments God has given us. Happy New Year! -BBM
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