My grandfather died in 1991, the summer after my senior year of high school.
I had gone to my senior prom with a girl that was long on looks but short on personality. After the prom I was hanging out at her house with her and her mom. My grandfather lived in Cape Girardeau and my prom date happened to live in Cape Girardeau too, so that particular night I was close to my grandfather’s home.
I was just sitting there drinking iced tea when all of the sudden I had a feeling that something was profoundly wrong.
“I have to go to my grandparent’s house right now.” I said all of the sudden.
“I can’t believe you would do this!” My date said.
In my mind I was thinking, “You are so unimportant to me relative to who I am worried about…” but I didn’t say anything, I just got into my car and drove over to his house.
I was pulling in at same time as my father.
“Did your grandma call you?” He asked.
“No but something is wrong with grandpa.”
“Yes – he’s had a stroke and fallen in the bathroom.”
We learned that he’d fallen in the bathroom and partially paralyzed himself. He died a short while afterwards…
Somehow I ended up with my grandfather’s watch after my parents got divorced. I don’t remember exactly how I got it, but he was my namesake and my name was on the back…so I ended up with it. The watch was so important to me because it was the physical representation of my grandfather.
After graduating from college and training in the Army I was dating a girl named Claire that I was absolutely crazy about.
We were at a bar with live music and it was packed. I was wearing the watch, which is strange because I only wore it on special occasions. Why I wore it that night, I don’t know…
There was some guy who had tried to date Claire, but he’d been put in the ‘friends box’ and I was in the other box. He was there with a bunch of buddies and decided he was going to talk to her. She was leaning against me and we were all facing the stage. The guy shoved his way in between me and Claire, grabbed her by the shoulder and turned her around. The two guys behind me were my friends but not exactly the people you want in the foxhole with you. At one point I reared back to hit the guy and one of my ‘friends’ told me to stop because they apparently knew the guy and wanted us all to be cool together. I didn’t appreciate the guy’s actions but I kept my cool as he continued to behave badly. He kept talking to Claire and backing up onto me on purpose.
I was thinking to myself, “Just be cool…” But when Claire looked away, this guy turned over his right shoulder and elbowed me in the throat.
I went into ‘immediate action drill’ – I went down to one knee and threw him over my head.
I’ve been in plenty of fights, but this was the one tactical error I made in my fighting life. He hit the floor hard and was done, but I hesitated to attack him because I didn’t think I should get into a bar fight in front of Claire…so I just held him down. But his buddies surrounded me and were kicking me in the head and ribs.
Fighting like this was the first and last time I ever behaved contrary to my military training. Mistake one is that I shouldn’t have done anything. Mistake two is that if I did get into a fight I should have finished it. I didn’t do either.
The next day I discovered my watch was gone.
I went to the bar and asked the owner if he had found it.
“You were in a fight here last night – f*** you!”
“Listen you have no idea how important this is!” I pleaded, but he didn’t listen.
I put up signs in Winston, Salem. I filed a police report. I visited pawn shops. I searched on the internet. I even walked around town looking at the wrists of other men but I never found it.
Five years later – almost to the day I lost the watch – I was in Vienna, Austria…
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