Rocking chairs are for people making the last few stops in man’s long journey through life. The next stop would be the wheelchair, and the next is what the late Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot called the “predeparture lounge.” But let’s not go there; this is just about a chair.
Resigned to whatever fate awaits them farther down the road, most seniors retire to their rocking chairs. Not me. With my days as news editor of this newspaper over, I retired to my recliner, the most significant piece of personal furniture I ever owned.
It’s the seat from which a once active senior, forced into a sedentary life, plots to lead a quixotic crusade to stave off the virus-induced extinction of an entire generation of baby boomers.
My La-Z-Boy was a gift from a good friend on my 50th birthday. Neither of us realized then that, 15 years down the road, it was to be my retirement gift, as well. It was delivered to me in pieces. Too large to go through the spiral staircase, it was assembled in my loft, which, over the years, has become my man cave. This small space was originally my study, where I worked, and entertainment room, where I read the news, listened to music and watched television.
Over the years, it has become my bedroom, as well. I was evicted from our bedroom by my insomniac roommate who could not stand my late nights, my snoring and the loud television set that lulls me to sleep every night. My daughters, and later my granddaughter, took over my space (I suspect they plotted my eviction).
The La-Z-Boy, it was advertised, was “built to last.” But over the years, the recliner began to deteriorate. The mechanism started to squeak and get stuck and the bonded leather slowly began to crack and fray. So much for truth in advertising. (To be fair, it was also as advertised: “perfect for the man cave I deserve”).
I asked the local distributor to have the recliner repaired and reupholstered, and they referred me to their authorized upholsterers. I waited for months, but none of them called. So I sent for an “unauthorized” upholsterer, who was cheap. The chair came back a couple of months later and looked every bit the definition of “cheap” and “unauthorized.”
The springs still squeaked, the foot rest and lever got stuck even more often. Too much foam made the arm rests lumpy. To make things worse, the original elegant Pacific blue leather had given way to a garish sea green leatherette that assaulted the sight of sore eyes. It was a visual anomaly. But what the heck, the seat and backrest were soft and snug and comfy. And it still reclined.
Like Sheldon Cooper’s spot, my chair is “in a state of eternal dibs,” a single point of consistency in a world that is in a constant state of flux, and “the sovereign soil of my bottom.” It’s directly in the path of a cross breeze created by an open window and the terrace. “It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct . . . nor so far wide to create a parallax distortion.”
This refuge from the dialectic world has kept me on even keel all these years. This is where I sit to watch TV and listen to music. It is also where I enjoy my breakfast and do my writing and reading. While it’s a dead spot for my Globe signal, it’s close enough to my Wi-Fi router to keep me online when I need to be. It’s a nice spot to park my butt and take a nap. When sleep became very painful and uncomfortable after I broke a rib in a mountain bike crash 10 years ago, this also became my bed. It is the piece of furniture that unseated (so to speak) the one in the toilet as the best seat in the house. It’s no rocking chair, but my recliner rocks!
This is also where, like Walter Mitty of fiction, I fantasize—about climbing Mount Everest and writing the great Filipino novel, sometimes plotting the career change that retirement foisted on me, sometimes staring blankly at the door to the adjoining room. It’s the door to my past.
The chair is now the throne from which I rule my own little kingdom, where my subjects—the kids—think I’m a tyrant.
Which takes me back to another fictional character, Sheldon Cooper, the germophobic and quirky physicist in “The Big Bang Theory” who, when asked to explain his authority over his ‘‘spot,’’ said: ‘‘Cathedra mea, regulae meae.’’ In English: My chair, my rules. In millennial Tagalog: Ah, basta!
Recently, in the time of pandemic, this throne has also become my prison. Confinement to this chair for most of my waking hours at the height of the triathlon season has turned me into someone I have worked hard all my life from becoming: a couch potato.
The reupholstered recliner has seen better days. The ugly ersatz leather is cracked and crisp, the foam gut is spilling out and the seams are frayed. The fabric seat cover that was draped over to hide the ugly cracks now reeks of my own sweat. It has also begun to unravel. If the frame were to fall apart, I’m sure the disemboweled carcass would yield quite a number of missing items, like old keys, USB sticks, television remote controls and probably Yaya Inday’s cell phone. And enough coins to buy me a new recliner.
On this chair, I fought cabin fever and embraced boredom, and Netflix became my friend and it reacquainted me with Sheldon. This is where I read and reread poetry, briefly remembering the one by Dylan Thomas. This morning, as I woke up to the news that my friends have been gagged and thrown to the streets, this is where I raged against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that good night, my comrades.
This relic of a chair may look blighted and barren, but it is the spring whence flow what’s left of my creative juices and the blood that keeps alive the fight in me; the anchor that keeps me grounded; and the armchair from which I will fight my battles. This is my spot. —CONTRIBUTED