The silence wasn’t immediately obvious, although you might imagine it would be. We sat for perhaps 10 seconds before Grandpa said, “What do you know. It stopped.”
Grandma had kept the clock wound for all of my life and probably most of my father’s too. Whenever we visited there was a reassuring tick-tick-tick in the hallway and chiming on the quarters of every hour. Sometimes I would hide my eyes so I couldn't see the front room clock and try to guess how many strikes would clang out.
Grandpa couldn't drive on account of his sciatica so every lunchtime my father would collect him in our Focus and drive him to the hospital. Then after work, he would return to fetch him except on Tuesdays and Fridays when he would visit the ward in the evening and take Grandpa home at the end of visiting time.
Grandma had slipped in the garden and fallen heavily on the steps. The break was very nasty, said the surgeon, but a plate and pins would hold it. She might never walk again, he added. And older people can be very susceptible to infections and blood clots after surgery of that type. I went along to see Grandma on Saturday afternoon, whilst Mum took Betsy shopping. I couldn't tell which of the frail ladies with thin grey hair and thin grey skin was my Grandma.
And now the clock had stopped. She’d kept it wound and running for over sixty years and without her hand to wind the key and adjust the hands, it had stopped.
“It stopped,” said Grandpa again. He swallowed and his eyes teared. “Has it stopped before, Iris?” My father and I looked at him. “Iris?”
“In 1963 when Kennedy was shot and again in 1969 when I was watching the moon landings. In 1991 I couldn't see to find the key because there was a powercut and I dropped it on the floor, but otherwise no, Albert. It hasn’t stopped before.”
Grandpa grinned. “OK flower, I’ll take better care of it until you’re back on your feet again.”