It was just an old, undersized, mauve reclining wing chair. 28 years old to be more precise. My parents bought it for Rob and me and we moved that chair three times across the last few decades. Today, I gave the chair away.
Rob always hated the chair. He said it was uncomfortable and though I defended the chair for decades, the truth is no one sat in the chair very often. About two years ago, Rob bought a chair of his own to replace an oversized recliner. He kept the chair in the guest room alongside the shelves and shelves of books he had read or was reading. This past Sunday, I finally summoned the courage to reorganize the room, removing old and damaged books, office supplies, and other odds and ends that found their way there. And getting rid of the clutter allowed me to better see Rob's chair. It was exhausting work--the third room I had cleaned and it was late in the day and so I sat for a bit in the chair, I think for the first time, and realized that Rob knew comfort. The chair fit like an old friend and it was an old friend I so needed. And though Rob died in late winter, I felt as if I was saying goodbye to my husband this past Sunday. At one point I asked Rob to send me a sign, something, anything.
Some days grief is nothing more than raw, unprocessed pain. Just pain. Sunday was such a day.
On Sunday evening, I dragged Rob's chair to our bedroom, thinking I would swap it with the mauve recliner. Devon helped me to get the recliner out of the room and as I eyed it I noticed it was faded and no matter what I did to clean it, it still, would be uncomfortable.
Is this something you really want to keep? my son asked.
I don't know. My mom gave it to us.
It was never comfortable, mom.
I laughed and said, You sound just like your dad. He too must be laughing at this, cause you know what? He was right. I never told him that, but that chair was never comfortable.
We each stood at the top of the stairs, the chair between us as I considered what to do. Okay, let's take it downstairs.
I thought to donate the chair to the Vietnam Vets who have been to our home more times in the last few months than most, but learned they don't accept recliners. So instead, the chair sat in the hallway for another day until we hauled it outside. I then posted information about the chair on a Facebook group for my town and am hoping someone will take the chair away.
For the last two weeks I couldn't meditate. I'd sit and begin to fidget 10 minutes in. I remembered a friend saying that her brothers had specific places in their homes for meditation. That made sense to me but I found that couldn't determine such a place in my own home. After settling Rob's chair into a corner of our bedroom, I wondered if I might have found my meditation place. Early this morning, before getting involved in the world, I sat in the chair, feeling it fold around me and I easily meditated.
No fidgeting, just that powerful fall to no time, no space. As I sat in the chair, I felt surrounded by Rob's spirit. On Monday evening, I was telling this story to a group of women and one named what I could not say, "You got your sign from Rob."
And how right those words felt to me. My eyes grew wet immediately, stung and Yes, I wanted to say, Yes, I did get a sign, even though saying it aloud felt a bit corny. Before Rob's death I didn't pay much attention to signs, nor do I recall placing any great value on stories about signs. Before enduring Rob's illness and death, I was more a doubting Thomas wanting verification through a sense. Give me what can be observed, what the mind determines. Watching Rob die and living the aftermath has opened me to possibilities that are not rational. Grief mostly requires us to believe in what is beyond our experience--what is beyond our capacity to name. Grief is its own language full of starts and stops and pauses where early morning light finds a woman humbled by all she could not have known, held in the comfort of her husband's opened hands.