Phil loved watches. When he died I think there were at least ten assorted time pieces stored in various places around the house. Several work watches were stored inside his nightstand, four more called his sports cabinet in the garage home, and he stashed his 'nice' watches inside his top dresser drawer. He rarely left the house without a watch strapped to his wrist, and he was gifted with an uncanny ability to guess the exact time of day without consulting his wrist.
Today I was cleaning in my room and found four of Phil's treasured possessions tucked inside my top dresser drawer. I picked them up one at a time and stared at each blank face. None of the small round screens showed the time. Looking from one blank face to the next, I stared at the shell of something that was once useful...sort of like a body after the soul has gone. I remember tucking these watches into my drawer, uncertain where to put them and unwilling to have them too far from my reach. And here I am again deciding what to do with the things I have left.
Turning over one of the watches I noticed a build up of sweat from the many workouts timed by Phil throughout the years. My heart caught when I looked at the physical proof of my dead husband's existence. Living without his physical presence for so long has dulled my recollection of him as a real human. He lives in my mind as a cross between a friendly Casper type ghost, and the sharp memory of another lifetime. Viewing the evidence that he really did live here not that long ago made me slightly nauseous. Facing the physical proof means facing the subsequent tragic loss. Facing the loss means testing the emotional waters. Testing the emotional waters forces me to wade into the pool of despair and discover whether or not I have learned to swim.
So what did I do? I took the watches out of my drawer. I ran my fingers over each wrist band. I marveled at how he managed to actually use each of these time pieces; recalling the many occasions that I saw him mark time with one or the other. Then I laid them on my arm, and waited. The nauseous feeling faded, and was replaced by sadness. As I looked into each blank face, I realized that Phil wasn't there. His things have become things again, empty without his vitality to light up the face.
Perhaps I will stop looking for him in his clothes, his shoes, his hats, his watches, or even crossing the occasional street. The only place I know he can reliably be found is inside the hearts of the people who love him.