Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Father's Day Timepiece

On Father’s Day, I hold the wristwatch—a stainless steel Bell & Ross—and notice the delayed clicks of the white second hand. My thumb moves in circular motions across the waterproof glass. I’m surprised by its weight.

Erik, my 29-year-old husband, pleaded with me for this expensive watch, but I said, “You know we can’t afford that right now.” We were saving money to buy our first house in over-priced Marin County, California.

“Hyla, he’s going to give it to me for one-third the cost.”

Oh, Erik. “Why do I have to be the one who has to say no?”

Erik put me in charge of our finances after he’d accepted that his impetuous spending habits weren’t helping us save. We were newly pregnant with our second daughter, and moving from one rental house to the next was getting old.

Erik bought the watch anyway. Then he had the nerve to justify his purchase by telling me he’d sold some computer equipment. Why did he need that watch? I wasn’t toting around designer purses. The fight blew over quickly, as most of our disagreements did, and the watch became a playful joke between us.

He liked to spend money. But nobody could deny that Erik was a phenomenal father. Every day, when he came home from work, he’d swing our daughter, Tatiana, into the air and say, “You are the reason for my existence.” During my pregnancies, not an evening passed when Erik didn’t rub almond butter all over my ripe belly. “Sexy curves,” he’d say.

He was an exceptional husband, always helping me with my writing, my photography business, and doing more housework and errands than I ever did. Anyway, isn’t marriage just an exercise in seeing the perfection in each other’s imperfections?

Erik wore that watch when he ran, when he showered, and when he lugged computers around at work.

And, when he was only 29, my beloved Erik was still wearing that watch when Tatiana and I heard him take his last breath.

Heart attack.


The funeral passed, then Keira’s birth, and through layers of grief, I sobbed from a place I didn’t know existed.

Eventually Evan came along. Evan—the handsome, Stanford MBA, Ironman athlete—didn’t run out the door when he met Keira and Tatiana for the first time. He didn’t flee. One month after we met, Evan rode his mountain bike up Mt. Tamalpais and asked Erik’s permission to care for me and the girls.

Evan has taken over for Erik, but Evan makes sure we talk about “Daddy Erik” every day. “If I died, I’d be incredibly bummed if you didn’t keep my memory alive,” Evan says.

Through Erik, we remember life in greater detail. We remember the butterflies that flew over our heads as Evan and I exchanged wedding vows, we remember the excitement in the courtroom when Evan legally adopted the girls, and we remember, each day, how blessed we are to now have four magnificent children.

On Father’s Day, I squish my lips against the black face of Erik’s watch, tuck it in to an ivory-lined box, and tape the folded turquoise wrapping paper along the sides.

Erik wants Evan to have his watch.


Closing my eyes, I imagine what Erik would say, and I begin writing a letter from Erik to Evan, which finally reads:

“There are things I would have changed about my 29 years, and I know that you and Hyla will have your own bumps along the road. I also know there will be times that you struggle to navigate the path of raising girls. There is no doubt in my mind that you will do a phenomenal job. That, you have already proven.

What I really want to say is thank you. Thank you for taking over—for wanting to take over. I chose you to take care of my girls, and my wife, because what I saw in you was the ability to be the most nurturing father and loving, supportive husband. You are one stellar man—anyone who knows you will vouch for that.

Evan, what I am about to give you, I am not sure you will even want to wear. It’s cool with me if you choose to leave it in a drawer, to pull out only on the occasion that you feel the desire to look at it, to be reminded that the time is now—the time is always now.

Happy Father’s Day, from one father to another. You deserve the greatest life. Don’t forget to take it. Take life. Breathe it all in.”


  1. You are a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. It is with tears streaming down my face that I write this comment. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful, touching story. Such a wonderful reminder for us all to breathe in life and live it full out.
    Love and gratitude to you!

  3. Your words honor me. Thank you for helping me give meaning to my journey.

  4. Hyla,

    You are incredibly inspirational. I've only recently stumbled upon your blog, but I've scoured all the posts. Thank you for showing me that tough times do get better (even though my tough times are no where near what you have been through.).

    The moment I see your book, I'm buying it. You can be sure of that.


  5. I found your blog through a friend on Facebook who recently lost her husband in Afghanistan. You are an amazing writer, and your blog touches my heart. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you and your family!

  6. I couldn't be more grateful for your kinds words. Thank you! Please friend me on Facebook and Twitter.

  7. Not too sure how I found your blog but this post is absolutely amazing! Go Evan and thanks Erik for sending this angel to Hyla and the girls.

  8. However you found my blog, I am thankful.

  9. Evan is an amazing man! To embrace your sorrow and help you through it. Hard to find men like that. He's a gem. You're very lucky! All of you are.

  10. Hyla, you are such a talented storyteller. I am in awe. I am also so happy for you that you were able to find love again after your late husband died so young.

    That you have turned your life into a format for helping others, whether you intended to or not, is even more awe-inspiring. Thank you for doing this. I know many who read it will find themselves in your stories.


  11. Hi Hyla, I have been following you and I wanted to give you an award (2 actually - they come in a pair). You can pick them up on my blog at "Mommy Lite" (

  12. I'm so touhced by your words. Thank you!

    Sarah, love your blog! How do I pick up these awards?? Huge gratitude!!! Hyla

  13. Thanks for sharing such a hearth touching story...

  14. Well written. I'm gonna go check out your larger samples. From one memoirist to another, kudos! (Linked over from my friend Jane Friedman's WD blog).

  15. Hyla, I just discovered your blog and your amazing story, which is fairly similar to mine. My husband died in a car accident while I was pregnant with our second child. In fact, the day he died was the day I found out we were pregnant. I'm also re-married to a wonderful man. And I've also written a memoir and am looking for an agent.

    I'll be following your blog (which I found through your interview about Scribd). Maybe you'd like to stop by mine.

    How long ago did Erik die?

    Keep writing,

  16. This is so beautiful! My prayer go out to you and your family. The kids will get through the difficult times too. The wonderful thing is that you have a good shoulder to lean on, you are blessed in that aspect.



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