Telling Time

I can’t tell time. For ten years I wore digital wristwatches – the cheap kind. Some had timers, others could tell me the time in England if I were to ever travel outside of Ohio and one had a calculator (that was the expensive one – at least $35). Telling time was easy: look down and read the display. They even had a backlight if I was ever in the dark. Then came the pager and suddenly the watch was redundant. And for the next five years my watch was on my belt. Then I got married. Brooke thought I should wear a watch once again, but this time I would get an elegant watch. No more black plastic – this one would be made of metallic silver and decorate my arm. She said that I needed to look sophisticated and the watch was the first step of many to come. So like a paper doll, I bought a new watch and wore it again for the first time in five years. This time it had hands and no numbers. I suggested a compromise. How about one with hands and a digital display? That’s when I realized it wasn’t my choice.

That was ten years ago. And for eight of those years I wore a watch I couldn’t read. Sometimes I’d show up and hour late, other times an hour early, but never on time if I relied on my watch. Some people would ask the time and I’d look at my watch puzzled. “It’s this time”, I’d say, offering them a glance at the silver piece of jewelry hanging from my wrist. Sometimes I’d quickly look at my phone as they looked away to confirm. A watch without numbers was always pointless.

Sometimes the watch battery would die. Still, I’d leave it on my arm for weeks, never noticing until Brooke asked me for the time. During time changes it would go a week or two before I’d finally change it – also usually when Brooke would as for the time. Then came Elena. One of the last things that she learned in kindergarten was how to tell time. And while she too never comprehended the purpose of a watch without numbers, it never prevented her from trying. When we went to the Memphis, her teacher told her to practice telling time. Good thing, because when you’re waiting for your “always late” radiation appointments it’s about the only thing you do. So she and I would practice together – counting each arrow on the face. In time she mastered the hours and I filled in the minutes. She had found her skill and I helped her with mine. Cooperatively we knew the time. We were no longer an hour ahead or an hour behind.

Last week my watch battery died once more. This time I noticed immediately. I still can’t tell the time and part of me never wants to. Still the watch hangs from my wrist and serves as a reminder of the way she touched my life. And whether I never change it from eastern daylight time to Eastern Standard Time, each second that clicks by signifies a part of me that never wants to forget. Together we could tell time – just as we could do so many other things as team. I will never buy another watch with numbers – just don’t ask me what time it is.

4 Responses to “Telling Time”

  1. I am again touched by your words, and I’m sure there are plenty of things that remind you so much of your time with your wonderful lovely girl, Elena. And that will stay….

  2. Ketsia says:

    I too lost my Katie Brooke 8 months ago to a brain tumor. She was 6. The only way for me to keep track of days is through the journal entries each day to her. As for for the hours they fade in and out.

    I find peace in your journal.
    thank you,

  3. Ana Figueiredo says:

    hello my name is ana, I am 14 years old and I am Portuguese. I first saw the book of Elena in a shopping center. lovely face elena caught my attention and I got the book and began to see him. I saw the pictures and I was totally sad. I was half an hour thumbing through the book .. when my boyfriend got caught by the arm and I show him the book. Even without reading it, I was in love with the smile of elena and my boyfriend gave it to me this Christmas. not have a great time because of studies but at least try to read a few pages every day ..
    I’ll never say that I understand and I regret everything that happened to elena as everyone say. ‘m just a kid, but life also has not been easy for me because of my parents .. Elena is my hero and the greatest lesson that one day gave me.
    I know you have many comments and do not have time to answer all but liked to get a response. (through a translator, excuse the errors)

  4. Lani says:

    I have followed Elena’s story for so long. I was thinking of her today and thought I would check the website to see her photo and say a prayer for your family. I didn’t know that you had started journaling again. Thank you for continuing to do this. You offer so much to everyone. God bless.