In the final direction of the elementary town
When my mother left my father a few years later, she took the chair with her. It eventually followed her into a new marriage, a move to California and later to Tennessee. It was an incongruous part of the decor in four different houses. And last March I hauled it back to Iowa when I moved my mother into an assisted living home. Four months later I had to move her and the chair again when she had to go into a different unit in the facility for advanced memory care.
Last Wednesday we moved once more: this time into a single room at a nursing home. My mother has reached stage six on a seven-point degradation scale. She can still recognize me but very likely won't in a month or so. It took me about eight hours to clean out her apartment. I boxed up pictures and donated her lamps, dishes, books and bed to the DAV.
By 6 pm it was already dark outside and snowing a little. The only thing left to dispose of was that red chair. I stood there for a moment looking at it. In the 40 years since my parents divorced, I have seen them in the same room twice and then they shared only a few cursory words. Two years ago my father died and now my mother's memory has so deteriorated that she can barely recognize her siblings (let alone ex-husbands).
Standing there in the snow last Wednesday, it occurred to me that there is almost nothing left in this universe of their marriage. Just me and that red velvet chair.
I asked the maintenance guy at the assisted living place if he wanted it. He laughed and said, "Nah, it looks like something out of a cat house. I'll throw it in the dumpster if you like."
"Thanks," I said.
So I watched as he loaded it into the back of his truck and drove away.