My husband lost his watch the other day. Not just any old watch, this one had belonged to his Dad who died whilst my husband was in his early twenties, so the sentimental significance of the loss was huge. We turned the house upside down, went back to all the places he had been when he last wore it, even put up notices offering rewards for its safe return. My husband spent the day kicking himself for being not being more careful with it, its loss even overshadowing the business of his work day as he tried to remember what he might have done with it.
Losing something so personal is heartbreaking. The moment of realisation that it has gone is like a physical blow, knocking you sick as you try to remember the sequence of events leading up to the disappearance. Fortunately, we don’t have many moments like this and although we often misplace things - keys are my favourite - they usually turn up somewhere in the house. Sometimes they turn up a place that we are convinced we have already searched and we wonder how we could have overlooked them. It’s at this point that we accuse each other of “looking with your eyes shut” and instead usually like to blame a deceased relative - “Oh look, your Grandad’s pinched your keys again” because it’s surely not possible that in my panicked rush to find my keys (which of course is always five minutes after we should have left the house) I haven’t looked properly in the most obvious place that they could be. It stands to reason that there’s no other explanation than that a mischievous grandfather would have kept the keys in his ghostly pocket until I wasn’t looking and then return them while he hooted with silent laughter.
My Mum always used to suggest asking St Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, whenever something disappeared. Whether it’s got something to do with freeing your mind of the panic of the loss so that you can actually remember or St Anthony really is spending his time recovering lost items, I don’t know, but more often than not, whatever it was would turn up. “There you go,” my Mum would say, as if she expected nothing less. “Remember to say thank you!”
I have to say that I thought it more than a bit hopeful with my husband’s watch that St Anthony would be around at just the right moment – keys in the house are one thing, but a watch that could be anywhere? Still, it never hurts to ask, does it?
My husband returned from work with a sad smile, still berating himself and distraught that he would never see the watch again. I wondered how soon it would be appropriate to suggest that I might buy him a new watch which of course could never replace his Dad’s but might go some small way towards it. He went to get changed.
“Look what I’ve got,” he said, minutes later, appearing in the doorway with the watch and a huge smile on his face. It had been in the pocket of the pair of trousers he had been wearing on the day he lost it. “But I’m sure I checked that pocket.”
So was it “looking with his eyes shut”, St Anthony, a ghostly joker or just good luck? I don’t know, but I’m very glad he’s got it back.