First Posted 7-Oct-2014
It is the chair that lines up nicely with the TV. The remote control is on it or near it. Only one person sits there other than the family dog or cat—the patriarch of the family—pop-pop. The chair is often leather, deeply cushioned, polished where Pop has wriggled himself comfortable in it. It is a seat of honor in the house.
In my youth I would have sat in that chair as an act of defiance. I would have said this sort of dictatorial, arbitrary hierarchy isn’t fair. Anyone should be able to sit in any chair they choose. Pop-Pop has no more right to his chair than I, his grandson. There is no such chair in the house of my youth. My Mom & Dad own two couches, placed at right angles to each other, with one of them facing the TV across the room. My Dad doesn’t have a specific chair he sits in. He has his spot on the couch under the window by the front door that only he sits in. Dexter, the dog, has a pillow on the far right of the couch my Dad sits in. Most days you can find Dexter asleep on that pillow. Most days my Dad is in his spot on the couch with his iPad, playing Candy Crush saga or gently sleeping.
Fair isn’t always better. My Dad’s living room is always a bit awkward because as each person enters they have to figure out their place on the two couches. The least desirable is the fourth seat–the one at the far end on the couch that is perpendicular to where my Dad sits. For me, the ideal spot is where the dog sleeps, two seats over from where my Dad sits. I am forever chasing Dexter off his spot, collecting dirty looks from a yapping Chihuahua/Rottweiler mix (The logistics of that pairing always puzzles me). Fair means where people sit is in constant, simmering debate.
Like it or not, you can tell who is in charge when he or she is sitting on the throne. There is tremendous ceremony attached to sitting on that chair. You don’t just go up there and sit down. No, the castle staff, your vassals, have to process up to the throne, take their places, and wait for you to walk across the throne room and sit. Then the business of the day can commence.
A Pop-Pop chair isn’t so fancy. It is a ceremonial chair, sure. But it is not a throne. Pop-pop is not a king, emperor or dictator. He is a patriarch, a title he has earned over the years. I used to find this a reason to argue, to fuss at the unfairness of his right to his chair. Now I can see there is some use in it, in having someone who is in charge, who reads to the grandchildren from that chair and falls asleep in it Sunday afternoon while Grandma prepares supper. There is comfort in its constancy–in knowing that on Sunday after church he’ll be there snoring again. Where I once was excited at the fluidity of my Dad’s two love seats I am now hungering for the comfort and constancy of Pop-pop’s chair.