Growing up, I spent every Friday night at my grandparents’ home, only a few blocks away from my own. And we were often in and out of their house during the week as well. Like as not, when I walked in, I’d find my grandfather sitting in the living room in his favorite chair.
My grandfather wasn’t what you’d call a smiley man. His resting face was grim. But he’d beam when I entered the room. “Hi, Granddaughter!” he’d say.
Always I remember him in that chair, his ash tray stand to one side, the table with the reading lamp and the clock with the numbers that flipped on the other, his feet propped on the ottoman while he watched the nightly national news, or Lawrence Welk, or his soap operas, or as he read Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report.
Sometimes I’d watch t.v. too, with him cautioning me not to sit too close to the big cabinet television with the record player in one end of it. “You won’t be able to have children when you grow up,” he’d warn me. Sometimes we’d play checkers on the ottoman.
Granddaddy died on September 24, 1980. It was my first encounter with death. I remember entering the house for the first time and dreading the sight of that empty chair.
When my grandmother decided to relocate to a retirement community, my mother moved into the house, and the furniture Mima couldn’t take was given away. My little sister got the chair. I took the Naugahyde recliner from the basement (which I believe was the predecessor of the chair I’m writing about). It didn’t last long–my kids have always been hard on furniture.
I love old things and I love family things, and over time I had filled my house with items from my grandparents’ house. I was the one who took that cabinet t.v., even though it didn’t work anymore. I had the oil pastel portraits of my grandmother and great-grandmother, the Seth Thomas clock that used to hang in the living room, and so many other treasures that I took because I appreciated them and had room for them. When our house burned down almost five years ago, I lost it all. And felt guilty for being such a poor steward of family heirlooms and memories.
We’ve lived for five years in a house furnished by the love of friends and family. We’ve even added a few heirlooms from John’s grandmother’s house. Over time, the furniture has become ours, safe and familiar.
My sister moved at Christmastime. She decided she didn’t have room for Granddaddy’s chair and she asked me if I wanted it. She knew how much it would mean to me to have it. It found a new home in our family room.
I had visions of spending time sitting in it, but honestly it isn’t a very comfortable chair, at least not for me. Emily sits in it sometimes, but more often than not it’s inhabited by cats. Still, it makes me happy whenever I see it.