When I was about nine years old, my father took me to go see GoldenEye, the new James Bond movie. I don’t remember if I knew much about the Bond franchise at the time, but I knew my dad loved action movies, so I was excited. It was also rated 15 in the UK (meaning you theoretically had to be 15 to get in to see it), so it felt like something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, and I was pretty jazzed, as that’s not usually how my dad ever acted. (Taking me to see action movies seemed to be a rare exception to him generally following the rules.)
In the movie, Pierce Brosnan sports — as many Bonds before and after him — an Omega watch. Being nine, I didn’t know it was an expensive timepiece generally reserved for people who owned yachts or went to the moon. I did know, however, that the watch in the movie shot lasers, and I thought that was awesome. As a result, every watch I’ve worn since then on I’ve worn on my right wrist — even though I’m right-handed — so that in case I got a watch that shot lasers by firing a button in the crown, I’d be able to fire with ease.
After the movie, I said to my dad that I wanted a watch like James Bond’s. He told me that they were very expensive and not something children generally had. I told him I understood, but that I really wanted it. He looked at me and said, sure, he’ll get me one when I graduate from an Ivy League college. I said ok, and then proceeded not to think about it again.
When I was applying for colleges, my dad never pressured me to look anywhere specifically; he was supportive when I told him that I wanted to go to the US, even though higher education was comparatively cheap in the UK. He had saved to help pay for it since before I was born, I guess assuming that his children wouldn’t be growing up in the UK and college in the US is an assumed expense for middle-class families. The only time he ever said anything about where I should go to college is when I visited UC Berkeley and he refused to go on the tour. I think he still thought it was the hippie college, or something.
Ten years ago today, when I graduated from Penn, my parents treated me to breakfast before I walked out to get my diploma in the silly robes and square hat. After we ate, my dad said that he had a gift for me.
I must pause here to mention that up to this point, although my father had been tremendously generous with his time and money throughout my life (to which I am forever grateful and indebted), I had only ever received one actual wrapped present from him, which was a CD of the greatest hits of Mott the Hoople. I still have no idea what drove him to do this beyond I guess a love of the song “All the Young Dudes.”
So I was somewhat surprised when he plonked this large red box down in front of me at the table. I turned it and saw the Omega logo and I was floored. We had not spoken about that day, at the movies, in at least decade. And yet, my father had remembered it, and waited patiently for the day where he could keep up his end the bargain.
I miss him.