My Dad’s Clock And Its Mysterious Bongs

So, physics or psychics?

It is a question that has been hanging over my head for more than 20 years and just presented itself again today.

You see, I think my dad’s soul is hidden in an old mantle clock he brought back from Germany after World War II. Most others think the occasional song it emits is just happen chance and random physics.

The clock itself  has a long and slightly mysterious history. The fact that it rings at all is quite impressive. The clock comes from an era when they were designed to sing their own song as a reminder that time hurries on and we should notice and be thankful for our lives.

I am not sure if my father bought it or it was given to him by some family during the months when troops were in Germany and France liberating the area from Nazi rule. My guess is the clock was already an antique from the pre-electric era.

It is a windup clock, and its song is a rather mournful “bong” similar to Big Ben in London. The clock has traveled more than I have, I think, but it settled on my fireplace mantle two weeks ago.

It has never worked consistently. The clock was a dust collector on a variety of mantles because in our family tradition, even if something did not work, you did not throw it out if there was a shred of wood or metal in it.

Wood and metal were precious items to be recycled as necessary. It was the way they did things back in the Depression days of my father’s youth.  Waste not, want not. Fix everything. Never buy new.

My father could fix anything. Give him a piece of hay wire and a broken screw, and he could make a 2,000-pound hay baler function long enough to get the right parts. Give him a hammer and he could build his own house.

The clock moved into that very first house before I did. After I was born, the clock sat in that house and the other two houses my dad and mom lived in during their 50-plus years of marriage.

I can’t ever remember hearing the song of the clock. I didn’t think the clock ever worked. My dad always said he would make time to fix it.  But he never could quite figure it out.

Who would have thought that the clock would solidify my belief in Life after Death?

The day my father died, barely seconds after the funeral employees rolled his body past the clock, it rang three times.  One. Two. Three.

I’m not kidding. My older brother Jim was there with me. We looked at each other.  I decided it was dad’s last message to us.  He was OK.  Jim sided with the physics. After all, he is a scientist. He said the gurney, with my dad’s body on it, bumped the clock. I did not see the bump. I only heard three bongs.

Fast forward 20 years. The clock had been passed around to several more mantles, remaining silent the whole time.  Then when Jim said his wife didn’t want to haul the clock to their new home near Tucson, he unceremoniously gave me the clock. From one trunk to another — a 30-second exchange.

My wife, Wendy, has heard the clock story at least 25 times and was obliging enough to put the thing on our mantle. It has stayed there, like a silent sentry, and observed all the comings and goings over the last two months. Finally, it could remain silent no more.

This morning, as we cleaned the place for some guests who were arriving, Wendy moved the clock about six inches. A few minutes later, it bonged, the same mournful bong we heard more than 20 years ago after my dad died.

Wendy prefers to talk about the physics of the bong.  I prefer to  talk about the psychics of the bong.

Both of us are right. If you bump it, it will bong. When you need him, he will let you know he is there

So, bong or not, I will keep the clock with me, in my house, until I die. Hopefully, one of my kids will keep it after that. It is my crazy opinion that part of my father lives on in that clock.

My dad and mom were part of the Greatest Generation. My father came from a nasty divorce upbringing.  My mom lost both her parents before she was 10. She recalls the family meeting where the in-laws argued about who was to take the three kids.

Like thousands of others in their generation, they started with less than zero, kept their nose to the grindstone, stayed away from debt and succeeded beyond their imaginations.  We four sons of their marriage all attribute our success to our role-model parents. It is that legacy that I want my grandkids to understand and to retain.

And someday, when my grandchild least expects it, I hope my dad,  err the clock, sings its song as a reminder that there is life after death, and that what we do in this life matters.

Because there is, and it does. Physics be damned.