18 April 2003
I was in the middle of smearing goop on a patient's foot to give her a bone density
scan (see how casually I said "smearing goop on a patient's foot"?) when Dr. G
said that the phone call was for me. He said he'd finish the exam for me.
My cousin was on the line. She and her husband were returning from my mother's house
and they had my chair in their car. This is a chair that my mother was getting rid of, and
furniture slut that I am (this house has been furnished in hand-me-downs from day #1), I
said sure I'd take it.
When the patient left, I drove home to open the house and let my cousin's
long-suffering husband (he's a wonderful guy who can't do enough for people. Everybody
loves him) carry the chair into the house. (Originally I thought they could just leave it
in the carport, but it was threatening rain and I figured it should be inside.)
"Where do you want me to put it?" he asked.
Well, that's a subject I hadn't thought of yet. I told him to just leave it in the
front hall and I'd squeeze around it until I decided if I wanted it in the living room or
the family room.
After they left, I decided to move it into the family room, on the theory that people
visit more in there. I'm not sure if I'll leave it there. Right now there is an extra
chair in the family room and one of them has to go into the living room. (Isn't this just
a thrilling journal entry?)
The whole point of this is that the "other" chair is one I've had for a long
time. I don't think about its past much, but as I was trying to decide which to move into
the living room, I found myself thinking back about my earliest memories of that chair.
For all of my early childhood, I remember the chair sitting in the bay window of my
grandparents' apartment in San Francisco. It was unquestionably my grandfather's chair. I
can see him now, sitting straight in the chair, looking out the window to the corner,
wondering if the paperboy had the "#9 Call Bulletin" yet. It was the latest
edition of the nightly paper and he always waited until the #9 arrived and then he'd send
me down to the corner to buy a paper. ("Don't run," my granmother would
scold me when I got back, racing up the stairs with the paper. "It's bad for your
I never knew my grandfather well. We spent every Sunday and every holiday with my
grandparents (my father's parents), but my grandmother was overbearing and my grandfather
was quiet and I really can hardly picture him saying anything, except "Tell me all
about yourself," which he did whenever he saw Karen or me. He was just always there
until the rare occasion when he could be coaxed into singing. He had been a professional
tenor in a barbershop quartet during the waning days of vaudeville and for all his life
still had a strong voice as he sang the old Irish songs, while my grandmother rolled her
eyes and thought he was an old fool. I loved hearing him sing.
Every now and then I got to sit in his chair. The only time I ever heard him angry, in
fact, was when I was sitting in his chair. I had a special treat--I got to eat dinner on a
TV table (I'm not sure if it was officially a "TV table," since my grandparents
didn't own a TV at that time). For some reason, I started picking at the cloth on the
chair with my fork.
"HEY! STOP THAT!!"
I can still hear his voice to this day. That's how rare it was for him to be angry--or
to display emotion--about anything.
You always had to be careful at my grandparents' house. They lived almost all of their
married life in a 2 room apartment in San Francisco. No bedroom. They didn't sleep
together after my father was born (my grandmother wasn't going to go through that
again) so she slept in the Murphy bed that pulled down from the wall in the living room
and he slept in the Murphy bed in the dining room. Each night before bedtime, all the
furniture in both rooms had to be moved to lower the beds.
My grandmother loved horses and had a collection of ceramic horses. As a real
"horsey" kid, I loved those horses but I was never allowed to touch them. I
could sit close to them, but if I moved too close she was there to yell at me not to touch
them. Oddly enough I have no idea whatever happened to those figures. I would have loved
to have them when she finally had to give them away.
There was an ice box in the kitchen. I don't know if it was officially a refrigerator.
It was like a built-in cabinet--It may even have been chilled by ice when I was very young
and perhaps later had some gas or electric coils that kept food cold. What I remember most
about it was that she always had a bottle of water in there, and a glass, so you could
drink ice cold water from an ice cold glass. My love of ice water began early in life.
The radio was always tuned to some pop music station ("pop music" being music
of the 30s and 40s, that is!). I remember in high school when Karen and I both began to
develop an appreciation for classical music. I turned the radio to the local classical
music station and I remember my grandmother saying "Well it's nice, but you couldn't
listen to something like that all day, could you?"
This entry doesn't hang together at all, but as I began to think back about my
grandfather's chair, the memories began to flow. The holiday dinners. Always cheese curls
for hors d'oeuvres, sometimes toast rounds with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese broiled on top of them. The grown ups had "high balls" and
the kids had ginger ale. We all sat around wondering when the first argument was going to
The chair in my family room has been around for a long time. Maybe in deference to its
long history, I'll actually go dust it.