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Friday, May 2, 2014

Solving The Problems

We have a somewhat ugly chair sitting in our living room. It is a dark brown wooden chair with a padded seat, back, and armrests. What makes it less than beautiful is the orange fabric with which it was upholstered. You know, kind of a 70's vibe. It was one of Trent's dad's favorite pieces of furniture, and since dad's gone, it lives with us now. Trent wanted to misplace throw it away when we moved a few years ago, but I wouldn't let that happen. No, it isn't the most beautiful chair in the world. But it is very comfortable. The seat has just the right amount of padding to let you sink in a little bit, but still be supported. Whenever anyone comes over, I graciously offer them a seat on the sofa, and sit in my comfortable wooden chair.

This made me think of a chair that Gram had in her bedroom. It was also made of wood. It had flat arms and a needlepoint covered seat. The wood was finished with a light, two-toned antiqued paint technique. It wasn't soft or cushy, but it was very comfortable. It was at a right angle to Gram's bed, and I spent many hours sitting in it. Gram might by lying in her bed, or sitting on the edge of her bed facing me, but what happened at those times was what was most important. 

When Liz got married and I became an 'only child,' I would often sit in that chair and have long talks with Gram. It was in that chair that I told her about many of the incidences of pain and emotional abuse that I had suffered at the hands of her daughter, before her daughter sent me to live with Gram. Gram told me that her daughter never learned about beatings from her -  she gave her kids a spanking or a swift swat to the behind, but never the tortures that I endured. She was horrified, and I felt a bit of release from finally telling someone what I had endured.

We would sometimes sit and talk until late at night, and about all sorts of subjects. Gram described these sessions as solving the problems of the world. We covered all sorts of subjects. Sitting on that chair, I heard many stories of her past and her family. Since she wasn't going to be disillusioning me by telling me things about my own relatives, like grandparents for example, I think it freed her to tell me things that she might not have been able to tell anyone else. Even sometimes about her own children!

We talked about books and movies, and often there were books that she mentioned that I found at the library and read very quickly on hot summer days, sitting in the shade in the yard. We talked about politics and world events and the different ways that families did or didn't discipline their children. When I worked across from a Godiva chocolate store and frequently bought her all-dark chocolate assortments (because dark was her favorite and because I loved treating her to Godiva), she'd ask me to bring her the chocolate box. After all, she would tell me with a purposely blank face, she was certain that two or three pieces of chocolate before bedtime helped her to sleep better.

In later years, I would sit on the chair in the morning while she ate the toast and scrambled egg I made her for breakfast, and drink her one daily cup of coffee. In the evening, she would sit on the edge of the bed while I took her through an exercise routine for her arms, with cans of soup as weights. She was using a walker by this time, and I knew that she needed the arm strength to help her get around. Incidentally, during her brief period in a nursing home before her death, all of the physical therapists commented that her arms were quite strong, so I must have done something right.

Over the course of the years, and through all of the changes in our relationship, we still had our sessions of solving the problems of the world. When Gram was young, schooling was only required through grade eight. But she was very well read, and always kept on top of current events. She read the morning newspaper every day, so she always knew what was going on in the world. We talked about subjects from Abortion to Zoology and everything in between, like world hunger and technology and numerous social issues. Sometimes she surprised me with her forward thinking. Maybe it was because she had seen a time when women couldn't vote, and had in fact been told by her father that nice ladies didn't have jobs, they had families. She would tell me things that she didn't tell her daughters, because I think she was actually far more liberal, and maybe even more liberated, than they were. She also had a stubborn streak, and moments of more conservative thoughts and ideas. 

We had many deep and open discussions while I sat in that chair. It was where I told her that I didn't want to go to college. I went anyway, but she listened and reasoned with me. It was where I sat when I was feeling the first ravages of lupus, and had no strength to get up and move for a while. It was there that she admitted to me that when she saw me in the hospital, she saw death in my face. She had been unable to face coming back to see me there again because she was trying to figure out how she was going deal with losing me, and living without me. Many tears and laughs were shared in these talks. We progressed to the point of being able to finish one another's thoughts and sentences, and getting really tickled by that. And though nobody felt any effects from it, on more than one occasion, we solved the problems of the world.