In an almost forgotten wooden box are keepsakes I have saved for no apparent reason. They are an assortment of broken watches that go back to my first watch. It was a high school graduation present from my parents, purchased at the local pharmacy. A Timex, of course.
There are no plans for my treasures. Rarely do I even sort through them. About the only time I open the box is to toss in another item and then the lid is barely lifted enough to insert the broken timepiece. Still, I keep the box and occasionally enjoy seeing it tucked away in a corner under my desk.
This box alone would not be worthy of my writing about it, or your time reading about it, were it the only box, but there is a second one. This came to me after my father died. Unknown to me, he too had a wooden box, with an even larger selection of broken watches, both men’s and women’s.
When I first received my inheritance, I went through and checked each watch; all proved to be broken, except one: a men’s Hamilton with a leather strap which actually started ticking after I gave it a good rap on my desk. That watch I wore for several months before it died. Then, I returned it to the box, which is also nestled under my desk.
How odd that both my father and I have been hoarders of broken watches in old wooden boxes. Is this something all men do? Do women do it, too?
Well, it turns out my wife saves broken watches, and she inherited her dad’s box of broken watches. Then, she mixed them, which seems like a horrible thing to me. I mean, if I mixed my watches with Dad’s how would I know which were which in twenty years? (And would it matter?)
Is this some sort of adult passage that reaches a point where I will find myself sitting at my desk, searching through both boxes, recalling my past and wondering about my dad’s, transported by these broken watches? It there a point when old people find these things of great value? Is this a thing happening under other desks or in closets, where wooden or cardboard boxes filled with broken watches await the owner’s achieving an appropriately ancient age when these things all become meaningful?
Yes, I am wandering here a bit, but think about it. Have you ever gone into an old junk/thrift/antique shop that didn’t have an assortment of miscellaneous broken watches piled in a corner? Broken watches for sale! Who is buying broken watches? I can’t even explain why I keep my own, but to actually go out and buy them broken? Why?
Is this information about aging, about Americans, or just about watches? Am I going to find out the answer or just live with it like the whole thing was reasonable and never notice how I transitioned from savior to hoarder?
Beyond all my confusion is the sad fact that at some point my poor unsuspecting daughter is going to inherit two old wooden boxes filled with broken watches, without any explanation. Yes, I could warn her, try and explain it all to her, but I don’t understand it myself. So, another generation of my family is doomed to keep and wonder about broken watches.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident and it has its mysteries.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. He works as a home equity conversion mortgage and HECM-for-purchase specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org. His new e-book is available on Amazon.