“MY GRANDFATHER’S CLOCK”
Words and Lyrics
Henry Clay Work
“My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.”
“Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life’s seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.”
The concluding element of Mind Prober is, if you haven’t guessed it from the above lyrics of the old song, ca. 1876, deals with that which makes each of us “tick.” The idiom is common enough, you may have used it yourself, however, what does it mean? In our lexicon, what concepts, beliefs; what principles do we find included, absorbed in this idiom which, in our digital age, will probably fade away, much as the (tick, tock) in the 19th-century song above. The clock above is one I built over 40 years ago. Still running, still ticking, still tocking.
The web site, freedictionary.com, lists the following meanings of the idiom, somewhat here abbreviated to conserve space:
Something that motivates someone; something that makes someone behave in a certain way; if you make sense of someone’s actions you understand the reasons for their behavior and personality; the reasons why someone behaves the way they do.
Without truculently trudging the trackless trip through the Dismal Swamp of personality theory, the idiom relates to an understanding of a person’s behavior and the motives underlying it. With that definition as a tentative assumption, a premise; the rest of this post will dwell into the Mind Prober’s analysis of what makes Ms. M. F. and Mr. R. F. “tick.”
MIND PROBER RESULTS – WHAT MAKES MR. R. F. TICK
“Mr. R. F. would secretly like to live in a world of beauty and tranquility, inhabited by gentle people. In such a setting he could feel free to express himself without fear of criticism or exploitation. In the meantime, he deals cautiously with others, testing their goodwill and intentions before allowing them to come close. He sometimes feels the need for a protective shell.”
“Disorganization and chaos may bother Mr. R. F. He can spend a lot of his time arranging things so his life is predictable and he is in control. Mr. R. F. will want background information on any issue before he takes action. If life gets a bit hectic, expect him to step back and take stock of what is going on around him.”
MIND PROBER RESULTS – WHAT MAKES MS. M. F. TICK
“While Ms. M. F. likes excitement and change, she is also sensitive to pressure and easily upset. Consequently she often bites off more than she can chew. This explains why she so often feels overwhelmed or loses her patience with others. If she could keep her self from doing things she later regrets, her life and the lives of those around her would be a lot smoother.”
“Ms. M. F. is the sort of person who experiences a good deal of discomfort when there is uncertainty in her life. Disorganization may cause her to feel out of control. While she prefers things that are new and different, she dislikes ambiguity. Expect her to want definite knowledge on most everything she discovers.”
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS
This time, I think Mind Prober has gone too far about me. The fantasy world paragraph one described, is reminiscent of old Walt Disney Movies such as Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, possibly Pinocchio; in the background the strains of Beethoven’s Pastorale Sonata, gently supplementing the visual image with musical symbolism of nature and countryside which I might enjoy visiting for a week or two, but not dwelling there. I welcome constructive criticism, as I certainly have been proven incorrect many times, how else does one grow without some challenge.
I am measurably more intelligent that probably most of the population and Marge had me beat by a few points. So, what do I, chatting with Joe and Jane Average, have to talk about other than the superficial and shallow events of the everyday world, unaware of the underlying currents of causation leading to today, tomorrow, possibly the next day?
“Oh, Hi, haven’t seen you in a long time. How about a coffee at Mickey D.’s, my treat.”
“Sure, but listen a minute, you’ve only got school smarts, how about street smarts? You live near two tunnels each one-third of a mile long. Could you live in even one tunnel?”
“No, I wouldn’t know where to start. How would I get washed, how would I keep warm, where would I eat?“
“You’re so smart, figure it out for yourself. Joe and Jane do it, you’ve seen their mattress, the charcoal once stolen from Von’s, their artwork sprayed on the tunnel walls.”
OK, OK, but don’t forget, I’ve got my pensions, my investments, Social security, my house without payments, my two cars. How about them apples, Eh?”
“Yeah, today but how about that tomorrow? Suppose you get Cancer tomorrow, the BIG C; retail med and drug prices would wipe you out in a few months; maybe, you could hold on to Social Security. What then, Smart Guy?”
“Yeah, Social Security, I can count on that, other people do it, I could too. Think you cornered me? No, not quite. I’ve got an escape hatch, you forgot that, Wise Guy.”
“Sure, Sure, but not where you live now. The cars also have to go; use the bus, the Wi-Fi has to go, maybe enough left after expenses for a one bedroom walk up in a so-called racially mixed neighborhood. Maybe near the University; even a City Social Center nearby. Learn about that in School?”
“OK, you’re starting to paint a bleak picture, however unlikely it is.”
“Unlikely? who knows. You went to college, I am sure you know this saying, “forecasting is difficult, especially about the future.” And another thing, while we are talking together, at least Joe has his Jane. You saw that soggy double bed mattress in the tunnel, fit for two, in a way. Who do you have now? You did what you could for Marge, we both know that, but the truth is, she is gone now. You live by yourself, that one-room walk-up could get awfully lonely.”
“Don’t rub it in, OK? I know some women, I go out occasionally, I take care of myself, and am not exactly the hunchback of Notre Dame. There’s a lot of widows and divorcees out there, how about that, Mr. know it all?”
“Got a better deal for you. I think you could well end up in the University area, you know where. There’s a lot of laundromats there, get used to that. I know a gal, might be just the one for you. Nice really. She’s about half your age, got 4 kids, all in school. They could sleep on the floor, you and the gal in bed together. She is full-figured, but what the Hell, keep you warm in winter, how about it? She has food stamps. Stay single and share, maybe move up to a two BR flat.”
“Nuff said, nuff said. Good to see you again, can’t say much about today’s chat, but I won’t forget it. So long, take care!!!”
So, maybe I do need a protective shell, maybe that shell is the paper on my office wall. If I had to live by my wits, I would be lucky to last a day. Degrees don’t count on the street. Sort of humiliating to have a 30-year-old computer program point that out.
Disorganization and chaos do bother me, I try to think ahead of the moment visualizing the various outcomes arising from a decision of mine. I try to take countermeasures to the negative outcomes, implementing the most promising course of action. Some people thrive on chaos, I don’t, never have. The second paragraph is a trifle excessive, not much though, and does display the careful cautious approach to life that has carried me through almost eight decades. No regrets, no; not anything at all.
Marge can’t speak for herself so I will quote from the psychological test she took and highlighted that relate to this wrap-up. Next, extracts from highlighted texts results:
“She is overly critical of self and others, likely to express negative views regarding her self and others, She is hostile, independent, impulsive and rebellious and a history of conflicts with social limits is common. She may express a great deal of anger toward men with impulsive, inappropriate expressions of sexual conflicts. She has difficulties expressing anger in a modulated, assertive way and becomes passive-aggresive and manipulative in heterosexual relationships, masochistically provoking men to “mistreat ” her. There is little concern about how others view her, and there are personal hostile aggressive impulses and decision-making tends to be indecisive”
“She feels overwhelmed and stressed from coping with everyday problems. Excessive worry, depression, hopelessness and futility are often described. Stress is handled by withdrawing, daydreaming, fantasy and sometimes a wish for death. Daily activities are seen as boring and unlikely to lead to better conditions. She has a tendency to feel persecuted, misunderstood, and mistreated because there seems to be some difficulty understanding the motives and behaviours of others. Her social style is outspoken, talkative, impulsive, dominant and others may see her as bossy and aggressive, as well as argumentative; while also courageous and enthusiastic.”
“She is lonely and misunderstood and feels more sensitive and high-strung than others. Feelings seem more intense, and risky situations are sought out.”
I believe that these tests support and supplement each other, though at the same time, not reflecting Marge in her individuality and uniqueness. These trends and tendencies, while important are not all-inclusive and entirely conclusive.
Margery did retreat into fantasy. When we lived in Vestal, I would come home from my job that was dull and the house looked much the same as when I left in the morning. The only change was about 6 light mysteries such as Ms. Marple which Marge had read evading boring household activities.
She would start things and not finish them; such as having a garden. I would rent a rotary digger and clear a patch of the yard. Marge would plant, weed a few times and then just leave it. She was temperamental and would blow up for no known reason. She did have, as the test delicately phrases it, inappropriate expressions of sexual conflict.
I really wish Marge had shared this information with me, together with a professional interpreter, but that didn’t happen. She was secretive. This exercise has given me insights to myself, and our past, which in itself is very valuable.
We were not the celestial couple, neither were we the demonic couple. The quoted tests were completed, I think 1985-1990, from other documents in her file. This was the empty nest period for us and a hard time adjusting to. Marge did have all these somewhat negative personality qualities, but she had many more positive ones.
Marge could be very loving, in any and all definitions of the word. I think the best time I remember was when we first came to Las Vegas to live. We had a 30′ travel trailer and we loaded it up with stuff for me and took about 10 days to cross the country at the end of January 1980; me doing the driving and Marge the navigating, looking for places to stop for a night. It was a real partnership. We shared all the tasks and made love some times along the way. It was a great trip together toward a somewhat unknown future.
I have gone over all this material before with my therapist who gave a post-mortem opinion that Marge had low self-esteem. She felt that she was not well cared for by her father, and her few relationships with guys before me had not turned out well at all. Marge was smart, had a great figure even into her 40s and when she wanted to, could be beautiful, and I know this is not just my belief.
I have 4 mechanical striking clocks in my house. What makes them tick? The spring, of course and if it isn’t wound weekly, the clock stops. How do you wind up the spring of love? Did I tell Marge how I loved her, and tell her how beautiful she was? I failed miserably on those all important tests. I just didn’t know how, even my letters to her when I was on active duty are so dull and banal it’s a wonder she didn’t tell me to get lost when I came back to the US.
My Dad was not demonstrative at all; I’m not blaming him but my home culture, and Scandinavian culture in general is bland. Depression medications were also part of my detachment, as they flat-lined my emotions. Ultimately I failed to give Marge what I see now was what she wanted most; being told she was loved and adored. This does not show up in the personality tests.
This post is getting tediously long, but this is the last of this series and I can’t quit without accepting my inadequacies in our relationship.
Remember that book that was popular maybe 20 years ago “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” I did try to relate better, I really did but maybe, yes even very likely, I was speaking Martian and Marge Venusian.
Eventually we both cleared the hurdle of misunderstanding, each of us, as separate persons and together as a couple, made mistakes but they weren’t fatal.
Marge never gave up. She worked, she contributed to society, she did all she could, and was fired because she was not able to be to work as much as she once was. This, by an acting manager who did have the balls to confront her personally but did it by mail. Marge died a Hero’s death. She knew the Angel of Death had quit flying overhead and had settled down next to her. She knew that, but she had no fear. When she died, quit ticking, like the clock in my lead paragraph, she was never to tick again, a part of me died also.
We stayed together until death parted us. That’s a pretty fair record, I think.
Definitely a record to be proud of. You two stuck it out through thick and thin, as they say, until the very end.
Thanks Louise, in a way a tired sentence but how true, how true. I couldn’t put it in words very well, even I know that, but I did my best to care for her when she was ill an/or hospitalized. We were meant for each other from the start till the end, though the message of love got lost in translation but we weren’t alone in that.