My wife, Brenda, put away the last piece of silverware before we walked into the living room and lit the fireplace. Our Thanksgiving meal was satisfying and delicious, and now everyone would enjoy sitting back, talking and reminiscing awhile.
Grandson Jack sat down next to me on the love seat, son Greg sat on the couch, and Brenda sat in her recliner near the fire.
In the corner stood the old grandfather clock — a favorite of Jack’s since he had been a toddler — and now it came alive once again, chiming the melodious strikes he loved to hear. After the clock stopped chiming, I asked Jack how he learned to tell time.
“I was in first grade at St. Peter and Paul’s School. Our teacher showed us how, by looking at the clock,” he said.
“How did you learn to tell time, Grandpa?”
“Well, do you want the condensed version or the full car wash?” I replied.
“I’ll take the full car wash,” Jack said with a laugh.
My story begins in the most unlikely of places. I was in the second grade, about six or seven years old, and my mom had taken me to see Dr. Wead at his office in Sabina to have him check a lingering pain in my lower abdomen.
“I’m afraid Pat has a hernia that will require surgical repair,” Dr. Wead explained to my mother.
The big day came. Mom and I rode a bus to the National Cash Register where my dad worked, so he could drive us to Good Samaritan Hospital in northwest Dayton.
My mother had packed a bag with my pajamas and robe, along with a change of pants and a shirt. As we drove along, Mom discovered she had forgotten to pack my bedroom slippers.
“Bob, let’s stop at Sears and Roebuck and get Pat a pair of slippers,” she said.
My parents took me inside the large department store and let me pick out a pair of Hopalong Cassidy bed slippers. I was thrilled.
When we arrived at the hospital, my Aunt Margaret, a registered nurse, met us at the door and took us to my room. The nurses in the hospital were all Catholic nuns, and before long, a nun in a black and white habit brought me my first hospital meal.
After I ate, it was time for my parents to leave. For the first time since my arrival, I felt an uneasiness. Fortunately, Aunt Margaret stayed all night sitting at my bedside.
The next morning, Saturday, my parents, sister, and brothers all arrived to see me off to the operating room, and to assure me my surgery would go fine. I remember a nun wheeled me down the hall into a large surgical suite.
“Hello, Pat,” the surgeon said. “I’m Dr. Carlson. Do you know how to count?”
I told him I did, and he told me to count backwards from 10 to one. A nun came and placed a mask, much like a tea strainer, over my face and poured ether into a cotton ball. I said “ten” and that’s all I remember, as the room spun like a large spinning wheel, similar to one you might have seen in a science fiction movie. I felt like I was spinning down inside a well.
I felt better by Monday morning, and a nun brought in a small screen television set that hung on a metal arm. I was amazed and delighted since television had only been around for six or seven years. After my bath and back massage Monday evening, a nun told me I could watch TV for an hour. I turned on the Danny Thomas Show and started to laugh. Each time I did, a pain shot through my belly.
“That hurts when I laugh,” I told the nun.
“Then don’t laugh,” she said, smiling at the old joke.
Six or seven days later, it was time to go home from the hospital. My brother, Jim, worked at Marsh Funeral Home at the time, and my mom had arranged with Jim to drive me home in one of Doug Marsh’s ambulances.
“Grandpa, not to interrupt you, but what does this have to do with learning to tell time?” Jack asked.
“Don’t worry. I’m getting to it,” I said.
When I arrived home, to my surprise, I found my mom and dad had moved my bed from upstairs to the downstairs living room, in front of our new television set.
“Pat, what time does Abbott and Costello come on?” my dad asked, as he threw me a TV Guide magazine.
I could barely read and wasn’t too far removed from Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff, but as I glanced down at the TV Guide and then up at the big clock, time started to match up. It suddenly dawned on me how to tell time. From that day forward, I discovered I could tell time.
“And Jack, that’s how I learned to tell time.”
“Dang, Grandpa,” he said, as he climbed the stairs to bed and didn’t look back.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.
His recently published book, “Around the Fire: Stories from Here and There” — comprised of his nonfiction stories in the News Journal through the years — is available through the Clinton County History Center in Wilmington, or you can reach Pat directly at 937-205-7844 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase a copy.