My [Papa’s] watch

My eyes are always drawn to the cover graphic atop my blog. It’s a photo of my Papa, who died nearly three years ago, on vacation in Costa Rica the year before his death. Papa never went anywhere without that camera of his.

Previous to Papa’s death, I never thought much about mourning, but in the aftermath I certainly did.

Disconcertingly out of sync, perceptions jumbled, receptors misfiring, I remain immediately near but never fully within the self I’d always known, receiving on an unfamiliar, piercing wavelength.

Slowly, slowly, I have come to understand
this: My pulse has been attuned to loss.

-Me, ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ #47, June 23, 2019

It wasn’t only in my writing and my prayers that first year that I explored my reaction to the loss of my father; it was also in comparison to other mourners, including my Mama and my brother Eli. Before Papa’s death, it had never occurred to me that everybody mourns in their own way – because, simply, I’d never reflected upon it.

Mementos v. Remembrances

One of the way in which I found myself mourning was in wearing Papa’s watch, caps, yarmulke, and shirts. My sentimentality surprised me; Mama and Eli did not seem to desire to possess physical objects that had once belonged to Papa, but I did.

I wear my father’s cap; my father’s yarmulke; my father’s watch; his house shoes.

-Me, ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ #15, Nov. 11, 2018

In any case, previous to Papa’s death, I hadn’t worn a watch for years, as I could simply check my cell phone when necessary; but wearing a watch was something that I had always strongly associated with Papa. I remember him asking me why I did not have a watch and whether I might want to have one on multiple occasions throughout my childhood. He was never without his watch and was always nonplussed at my lack of desire to wear one.

Thus, when I flew home to the USA for his funeral, Papa’s watch was one of the first things that I appropriated for myself. I started wearing it all the time.

Unfortunately, the face of the watch became warped from an unexpected electric shock, and then it cracked when my then-4½-year-old accidentally dropped it. Despite the cost, this led me to order a new watch from the same series. However, when the lovely new watch arrived, I couldn’t bring myself to actually wear it because it wasn’t Papa’s, and I didn’t want the face to get scratched.

However, I also found myself wearing Papa’s watch less and less often. It had never felt entirely comfortable on my wrist, probably because Papa’s wrists were thicker than mine, and he had sized it for himself. Also, the blemished face of the watch annoyed me. While I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the watch, I also gradually stopped wearing it.

My new watch also needed to be adjusted to my wrist size, but for a long time after it arrived in the mail, I didn’t want to bother with it. Surprised, I realized that I didn’t want to wear any watch other than Papa’s. So the brand new watch, which I had selected for myself, and which suited my taste, sat in its box on the bookshelf for many months.

And then – last week – I suddenly knew that I wanted to wear my watch. I can’t explain what changed in me, but something felt different. Something was different. I wanted to wear my new watch.

After many months of ambivalence and even attempting to put my new watch out of my mind at times, I had it resized for my wrist and put it on… and… it felt very, very right to me. The new watch was lighter than Papa’s watch, which felt better, and it fit my wrist, just as it was supposed to. I haven’t been wearing it all the time, but often enough, and I find that it does bring back memories of Papa, which comfort me. It’s not a memento… but it is a remembrance.

I don’t miss Papa more, and I don’t miss him less. I don’t even know if I miss him differently than I did one year ago or more. Honestly, I have no idea what is going on inside my heart. I don’t think Papa’s absence hurts me less than it once did… but… for reasons that I can’t comprehend, and for the very first time since Papa died in July 2018, I find myself wanting to wear a watch of my own – which never belonged to him.

60 thoughts on “My [Papa’s] watch”

      1. I have her love and affections that always remind me of her. In our case, physical possessions like ornaments etc are passed on direct to her daughter-in-law (my wife).

    1. Mary, that’s lovely. We are such complicated beings. Our reactions to death have really come to fascinate me… I often don’t even understand my own.


    1. Rebecca,

      I totally understand that. I still wear my Papa’s house shoes, still have some of his tools in my apt., still have his yarmulke… and the list goes on. Sometimes it’s painful to see some of those objects and part of me wants to throw them away… but I think it’s a healthy sort of pain, and I keep all the stuff I of his that I have. Except for his spring cap, which I recently replaced because it was just too worn out.


  1. It’s been five years since my mom’s transition. I just recently let go of some tributes I made for her celebration of life gathering I hosted. Change is always happening. Your connection is now more with his spirit than with the object.

    1. That is a gorgeous way of saying it, Lauren – thank you! And – I actually think that writing in this blog, which has my father’s photo on top, makes me feel more connected to him… it’s strange saying so… strange acknowledging that…


  2. Wonderfully written; I love the reflection. We all grief in different ways. I’ve lost a number of people close to me and I understand what it means to not understand how the heart chooses to handle mourning sometimes.

    1. Yeah – it’s almost (maybe not almost – maybe entirely) as though my brain doesn’t have the language to describe what’s going on in my heart when it comes to mourning… it’s so subtle and complicated… and even unpredictable.

      Thanks, Ore!


  3. David your reflections and tribute to your Papa are very moving. I think your changes are positive and the natural course of life. It’s good to remember the past, but we cannot be possessed by it.

  4. Having acquired much of my grandmother’s clothing and shoes following her death (because of sizing and because I am the kind of person drawn to keeping personal effects like this), I can also identify with the feeling of wearing clothing or shoes or accessories belonging to a deceased loved one and the fit not being entirely right or comfortable, but also, the reluctance to give the item away.
    I’m glad you felt you could put on your own watch.

  5. I find with my parents, both 10 years ago now, that passage of time has given me the ability to openly say “oh, they were a real pita about such-and-such”. It’s matter-of-fact, without emotion.

  6. I have a question David, may I ask you, what are the negative effects of being a poet?

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