The Things We Do For Love: Making time for antique clocks

Alberto is waiting for me at the front door when I arrive. He's a short, strong-looking man with an easy smile. Salsa music pours out the door behind him.

"Hello! Alberto!" I say.

"Nice to meet you!" he says, shaking my hand.

He invites me inside and turns off the stereo. That's when I hear them.

Clocks. More than 140 antique clocks, all ticking at once.

"You weren't kidding," I say, as I slowly turn around. "You have clocks! How long did it take you to wind and set all of these today?"

He considers my question. English isn't easy for him. "Maybe three hours?" he says.

We cheer for the Colombian soccer team. So, it's my favourite. — Alberto Cardona

I'm working on a new series for CBC P.E.I. called The Things We Do For Love. Yes, like the song from the '70s. I'm talking to people about the thing they do because they love it. Not their jobs. Not their side-hustle. The thing they do for love.

Alberto Cardona is a former refugee from Colombia. He moved here 15 years ago with his family.

Alberto grabs a notebook from the coffee table. He thought of something he wanted to tell me earlier as he was winding all those clocks.

"For more clocks you have," he reads, "is less possible ... to control the time."

"Oh, I like that," I say.

"It's good?" he says.

Excitement of little kid

I tell him it's very good. But it doesn't click with me. Not yet. I just want him to show me more clocks.

He tours me around the house with the excitement of a little kid. At each clock, we stop so he can move the minute hand until the alarm engages. Every one is different.

Dave Atkinson/CBC

Alberto started collecting clocks about 10 years ago. He thought he'd get two or three nice antique clocks for his house. But he kept going.

"Do you know which was your first one?" I say. "Can you show me?"

"My first one…" he says, thinking it over. "My first one is this clock. A cuckoo clock."

The time is doing, the time is going, and the time flies. — Alberto Cardona

He said he went to a yard sale and was asking if there were any clocks for sale. When he asked how much it cost, the seller said "five dollars,' but Alberto thought she said $550.

"And I say 'no, maybe no. How much did you say?' And she say 'five dollars,' And OK!"

Clock from 1907

So began his love affair with scouring yard sales for old clocks. He has clocks from all over the world. He shows me one given as a gift from an Anglican church to its parish priest as an anniversary gift in 1907.

Alberto doesn't want me to think he's a snob, so he shows me one of his favourites. It's a little plastic, battery operated clock shaped like a yellow soccer jersey.

Dave Atkinson/CBC

"I have a very special cheaper clock. It's from Colombia." He grins. "We cheer for the Colombian soccer team. So, it's my favourite."

He takes me downstairs. There's a special clock he wants me to see.

"This is the 1860 clock," he says, pointing to a simple clock on the wall.

"Oh, this is it?"

Alberto said he went to a yard sale and a woman asked if he liked antique clocks.

When he said he did, she connected him with a man from England who wanted to sell his clock.

Brought clock from England

The man brought the clock with him when he emigrated from England 70 years ago.

Dave Atkinson/CBC

Alberto likes to think about how that man kept this beautiful clock running for seven decades. He thinks about the people who owned it before that.

And about the person who made it. All of them are gone. But the clock keeps running. The alarm works, too. It's a simple bell that's been chiming the hour since before Confederation.

It's then I remember that note he read to me when I first arrived.

Dave Atkinson/CBC

"You were thinking about this," I say.

"People ask me, 'Why do you like the clocks? Why do you buy more clocks?' I think it's about the time," he said. 

"I getting older. I think: the more clocks I have, is less possible to control the time. The time is doing, the time is going, and the time flies."

I smile. "It does fly," I say.

"And the more clocks I have like that, the more I think about it."

I finally hear him. The more clocks he has, the more he understands he can't control the time.

Alberto loves Prince Edward Island. He loves his home in Stratford. He loves his family. He loves his safety. And he surrounds himself by a constant reminder: it's impossible to control time.

What do you do for love?

What's something you do just because you love it?

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