There is something very welcoming about a grandfather’s chair to a child. You learn that this is a special chair with a kind of reverence wrapped around it. If someone happens to be sitting there while the grandfather enters the room, people scurry around like birds flapping their wings until the patriarch of the family is comfortably seated in his place of honor. It is also a place of comfort, where children clutch a blanket and sit on their grandfather’s lap to hear a bedtime story or fall off in giggles from a tickling match.
As a child, my sisters and I would fight over who got to sit in Papaw’s chair when he wasn’t around. Not only was it the most comfortable chair in the living room, but it was flanked by the old-style remote box. Papaw’s chair was one of power. Whoever sat there could kick their feet up in the air and command the TV.
As grandchildren, we gave his chair another use. Anytime my cousins wanted to play hide-n-seek, we used Papaw’s chair as home base. No matter where you happened to be hiding, if you could tear through the house and just touch his chair before being tagged, you were safe.
This tradition has been seamlessly passed down to my nieces and nephew. Aside from piling into their Papaw’s lap as toddlers to watch a movie or listen to a bedtime story, they always used his chair as home base. When Lara was just 4, she would run down the hallway to my parents’ bedroom and hide behind curtains with her little feet sticking out below. Once discovered, she would squeal with laughter and scamper down the hall to crash into Papaw Jack’s chair. Sometimes she would make my Dad ‘hide’ with her for extra protection.
The kids are older. And instead of little ones racing down the hall to melt behind curtains and underneath beds, board games and screen games are what these kids prefer. But Papaw Jack’s chair is still one of comfort and respect. We look at pictures of babies being placed in Dad’s lap and then as toddlers jockeying for position in the chair while Dad looks down at his offspring with a huge smile. The older they get, they still gather around his chair.
Many people have fond memories of their grandfather’s chair. But what I’ve realized recently is that my Father is now the one who sees his chair as home base. When people are in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, their activity level decreases tremendously. So they spend an extraordinary amount of time in their chairs, watching TV, napping or just looking around the room.
My Father still doesn’t understand that our house is his home. But he knows that he belongs in that chair. If I walk beside him into the living room, he heads straight for his chair. I can tell him we’re going to have lunch in the kitchen and he’ll still make a beeline for that recliner. Sure, there are days he gets tired of sitting, but for him, that chair is safe. It’s familiar and relaxing. It doesn’t just comfort his body but also his mind.
There are times I pray over that chair, that God would fill it with His presence and bless every minute my Father sits there. I ask God to give him clarity of mind and a joyful heart. And I thank God that my Father has that chair and doesn’t restlessly wander around the house like so many people with dementia are apt to do.
Papaw’s chair isn’t just safe for the grandchildren. It’s safe for Papaw too. And for that, I am grateful.