By Henrylito D. Tacio
Multi-awarded American author William Faulkner once wrote: “Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”
Thirty-something Jack learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door. It had been some time since he had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
One day, he received a news over the phone from his mother that the old man he used to talk with when he was a teenager died. After school, if he had no assignment to work with, he usually visited the man whom he called Mr. Johnny.
Jack thought he died years ago and he had forgotten him completely because of his current job. “Well, he didn’t forget you,” his mother said. “Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it.”
“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said. His mother revealed, “You know, Jack, after your father died, he stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life.”
Jack replied, “He’s the one who taught me carpentry. I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. I’ll be there for the funeral.”
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack drove all the way to his hometown. Mr. Johnny’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack along with his mother stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture… Jack stopped suddenly.
Jack’s mother asked him what was wrong. “The box is gone,” he replied. His mother wondered. “There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk,” he explained. “I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most’.”
It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Mr. Johnny’s family had taken it. “Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said.
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Johnny died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox: “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days.”
Early the next day, Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. It read: “Mr. Johnny Mendoza.”
Jack immediately took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside: “Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Obregon. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside, he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: “Jack, thanks for your time! – Johnny Mendoza.”
“The thing he valued most was — my time,” he told himself as he held the watch for a few minutes. Then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant, asked.
“I need some time to spend with my son,” he replied. “h, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!”
“Father Time,” said Charles Dickens, “is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigor. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.”
Yes, time flies. Sometimes, it is slow. Sometimes, it is fast. The Bible reminds, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
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