Some time ago, I began looking for a matching living room suite on Kijiji.
My old furniture is getting rather worn, and I thought it might be nice to see what I could find for a good price. I discovered (and fell in love with) a beautiful living room set at an amazing price, only $450 — nice big couch, love-seat, comfy chair and ottoman, all upholstered in emerald green leather.
But I hesitated. If I replaced my couch, that meant I would also have to replace my old recliner, too. My chair. My safe place. My sanctuary.
My grandfather was its original owner, a doctor, very proper and controlled. Every week, my grandmother would make sure the house and all its furniture was vacuumed and dusted, and all fallen objects retrieved from the depths of the upholstery. The doctor’s recliner held pride of place in the superintendent’s residence, no-one but Dr. Charlie allowed to sit there.
After Grampa passed, my father inherited the chair. Dad spent the best part of the last twenty years of his life ensconced in its friendly depths, mesmerized by the words in his books, or the fleeting comments of the talking heads in his favourite political shows on television.
Ah, if only it could talk, my old recliner.
It would sing songs of three generations of melodious farts released into its upholstered depths — gaseous eruptions loosed, sometimes with caution for fear of more solid emissions, often with absentminded offhandedness, and even, on occasion, with joyful abandon and ribald laughter, shared only with family, never with outsiders.
It would speak of generations of beloved dogs, all of whom spent their puppyhood nestled in laps or settled in its comfy cushions, leaving rolls and drifts of their hair as fond reminders of their lives, buried deep in the crevices of the old chair’s nether regions.
It could tell the story of each of the stains on its arms left by innumerable forgotten snacks and meals.
It could talk of abandoned coins and treasures hidden in its depths, like the missing diamond, fallen out of a loose setting and lost forever.
It could tell of lives well-lived and all their accompanying emotions — delight at hearing of a friend’s unexpected visit, sadness and shock at learning of a parent’s death, anger and happiness, despair and delight, and above all, love.
The old chair is mine now, its arms worn, holes poked in its threadbare fabric by the continual motion of Dad’s restless fingers. My own hands, restless too, often find the holes and insert themselves with comfortable familiarity, a reminder of his warmth and humour and the continuity of family embodied in this one, well-loved piece of furniture.
If I listen carefully, I can still hear my father’s voice as he reads out a verse of poetry. Its cushions are shaped by many years of family bums settling in for a relaxing evening with a good book or a favourite TV program, a cuddle with a puppy, a child or a grandchild.
It’s been moved many times, lived in half a dozen homes, but it’s always been part of the family. It’s been reupholstered at least three times, repaired twice and even thrown out and recovered once.
It’s held my grandfather as he lay dying, my father as he endured diabetic coma and myself while I held my last cat in my arms, feeling the life leaving her body as she grew cold. How can I simply throw it out?
But its wooden supports are collapsing now, and two of the heavy metal springs have snapped. It’s no longer able to carry my weight. When I snuggle in, I have to have a pillow lodged under my butt in order to stay level. I’m afraid its time has finally come.
Lots of people would say, it’s only a thing. An object. And maybe I’m too sentimental, but I’d love to say it’s staying. It’s been a part of my family for nearly as long as I have, and you don’t throw out family. But no. I must be practical. I must replace it.
Goodbye, old friend. I’ll miss you.
Bev Hanna is a writer and published author. A recovering artist, she now teaches senior writers how to craft compelling stories and memoirs, and manages the Let’s Write group at the Askennonia Senior Centre.