Living Columns & Blogs

Learning to live: When ‘watch time’ means more than hands on a clock

I lost my husband Terry five years ago after he battled lung cancer for six months.

Early in our marriage, we were both working in business and doing well economically. One year we bought each other Rolex watches for Christmas.

Typical of those who make expensive purchases, Terry and I began to notice people who wore Rolex watches in business or when we traveled, and Terry started noticing advertisements in magazines that promoted Rolex watches.

One thing that Terry saw was that Rolex watch advertisements always set the watch to ten past ten.

There are marketing reasons for that. It’s the best way to display the Rolex logo on the watch face. And the watch looks like it is smiling! So subconsciously it can help to resolve consumer doubts over the purchase.

Whenever Terry noticed that the time was ten past ten, he would say to me, “it’s watch time.”

This happened very frequently, and it made me realize that he loved his watch.

Fast forward to 2014 when Terry died. I pondered what to do with the watch. I already had a Rolex. There were three stepchildren from Terry’s prior marriage. We had no children together.

Terry would probably want me to give it to Bob, his only son, who lived in Arizona. But I wanted to be sure that Bob would cherish and wear the watch. I put the Rolex in a safe deposit box until I was able to visit Bob and talk about it with him. Bob was thrilled and promised me he would take good care of the Rolex and wear it with pride. I agreed to send it to him as soon as I could.

Here’s how Rolex watches work. They are driven by the natural motion of your hand and arm. There is no battery. When Terry died, the watch stopped working.

In July 2016 I went to the safe deposit box, and retrieved the watch. I set the watch to the right date and time, shook it several times to get it started again, and put it upstairs in the bedroom. After dinner, I went upstairs to pack up the watch to send to Bob.

And when I looked at the watch, the time was ten past ten. Watch time.

Two weeks later, I embarked on a New England-Canada cruise with my sister. The first stop was Bar Harbor, Maine, which is surrounded by Acadia National Park. Terry and I loved Maine. We met on a sailing schooner off the coast of Maine, and we spent nearly every summer of our 26-year marriage at Acadia on vacation. This would be my first visit to Acadia since he passed away.

When the ship anchored in Bar Harbor I went out onto the balcony to take in the view.

And when I looked at my watch the time was ten past ten. Watch time.

It was our love for Penn State football that caused us to move to State College after Terry retired.

Our passion for Penn State football wasn’t ordinary. Between 1990 and 2012, we attended all Penn State games — away, home and bowl games.

After Terry died, I went to home games but stopped attending most away or bowl games. But in 2017 I went to Iowa City for the Penn State game.

It was a night game, a tough battle. It looked like Iowa was going to win. With four seconds left in the game on 4th down, Trace McSorley threw a pass to Juwan Johnson in the end zone and Penn State won the game.

The time was ten past ten. Watch time.

This time I didn’t look at my watch. I was too busy hugging every Penn State fan around me in the stands and singing “Hail to the Lion” at the top of my lungs. But I took a photo of the team lined up on the field just before the pass was thrown. My camera recorded the time as 10:10 p.m. in Iowa.

Now, maybe all of this is coincidence ... or maybe not. After all, watch time happens twice in every day.

But here’s the most astounding part for me.

In the fall of 2016, I was getting ready to start my marketing class. I looked at my watch and the time was ten past ten. Watch time.

That wasn’t unusual. Penn State always had classes that met at 10:10 am.

On that particular day, I made the following announcement to my class:

“Class, it’s 10:10 on 10/10. Let’s get started.”

Then it dawned on me.

You see, there was another meaning that completely eluded me until that very moment.

Oct. 10 — 10/10 — is our wedding anniversary.

So now, whenever I see watch time on a clock or a watch, I just smile.

Carolyn Todd retired in 2017 from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business as a senior instructor in marketing. Her passions include travel, photography and Penn State football. She currently serves as president of the State College Photo Club. Please feel free to send comments on this article to cmtodd@psu.edu. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
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