The Gift of Time

His name was Bryce. I inherited him when I was nine years old. Actuall, he became part of our family when my mother married his uncle.

It was a second marriage for my mother, and while it might have been less than desirable for my two older brothers, for me it was a slice of heaven. We moved to a beautiful neighborhood, into a house three times the size of the one in which I had been born and raised. Not only did this marriage come with a big house, a pool and huge yard, it also came with Bryce. He lived in Northern California with his brother and parents, but he visited frequently, sometimes spending entire summers with us.

Bryce became my good friend. He was six years older than I, but we had an instant rapport that belied the gap in our ages. He taught me how to dive and do flips off the diving board, he helped my stepfather build a tree house for me, and he helped me learn how to expertly negotiate my new bicycle built for two that I had won in a contest. By the time I was thirteen, we had become best friends.

Bryce and I spent many summers together, and as the years passed we still remained close. the activites changed - tennis, hiking, beach trips and computers - but our bond didn't. He was handsome, smart and funny, and even though I was only forteen yeard old, I fantasized about marrying him someday. I couldn't conceive of my life without him.

Bryce was the eldest of two boys, and he was his parents' pride and joy. He lived nearly a picture-perfect life. Achieveing in school, becoming an award-winning athlete, and having this incredibly huge, compassionate heart, he was a parent's dream. When his mother's brother decided to marry my widowed mother, Bryce helped create a bridge that served to unite the two families. He was charismatic, funny, adn a great mitigating influence for two teenage boys who didn't want their mother to marry this man. But, this family came with Bryce, and at the very least, Bryce was cool.

One summer, Bryce and I went swimming at a friend's house. They had a pool to envy. Complete with diving boards, a slide, waterfalls and a small island in the senter, it was by far the coolest pool in the San Fernando Valley. I was fifteen, Bryce was twenty-one. It was one of those perfect days, and we were having so much fun. At one point, I decided to slide down the slide on my belly. Apparently, given the location of the slide, this was not a good idea. I smacked down hard on the bottom of the pool and was knocked out. Byt the time anyone figured out that I wasn't just playing around(the blood that began to tint the water was probably a good clue) I was starting to drown. Bryce saved my life. He jumped into the pool, pulled me to safely and helped to clear the water out of my lungs so that I could breathe. When I finally regained consciousness, Bryce was kneeling beside me, with tears in his eyes.

He was now my friend and my savior. I grew up with him; he became the first boy that I really loved. He treated me liek I was the only person in his life who really mattered, even though I'm sure he had girlfriends.

By the time I turned sixteen, I was already fairly proficient behind the whell of a car, thanks to Bryce. He made it very clear to me that it was my turn to drive the seven hours it required for us to visit each other. I was more than happy to oblige.

I would drive up to Redding, and we would go to the river and live in the water. We would jet ski, swim, snorkel, and sun on the dock until those long summer days finally claimed the sun. Then we'd go back to his parents' house and barbecue, laugh, and hang out.

By the end of my senior year of high school, there was only one person I wanted to take me to my prom, so I was thrilled when he finally asked me. I accepted without reservation. Even though there were other boys who had asked, it was Bryce I wanted to share the occasion with. Besides, grad night at Disneyland required someone with the guts to ride all the coasters several times, and I knew he was up for the task.

During the next year, our lives became busy, and we didn't see each other that often. I was satarting college, and he was working. We wrote and talked to each other on the phone, but it seemed that our lives were taking us in two different directions. I missed him dearly, so I was overjoyed when I found out he would be coming down for his birthday. My stepfather had a special gift that he wanted to give him.

We had a little party for Bryce, and my stepfather gave him his gift. It was a gold Hamilton tank-style watch that was given to my stepfather by his mother, Bryce's grandmother, when he was younger. Engraved on the back were my stepfather's initals and the date, 11/30/48. It was a special memento that my stepfather held very dear, so the guesture of giving it to his nephew meant a great deal to Bryce. He cherished it. He wore it all the time. And when the band broke, he just put it in his pocket and carried it around that way. He was never without it.

One winter night, Bryce and I were on the phone on one of those two hour long telephone conversations. It was aroudn eleven o'clock at night, he was at his parents' house having dinner with them, and some guests who were visting from out of town. Bryce said that he had to go. His mother had asked him to take these friends back to the hotel where they were staying. It was at least an hour out of twon and he was already tired. We made some vague plans to meet on the dock in the summer. Sometimes it was the only thing taht would get me though a tough school year. Then before he hung up he said something that made me smile. He said, "Just remember, no matter what you do in life, I will always be there for you if you bump your head." I told him that he would always be my hero, and then we hung up.

Bryce's car was found the next day. He had driven off the road when he fell asleep at the wheel. My sweet Bryce was killed instantly. He was twenty-five years old. The pain and upset that spread though our family was profound. I was left with a huge hole in my heart, a hole I was afraid would never mend.

That summer, as agreed, I went to the dock. I sat on the dock, knowing that Bryce would never come. I sat down and started to weep, my tears falling into the river. I found myself getting angry. How could he have done this to me? Why did he have to die? I was questioning God, Bryce and whomever else was listening.

Then, remebering our conversation the night before he died, I started to hit my head.

"I'm hitting my head...I'm bumping it, where are you? You lied to me! Do I really need to hurt myself?"

In a moment of emotional frennzy, I picked up an oar that was lying on the pier. Suddenly, underneath where the oar had just been, something shiny caught my eye. There was somthing wedged between the boards. I set the oar down and bent down to retrieve the shiny object. When I finally pried it free, I immediately recognized it. It was the watch my stepfather had given Bryce on his birthday. I sat down and cried. With the object still cradled in my hand, I held it up close to my heart. I soon realized that this little 1948 old-fashioned watch that needed to be wound every twenty-four hours was still ticking. Goose bumps covered my skin, and the warmest, most loving feeling came over me. I felt as if I were being hugged from the inside out. There he was, still with me.

I'll never know exactly how that little watch happneed upon that pier. But I think that Bryce left it behind for me. I bought a new band for the watch, and to this very day I still wear it. It was always be a symbol of uncondional love, something time could never stop.

- Zan Gaudioso