By Matt Crane
On opening night, I don't expect gifts from people for my impending performance. The thrill of hearing the audience applaud and seeing the range of emotions on their faces has always sufficed.
That's not to say gifts are unwelcome.
My family has given me baskets of candy or break-a-leg cards for years. On two occasions I have been blessed with flowers, most recently from a supportive, hot-blooded woman who may or may not be Starkville's very own free-spirited and whimsical local artist.
I have always treasured these acts of kindness and truly appreciated the gestures being made, but the gift I received Wednesday night changed my life.
My maternal grandmother came to see my show this past week and thoroughly enjoyed herself.
Before the "curtain" went up, however, she sat me down on the bench outside of Old Venice and presented me with a pocket watch.
She told me my Papaw had wanted me to have it.
My grandfather, Robert Hodges, passed away in February of this year. My mother called me on a Saturday morning to let me know, and I felt empty inside when I hung up the phone.
I had to perform that night in "Beau Jest," a wonderful comedy I am still in love with and could perform every night if given the chance.
Whitney Houston passed away that same day, which was not comparable to the loss of my grandfather, but as my brother Jay put it,"Whitney Houston and Robert Hodges in one day? Why did God need both these angels?"
I don't know, Jay, and I never will.
But now I have his watch, and it ticks.
My Papaw suffered from Alzheimer's Disease which is horrible. Seeing this wonderful, kind, compassionate, God-fearing man deteriorate for year in front of me was heartbreaking and cruel.
Regardless of my faith, I fear death because it seems like the end to those of us left behind after a loved one is gone. We cannot see or hear them ever again as long as I'm living, which is exactly the time that we want to be seeing and hearing them.
But I feel better now with this watch. It ticks, even if my Papaw doesn't.
Or maybe, in some weird way, he's ticking again because the clock is running like it used to.
Some people will say that I'm being silly, superstitious, heck, maybe downright nuts. They'll say it's just a pocket watch.
But it's not to me, and that's what matters.
At night now, the soft rhythmic beats of a watch from the past are filling the small hole that's been left in my heart since my Papaw took his final bow, and sleep comes a little bit easier.
Matt Crane is the Lifestyles reporter for Starkville Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .