Tick, tock toward more hopeful New Year

The antebellum house where I grew up was never really quiet. Cars swished by and trucks roared past as they traveled our busy road night and day.

There was the usual hustle and bustle of three boys living together, the sounds of my mother cooking in the kitchen and the quiet tumble of the washer and dryer.

My grandfather's clock, with portrait of my father looking on.

Our grandfather clock, with portrait of my father looking on.

Yet when day turned to night and all had gone to bed, one haunting sound echoed through the heart pine floors and the house’s high ceilings. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

There was a chorus of ticks, tocks and chimes because my father loved clocks. They hung on the walls of our living room and dining room, in the den and even in the kitchen.

Dad loved big clocks, small clocks and imperfect clocks that didn’t always work right. His favorite was a beautiful grandfather clock built by my grandfather. Granddaddy even cut the timber for his work of art from family land in rural Alabama.

I remember when he delivered it to our home in Eufaula, proudly presenting it to my mother and father. I was fascinated by the chains,  the weights, the glass case and the shiny pendulum.

Dad quickly learned how to pull the chains, which he deftly did every day on all of our clocks throughout the house. He would often whistle as he walked around the house doing what was one of his favorite chores.

When all of the clocks were wound, there was a strange symphony of slow ticks and tocks, gongs and strikes. The chimes were more elaborate on the hour, shorter sequences chimed every quarter-hour.

Lying in the bed at night,  I remember staring at the ceiling, cursing those clocks and the eerie sounds they made as everyone else slept. I suppose the cars and the trucks and the clocks are one reason I still sleep with a box fan. That or the fact my first nursery was in the laundry room.

While at home with my mother over the holidays recently , I noticed something strange. The house was silent. No ticks. No tocks. No chimes. I asked mom if they still worked, and she said they did. They just hadn’t been wound in the four years since my Father passed away. I suddenly longed for the slow ticks and tocks, the piercing sound of the chimes reverberating through the foyer.

I walked to the cozy library in the front of the house to look at our grandfather clock. My eyes were drawn to something just above the face of the clock. It was a globe set into the clock’s face with the words “Tempus Fugit” scrolled across it. I’d never noticed it before, and had no clue what it meant, knowing only “tempus” was probably Latin for time.

Instead of reaching for the expansive set of encyclopedias on the tall book shelves behind me, I pulled out my Iphone and Googled it. Tempus Fugit. It is indeed a Latin expression, literally meaning “time flees.” More commonly translated as “time flies.”

Making this little discovery in the clock I’d looked at many times before was in some ways a revelation, a sobering yet strangely hopeful reminder of something I needed to remember.

Time doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop for the most joyous moments in our lives. It doesn’t stop for our most difficult trials. No matter how badly we want it to, time doesn’t magically freeze as our children grow up too fast.

We can wish time would slow down during the good times, even if just for a little while. We can wish time would march along faster through our struggles. But time is the one measurable thing in our lives that we are powerless to control. She steadily and methodically marches on, no matter what we do.

I am glad 2013 has faded into the past. I will accept it. I will learn from it. I will one day appreciate it. But I will never miss it.

Looking toward 2014 with a hopeful heart and a vow to be a better husband and father, I will try to remember the words of the great modern-day philosopher,  Ferris Beuller. “Life moves by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around, you might miss it.”

Happy New Year, friends, family and visitors alike. Your love, your support and the grace of God made it possible for me to see what 2014 has to offer.

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12 thoughts on “Tick, tock toward more hopeful New Year

  1. Happy New Year Jack, to you and the family hope everyone is well. I remember your dad winding the clocks at the Trib and especially the one hanging just outside my office. I would hear him in the hall winding it and I would let run about an hour and go out open it up and stop the pendulum while keeping an eye out for him. I grew up with those things and I don’t have anything in my house that ticks. I would hear him from time to time fussing under his breath thinking there was something wrong with the clock. One of those times he ask me if I had noticed the clock wasn’t working and I told him I hadn’t really paid any attention to it. :)
    He loved those clocks and anything that reminded him of days gone be. Lots of good memories my friend keep the faith and your always in my prayers.


  2. Jack,

    You may not be a country music fan, but as I read this post, the Tracy Lawrence song (Time Marches On) was playing in my head. Time stops for no one. I am fortunate to have a support system for the times that are bad and people to share in the joys of the good times. May 2014 bring you and your family more of the good days with a rhythm you can all march to comfortably.


  3. Amen! Thank God 2013 is over! Here’s to the hope that 2014 will be better but the faith that God will be present even if it’s not.

  4. Well written, Jack. Know you don’t know me but I remember with fondness your Dad so this gives me another side of him I didn’t know. Our prayers have been with you and your family this year. Praying this will be a great and happy year for you all. As always, striving to learn from the past while living for the future.

  5. Hi Jack. I live in the lazy little town of Eufaula also. I enjoy your blog. I myself live with depression and anxiety. I take meds and they help . It is not an easy battle. I like you have a great support team. The ups and downs are some days hard to deal with. I fight like you and proud to say I have improved and learn to live a happy life. I wish you a wonderful 2014. Keep up the fight . It is a battle that can be conquered and controlled.

  6. I read your blogs often and remember my days at the Trib. You are an inspiration and I pray that 2014 is a good year for you and your family.

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