We wind the clock every Sunday because that’s what we’ve always done; pulling down on the metal chains to raise the heavy brass weights that keep the pendulum in motion for all time. I thought it was called a grandfather clock because of my father’s father. Thought that its dark wood harbored a long, illustrious family history. But it wasn’t so; my own father bought it somewhere in New Jersey long after he’d left my grandfather in Virginia. He’d have told me that it was too nice a clock for black people to have owned “back then”. That’s why it came to us after – after Richmond, Virginia and segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. It takes up residence in a corner of the dining room now. I don’t care so much about where it came from as I used to. What matters is that the broad-faced sun and sliver of moon rise and set over the roman numerals the way they’ve been doing all my life. The clock in the corner is nothing but dependable. It keeps memories of time for me now like he once did. I tick off the many moments in my life to its hourly gongs. It sets the rhythm for the day, just like a heartbeat.
The word itself is weighted like an anvil that falls heavily, squarely, and hammers you into the ground in a single, swift stroke. It is cavernous and dark, stretching on forever like a tunnel, except that there is no light at the end of its long length. It is deafening. It silences the rest of the sentence with a jet-engine roar. It is the moment at which hope is extinguished.
I saw his mouth forming the word cancer before I actually heard it. There is certain predictability in an oncologist’s presence. They do not bring tidings of comfort and joy.
Dad immediately said, as he always said, “Now, don’t go getting all upset.”