As I round the corner and walk up the stairs, I’m still a bit surprised to see my mother’s hair peeking out over the top of the blue chair. It’s been more than two years, but there’s a part of me still expecting to see my father in that chair. That chair — that massive blue chair — the one that looks like a Barcalounger on steroids — the chair where he spent most of his waking hours in the final years — where he ate, dozed, watched TV, and where he sat when we had our final conversation in February 2011.
As he woke from his nap that mid-February afternoon, I asked the question I felt desperate to ask — “How are you, really?” I had to know, somehow, that he was okay, even with a life that had become so limited after 21 years with Parkinson’s disease. “I’m wonderful, I’m marvelous, I’m terrific.” Gratitude poured out for his family, his caregivers, for his home, for Montauk. When I returned to my parents’ house three months later, the blue chair was empty.
I’m a little bit surprised that this post turned out to be about my father and the blue chair. I started out with the idea to write about coming home again — how strange and weird it is to be staying in your parents’ home after so many years away — oh, there’s plenty of future blog fodder there. As I began to think about coming home, my mind went to the moment when I approached the sliding door and saw my mother in the blue chair. Writing can be surprising that way. It can take on a life of its own.