May Sarton said in a quote, ” A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.” I grew up in a house with many comfy spots but the main one was Mom’s old wine patterned chair from the 80’s that sat in the living room along with Dad’s easy chair that came later – sort of like Momma Bear’s chair and Poppa Bear’s chair. Whenever Mom was not cleaning or cooking or working on her computer she was in that chair. She read whenever she could get a chance. Reading was life to her, just like breathing. It was rare not to find her for hours sitting cozily in her chair reading while the dishes piled up or the dust bunnies swirled around her. Mom and that chair were like the best of friends.
I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Mom’s chair. When Mom was in it reading she was dead to the world around her and all of us in the family might as well have been invisible. Sometimes though, I dared invade her private world and I would curl up on the arm of the chair, my head leaning on the top of her head. She would put her book down and we would talk. Sometimes it was just about what I did at work or about something I saw on TV but often it was serious talk stuff. I suffered from anxiety and depression which were at times severe from having autism ( which at that time I had not any clue of this diagnosis which would come much later). I would pour out my aching heart to her often amidst torrents of tears. I cried a lot in those years and Mom’s chair was my path to my Mom’s heart. It wasn’t all bad times. I remember curled up on the arm of the chair showing off to her the first ever attempt at making a lemon pie. I was so proud and Mom was too. I wanted to be close to my Mom, as close as I could possibly get because as I said earlier, often I was invisible to her. Her autism often made her unable to connect with me emotionally the way I wished and anger, rejection and fear often were feelings I felt deeply.
When Mom and Dad went to the retirement home the chairs went with them. I think they could have just about parted with everything else but those chairs had to go. After Dad died 6 months later his chair went in beside Mom’s bed to help her dress and manage with her mobility issues. Her chair still had the place of honour in the living room and she spent many hours a day in it.
When she came to live with me, Mom chose to have her chair be in her bedroom as a special comfort chair as she often could not sleep in her bed at night. She would curl up with several pillows propping her up in that chair. It was her haven spot, her comfort zone – the only spot she felt truly cozy and comfy and at peace.
By now, so many years later, the chair was starting to sag in spots. The plush wine material had lost it’s softness and was now rough and threadbare in places. Mom had stuck down the sides wads of newspaper to help keep items from being lost in the bowels of the chair. Crumbs were always present from her love of muffins and cookies and nuts. I swear it was love that held that chair together. Her love for her best friend. Mom didn’t have many friends and when you get to be in your nineties many of your dear friends and family are long gone and this was the case with Mom.
When Mom moved to the nursing home, she was much weaker and spent most of her time in her bed. Of course, her chair had come with her but now it had a new occupant – ME. When I went to visit Mom as I did often, I would curl up in her chair. By now the old wine decor was covered with a light blue fuzzy blanket to match the decor of her room. The foot rest on it doesn’t work well anymore so I would often prop my feet up on her walker. For the last two years I have been sitting in her chair for numerous hours each week. In that chair we talk, we laugh, we cry, we watch TV, and now more than ever I watch her resting with her eyes closed as that is all she can muster most days. The chair is a window into her life now, her suffering, her tiredness, her desire to go home to heaven. I sit and watch through this window as the tears silently stream down the insides of my heart and soul. I am sensing that I am becoming more and more alone in the world as Mom is edging closer to her new home.
Her chair. What will become of her chair when she is gone? I had originally planned that it would go to the dump. Who would want an old decrepit chair like that. It didn’t match my decor in my house, I didn’t have room, I wanted something modern and new. But as I have sat day after day, hour after hour in that chair I realize now that the chair is priceless. It holds so many memories. Mehmet Murat Ildan was quoted as saying, ” Old empty chairs are not empty in reality; memories always sit there.” How could I possibly ever think of getting rid of this chair?? Granted, I would fix it up a bit. I would get it recovered in a new cozy material and at the same time get the upholsterer to bolster up the chairs inside workings. It would have a place of honour in my sitting room upstairs in my home, the very same room where Mom sat most of her days for the 5 years when she lived with me.
I also decided that since this chair had been a connection to Mom in much of my past it would continue to be a connection to her in the future. Mom had an old rotary phone like the old black ones but hers was bright red. In my sitting room it would sit on the little phone table that used to sit at the bottom of the stairs in our home on the Gaspe when I was a very little girl. I would often sit on the stairs while Mom talked on the phone and thought it was all very glamerous. Mom would have her legs crossed, her one leg swinging back and forth, toe pointed. Every once in a while she would burst out laughing and I would giggle with her. Memories. So many of them.
When Mom goes to Heaven, every day I will sit in her chair and dial her red phone to talk to her in Heaven. I will tell her about my day, about my troubles and all about what my two cats are up to. I will tell her I miss her. I will tell her I love her. There can never be too many “I love you’s”. I recently read a beautiful children’s book called, “The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden” by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada. It is a story of a man and a young boy in Japan who both lost someone in the tsunami of 2011. Based on a true story Mr. Hirota builds a phone booth on a hill with a disconnected phone inside for anyone to connect to their loved ones. They came in droves. They believed their words rode the wind to their loved ones. Mom’s red phone and her chair of precious memories will help me grieve and heal when she goes. That chair will bear me up in my grief, my sorrow, my longings, and my tears but it has had lots of practice and I know it will do it well.
Here is an amateur poem I wrote about THE CHAIR and THE PHONE:
Dear Mom when you have gone away,
And I am all alone.
I’ll sit curled up in your favourite chair,
And call you on your phone.
It’s a direct line to Heaven,
So I can talk with you,
I’ll tell you all the cat’s latest tricks,
And all that I plan to do.
I’ll share my deepest fears and joys,
I’ll know I’ll shed some tears.
I’ll never stop missing you,
No matter how many the years.
Your chair will be my haven,
Your phone will make our hearts one,
Our memories will turn real again,
For moments never done.
Death will live only in reality,
Your chair will bring you alive,
If only for a short time,
Enough to help me survive.
Life must carry on,
The tears dried a million times,
I’ll keep dialing your number in Heaven,
And loving you from your chair so fine.