As we speak, the rocking chair I watched my father build, back when I was sixteen, after he traced it off one belonging to Mom’s best friend, is out on the curb. It has gradually come apart, growing a little more jumbled with each successive move, but I have saved (most of) the bits, all but the part I gave to a friend to create a new [don’t know the technical name for it, but it connects the legs]. I keep thinking I will get it fixed. Other things intervene. And I am finally ready to let it go.
Dad has been gone twenty years now. I cannot type that without tearing up. We have done his temple work. Throwing out a chair made by my quiet, dutiful father is not the same thing as throwing out the memories. He was a good, good man; like me, an interesting mixture of reserve and warmth.
Mom’s best friend was married to Dad’s best friend, a wonderfully convenient truth. We would get together once a year or so. For most of my youth, they lived on or near the Oregon coast. Dad and Bus were Army buddies, their friendship forged in the horse
cavalry in Wyoming in the 1930’s, or possibly earlier. And when they got together, the whiskey and the stories would flow.
One visit, Dad took a squint at Dot’s rocker and decided to make a copy. He laid it gently on its side, on top of a sheet of newspaper, and traced around it. Sides, back, seat, rockers. It was a Victorian folding rocker that had crossed the plains with one of Dot’s ancestors.
Mine was the first one he made. He used a fruitwood stain that was a little redder than Mom preferred, so he made her another, one for Dot, one for Mom’s sister, one for mine, one for Gram, each upholstered in a fabric to suit the taste of the recipient. Mine, naturally, had burgundy velveteen.
I have lugged this chair around for forty years. I have long since passed the point where I could sit in it. The people who pick it up from the curb tomorrow will have no idea what it symbolizes, the love that went into its making, my appreciation for Dad’s craftsmanship, my frustration with the children’s father for his lack of a fix-it gene, all the laughter and tears it has witnessed in four decades.
When I come home tomorrow, the chair will be gone, and I will be a little sad until the next good thing happens. Which it will. It always does.