The Empty Chair
It was always his chair, the deep-cushioned recliner with the pop-up foot rest that dominated one corner of the room. He did everything in that chair. Well, not quite everything. But it was his reading chair, his talking chair, his TV-watching chair, his snacking chair, and his snoozing chair. The recliner followed Mom and Dad from house to house, from living room to living room. It shed its upholstery periodically and grew a new covering, like a reptile shedding its skin and emerging glistening and freshly clad. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always a part of home. A part of him.
The chair didn’t empty suddenly. The process was a gradual one – a subtle stealing away. Nor did the chair empty in any physical sense. Dad still sat in it; he just didn’t inhabit it anymore. The conversations faded first as Alzheimer’s insinuated itself into and through his brain. Reading was next to go; although he kept up the habit of holding a newspaper or book, he never turned the pages. As the months and years marked the infiltration of the leading edge of his illness, he would stare blankly at the TV screen, his book or magazine held forgotten – often upside down – in his hands. Eventually, even the pretense of reading vanished along with his memories, his laughter, his love of life and his awareness of his wife and family.
The chair is gone now. It broke down soon after Dad died. He and it had grown old together, had grown tired together. The chair mourned the loss of the familiar contours of his body and refused to form a relationship with anyone else. Mom had the chair removed, and the corner where it once stood remained empty for a long time.
When Mom moved to her new apartment, she purchased a new chair – one without Dad’s imprint. Mom’s chair was her throne. She sat in it to watch TV, to nap, to snack on her tea and muffin, and to bask in the joy of receiving visitors. Especially family. She would sit proudly, the center of attention, trading quips, puns and jokes with anyone who would listen. But not anymore. Mom’s chair is empty now. We lost her last month, just six weeks after she celebrated her 93rd birthday surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She and Dad are back together again, sitting peacefully side-by-side as they used to do. Holding hands, trading stories, and basking in their mutual love.
Phyllis Entis is the author of the Damien Dickens Mysteries series, which includes The Green Pearl Caper, The White Russian Caper and The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper. Her debut novel, The Green Pearl Caper, was a Library Journal SELF-e Selection. Phyllis is a free-lance writer and retired food safety microbiologist with degrees from McGill University and the University of Toronto. In 2007, ASM Press published her non-fiction book, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives.
Phyllis lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California with her husband and their Australian Cobberdog, Shalom. When she’s not writing, Phyllis usually can be found walking around town, browsing in the local library, or enjoying her garden
You can learn even more about Phyllis, her books and her other writing at Gone Writing.
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