The Value of Time
I have always hated my father, a petty, pitiful little man who never amounted to anything in his miserable life. I can remember, countless times, him coming home with some hair-brained scheme about getting rich, which was always the root of his folly. There wasn’t a con man in five miles that hadn’t gotten him for his money at least twice, and by his money, I mean my mother’s money, because he could never keep a job. “I’m meant for bigger and better things,” he would say, after being fired by another employer.
I never knew what my mother saw in him. By the time I was ten years old, I could see the difference between him and all the other fathers. One example is-our next door neighbor Mr. Johnson. I can’t remember his profession, but I do remember seeing him leave for work in the morning and returning in the evening.
My father, on the other hand, would come home in the mornings smelling of liquor and smoke from wherever he been the night before. The worst thing is that’s when he would be most affectionate, pawing and slobbering on me.
I couldn’t stand the sight of him, let alone his smell. He always reeked of cigars, coffee, and cheap cologne. The few times he didn’t come home, my mother would get a call, and we would have to go down and bail him out. These are the memories I have of my father.
I take a deep breath, smelling the cut grass and freshly dug earth. The combined aromas fill my nostrils, as my mother leans her head on me. The wind lifts her veil and I see her red her eyes. The cemetery she chose is a beautiful place. A sea of green grass with random rows of grey stone markings laid on top of a hill overlooking the town below, too nice of a place for a man such as my father.
When I asked my mother how much she paid, she refused to tell me, but I’m sure he didn’t contribute a cent. Even in death, she’s still supporting him. I reach for the pocket watch that was my inheritance. The last thing my father gave me, as he lay dying in the hospital. I flip it over to the back, reading the inscription that I had read over and over since getting the stupid thing.
“Time is beyond value.” How ironic a man who had nothing but time and made nothing of himself would own a pocket watch with such an inscription. I went to ask him what it meant, but he passed suddenly, right there after giving it to me. The pastor had to say my name twice before I came out of my trance. I walked to the podium at the head of the casket.
I recited the poorly written speech. I chewed on glorified euphemisms about life and death, trying my best not to speak ill of the dead, but nearly gagging on every word. When I was done, I sat back down next to my mother. We watched the casket descend into the cold dark earth, hand in hand. At that moment, I realized my father had once again, gotten his way, requesting the eulogy be done by me, fully knowing how much I hate both him and even worse, speaking in public. If it wasn’t for my mother’s constant begging and nagging, I would have never honored his last wish, let alone seen him in the hospital.
The service ended; the people attending made their way to say their condolences. The turnout was bigger than I had anticipated. I guess the one thing my father had was an abundance of friends. From the way they spoke, it seemed like he was always doing something for someone. But when he needed something, I hadn’t seen any of them.
The grey shine of the suit brought out the white shirt and purple tie of an older man who approached me, after kissing my mother on the cheek. The letters KC in what look like diamonds were carved into his cuff links. He had an over powering presence and I wondered how someone like this knew my father. He firmly grips my hand and shakes it. “Pleasure to finally meet you. Your father often spoke highly of you.” I could do nothing but smile and shake my head as I wonder who he was.
This man had an air to him. He seemed out of place among the others attending. He shook my hand, and placed his other hand on my elbow gently taking me to the side, whispering in my ear. “You have it with you…good. I would have hated to come all this way for nothing.” I look at him strangely before asking what he was talking about. “The watch I saw you fondling it earlier.”
I unconsciously reach in my pocket presenting the inexpensive pocket watch. “This thing? It doesn’t even work.” The man’s eyes open larger than window panes as he clutched the watch from me. “Thank you. You have no idea how long I’ve waited to have this back.” Fear gripped me for a moment. I feel compelled to ask him for the watch back.
“Wait. That was the last thing he gave me. Why do you want it?”
The man turns to face me. He takes a long pause before giving me a reply. “You tell me, what is this watch worth to you? What is the value of your father’s final gift?”
The question catches me off guard. I look him over trying to figure him out. How did he even know about the watch? What did he possible want with it? It doesn’t matter I‘ll just say some ridicules number. “10,000 dollars” The moment the words spill from lips, I regret it. No one would pay that especially for a broken pocket watch.
“Done!” He reaches into the breast pocket of his suit and pulled out a check that had already been signed. He writes the amount I asked and hands it to me. The man turns his back leaving without saying another word. I stare at the check in bewilderment, when my mother grabs my arm. “So how did it feel meeting Kevin Cinder the richest man in the state?” My mother said smiling from ear to ear, I stared at his back. “Kevin and your father were childhood friends. Believe it or not Kevin owed much of his success to your father.”
I was going to ask how, but my mother looked to be lost in a past memory. “Your father saved his life one night, and as a reward, he gave your father a precious heirloom that had been in his family for generations. He told your father that he could trade it in whenever he wanted and name his price, but no matter how tough things got your father held on to that watch because he always wanted you to have it. Saying with this gift my son will always know the value of time.”