Her eyes are nearly fifty years old but they can still accommodate close work. Lily feels unreasonable pride about that. As if she could take credit for the elasticity of her lenses.
She can read the tiny characters etched into the back of the old watch: A.F.U.S. ARMY/TYPE A-11/SPEC.NO.94-27834-B. Et cetera. She remembers when she first took it for repair, a few months after her father gave it to her. The watchmaker was delighted, because all he had to do was read the back of the steel case to ascertain what parts were needed.
It was a simple job and he didn’t charge much for it. But even after that and the addition of a black leather wrist strap, Lily didn’t wear the watch as often as she thought she would. It gained five minutes a day. It was so heavy that it tended to slide sideways on her wrist and she kept banging it into door frames and furniture.
When her father first showed her his old Air Force watch, he told her that the creamy numbers and hands glowed against the black-gray face in cockpit light. The second hand stopped when the pin was pulled out, so the instrument could be synchronized with others.
He gave her the watch a few years later. It had lost its band by then. When she spun the stem the mechanism raced, the minute hand a dizzy whirl and the hour hand sweeping like seconds.
Her father lives with her now. With her and her 17 year-old son Zack. Lily’s father is 78 and was in love with his wife her mother all the years (53) of their marriage. Lily’s parents gave her a brilliant example of happy union but the lesson didn’t take. She’s twice divorced and disinclined to try again. She knows that her parents loved each other and were happy – she was there and witnessed it – but she also believes that each would have been a better person alone.
Her mother died of a massive heart attack four years ago. She never knew what hit her, which was a good thing, because Lily’s mother was not a patient woman. Her father stayed put in the old house for the year everyone advised, but he was miserable. And he couldn’t bear the idea of an old folks’ home as he called it, for he was an active anti-social septuagenarian. He moved into Lily’s big house with her and Zack. The three of them get along pretty well.
If her father comes in and sees her playing with the old Air Force watch, he’ll make a remark about wanting it back. He’ll start reminiscing about what a great watch it was, how they don’t make them like that any more. He has a problem discarding any machine that works. Lily got him a new phone when he moved in. He came to appreciate its features. But he hasn’t tossed his old one.
(to be continued tomorrow)