Tuesday, June 7, 2016


My daughter arrived the second week in May. She hadn’t been home for more than twenty-four hours when she asked, “Was the electricity off recently?”

“No. Why do you ask?” I asked.

“The clocks are slow,” she replied.

“I can explain. Time changed in March. The clocks didn’t.” I thought my answer settled it.

She was aghast. She had no frame of reference for such a flagrant disregard for time. Never before in all her years as George’s daughter had our clocks failed to march in carefully synchronized precision. Room by room, they were choreographed so that analog arms motioned in beautiful unison and digital dots winked on cue.

Changing the clocks twice a year was a ritual—not a fond one, but a ritual nonetheless. Never one to leave something as important as time to chance, George anticipated the impending change by five hours exactly—beginning his systematic sacrament at 9 pm. He wouldn’t be awake at 2 am when the new time became official. He’d rather not be caught mid-morning as time-befuddled as other wayward souls who waited until the morning after to do what should have been done the night before.

I didn’t forget to change the clocks this year. I simply didn’t do it. I cannot explain exactly why, although I can offer multiple speculations.

Perhaps I succumbed to a Miss Havisham moment, a refusal to move forward that meant I would forever embrace the tattered life of one for whom time stopped at the scene of her disillusionment. Maybe I was now a woman destined to nibble the leftover crumbs of a once happily-ever-after life. Although it is tempting to play the melodramatic heroine of Dickens’ Great Expectations, I cannot embrace either her eccentricity or her mean-spirited nature.

I could claim laziness. After a lifetime of denouncing the perils of being a slacker, maybe I was throwing in the towel of industrious living…and leaving it to lie on the floor instead of putting on the rack where it belongs. Alas, the clutter of a disheveled life drives me to distraction, so I suspect it isn’t that.

Men and women with the gift of mercy would attribute my failure to attend to detail as evidence of a mildly depressed state. “Poor dear, how she grieves,” they will whisper softly to each other—just before they head to the store to purchase me more tea, or a soft new journal or a fragrant candle—anything to show me how dearly I’m loved. Although I admit to a lingering sadness—along with a growing addiction to gifts to cheer me up—there is scant connection between the lag on my clocks and the sag in my soul.

After much consideration, I have concluded that not changing the clocks has been my ineffectual protest against time itself. Not changing the clocks was a token foot stomp of rage. It was October. He was gone. Breath left my body—even though I didn’t exhale. Time stopped—but apparently only for me. Without the slightest consideration for my feelings, or so much as a ‘by your leave,’ time marched on. I couldn’t stop it, but I didn’t have to dance to its cadence.

She didn’t care much for my explanations. She repeated, “You need to change the clocks.” So I did. She is after all her father’s daughter. She was right, and I am getting tired of adding that extra hour in my head every time I check the time.