Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Clock (Part Two)

After Isaura and I were married and set up house, we then began the process of selecting the best place in our home for my grandmother’s clock, a wedding gift we highly treasured. Once this was determined, she then told me about her grandmother’s clock.

Years before my wife and her family immigrated to the United States in 1966 from the Azores Islands, Portugal, she had spent many happy days with her maternal grandparents. As a little girl she was always involved with her grandmother’s many acts of charity in the community. One fond memory was after church on Sundays she would make home deliveries of food prepared by her grandmother to families that were poor. With a basket stuffed with freshly made food on her arm she would make the trek to the home of a family in need.

Among these many rich experiences, nothing intrigued her as much as the mantle clock her grandmother had in the home. The ritual of watching her grandmother wind the clock was nearly a religious experience. She would even attempt to wind it herself when her grandmother was not looking.

Years later, after her grandfather passed away and her family had made their home in America, her Uncle John, oldest son and protector of the family, unexpectedly died of a heart attack. In grief and alone in the Azores, Isaura’s grandmother got rid of most everything before joining my wife’s family in California. My wife said she often wondered what had become of her grandmother’s clock.

Fast forward to 1992. We find ourselves stationed in Rota, Spain where I’m serving as a Navy chaplain at the Naval Station. I had specifically requested orders to Europe so my wife might once again be near her birthplace, and so our daughters and I could see where she was born.

After a year in Rota, we made plans to fly to the island of Tercera, the Azores. Once there, we would catch a flight to my wife’s home island of San Miguel. My wife is a woman of prayer. So, before we left, my wife asked the Lord if it would be possible to find her grandmother’s clock. Not very likely to happen since Isaura had last seen it in 1966. The clock left the possession of her grandmother before 1970. We simply had no idea where it could be. If it was to be found, God would have to lead us to it.

We arrived in the capital city of Ponte Delgado, San Miguel and settled into our hotel room. We then began to make contact with relatives who were mostly distant cousins and the like, people my wife had not seen in twenty-six years. They insisted we stay with them, so the next morning we left the hotel and lodged with a cousin for the remainder of our five days.

I had taken it upon myself to be the chief cameraman on this trip. With my reliable Pentax K1000, and a Sony Camcorder purchased just for this trip, I was ready to go. Everywhere my wife went I followed dutifully behind with a camera attached to my face.

We were wandering around her village of Arifes when she saw a lady leaning on her window sill talking to a neighbor. Isaura informed me that the lady in the window was a relative from her father’s side of the family. After the neighbor walked on, my wife approached the lady in the window, identifying herself. It took a minute or so before the woman realized who it was. Throwing her arms in the air in surprise, she hurried to the front door and ushered us in. We had a delightful visit, but she wouldn’t let us go until we agreed to come back the next evening for dinner. She was going to invite all of her kids and grandkids so everyone could meet the relative from America.

The next evening was a fun, but a chaotic affair: Kids running everywhere, people talking loudly, everyone wanting the latest news on family members now living in the United States. We eventually asked pardon to leave, whereupon the lady said we first had to have a tour of the house. This is customary in Portugal, so I dutifully followed as we went from room to room. At the top of the stairs we turned into the guest room that looked as though no one had stayed there in a very long time. I’m thinking, “Big deal! A guest room.” Then I realized Isaura had stopped dead in her tracks. She was staring at something on the dresser. Slowly she turned and looked at me, mouthing the words, “That’s my grandmother’s clock!”

Well, let me tell you! My wife hardly slept a wink that night thinking about that clock sitting there unused in a guest room that was equally unused. I, too, was lying in bed wondering how much money we could offer this lady. I knew how much it meant to Isaura, so I was willing to pony up.

The next morning Isaura took me to visit the small elementary school she attended in the late-50s. The head mistress of the school was the lady we’d had dinner with the evening before. She proceeded to give us a walking tour of the school and grounds (four classrooms and a play yard!). With the camcorder rolling, I realized my wife was working up the nerve to ask the lady about her grandmother’s clock. She began by saying she would very much like to have it and would be willing to pay her for it. The lady cut her off, saying, “Nonsense! I was thinking just last night after you left that you should have this clock. After all, it was your grandmother’s clock. I want to give it to you.”

There was much hugging and crying. All the while I’m getting this special moment on film, but not without difficulty myself! I had tears running down my own face!

As we left the island of San Miguel to make our way back to Rota, the clock was sitting in a bag safely between my wife’s feet on the airplane. Every so often I’d see her look down into the bag to make sure the clock was there. Content that it really was there and in her possession, she would once again rest.

This clock continues to occupy a prominent place in our home along with my grandmother’s clock.

The clock itself has no value apart from sentimental attachment. But it was important to my wife, therefore it was important to God. God cared enough to lead us to this clock three decades later.

If God cares about a clock, how much do you think he cares about you?

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