The chairs are the beige hue of our house trim, which match nicely, but their seats are too low for older knees, making them more for show than for sitting. And truly, what’s to show about cheap lawn furniture, matching or otherwise?
In the winter, the western wind blows the chairs around the porch as though a ghost is scooting them. Sometimes a stronger wind sends them tumbling into the landscaping. Since we’re short on garage space, our fix is to stack them unattractively into a porch corner. The weight adds stability against the elements until the chairs resume their warm-weather placement.
Last spring, I decided this is ridiculous. We’re in our sixties! If we’re not worthy of proper porch furnishings now, then when? What we need, I decided, is a pair of functional chairs. Black ones, to match our outdoor house sconces. Sturdy ones, to survive hail or high water. Rocking ones, which will keep their upright stance.
I had my eye on such a pair but needed to run it by the house appropriations committee. The committee chair said to get them. No quiz, no commentary, no asking the price, even. My kind of yes.
Upon closer inspection, the chairs are even better than I had remembered. They’re made here in Indiana of composite all-weather material, and each comes with a twenty-year guarantee.
“They’ll last longer than I will,” Brian deadpanned, after a tough winter of his own, and by noting that he would be eighty-seven when the warranty expires. I saved the printed guarantee in a folder alongside other household papers.
How surprised the store clerk would be if a chair breaks at, say age nineteen, and I show up with my flimsy receipt and warranty.
The minute they were lifted from son Sam’s truck-cargo bed and onto the porch, they looked ideal, as though created for that exact spot. I dreamt of the years ahead, sitting in one chair, with Brian in the other as we rock and wave to neighbors and their dogs while they stroll up and down our street during peaceful evenings.
I’ve always loved a good rocking chair, and these seats fit my backside with space to spare. The armrests are likewise substantial, able to balance a glass of iced tea or cup of hot coffee with ease as I rock. Our knees have no issues here, either.
Brian didn’t rush to try the chairs, but I kept prodding until he joined me for a trial rock. I awaited his compliments. He didn’t offer any. Later he told me that they didn’t fit him all that well. I felt disappointed.
As spring gave way to summer, I rocked on the porch every time I got the chance, at least once a day. I added cushions to soften the seats; maybe Brian would like them more.
A friend who lives forty-five minutes away emailed, “I’d like to come sit on your porch and rock awhile.”
I loved her comment. I would drive a distance to rock and talk with a friend. It’s such a simple, pleasing activity. To know that someone else would do the same brought delight.
And I wonder: why don’t we all do that sort of thing? I would imagine we think that others are too busy, that it’s a silly request, or an invasion of privacy. Sometimes, though, spontaneous, informal connection is something many of us not only welcome but crave.
As summer continued in the months following Brian’s cancer ordeal of that winter and spring, he continued to regain his strength. I rejoiced when he felt able to walk first half a mile, then a full mile around our neighborhood in the cool of the evening at the start of golden dusk. When I spotted him entering my line of vision from down the street, life felt complete, as did I; a moment to freeze frame in the memory bank.
Then, it happened. One day I sat on the porch rocking while Brian lapped our neighborhood, something he does six of seven days a week whether he feels like it or not. When he finished, instead of going into the house, he sat down in the other rocker, and we talked for a bit. The next night it happened again, then again.
Before long, as July gave way to August, he would say, “I’m going to walk.” I took it as my cue to turn off the TV or close the laptop computer and go sit on the porch, anticipating his return.
I might even sweep the porch or water the plants, pull a weed or two, all the while keeping watch for his familiar outline to approach from down the street before assuming a rocking posture.
For about fifteen minutes during these evenings, we rocked and chatted about plans, news of the moment, the kids, whatever we had to offer.
One evening Brian walked but I didn’t make it to the porch. When he returned to the house he said, with a measure of disappointment, “You didn’t come out and wait for me.”
Touched that he cared, I’ve been sure to be there since.
I came to notice that like clockwork, at dusk a flock of geese from a nearby pond takes flight in perfect formation over our house, heading west. I would love to know where these birds go, surely headed to their nesting ground for a night’s rest. Maybe they wonder why we sit on the porch, a formation of two humans, never once leaving the ground.
When you go through a loved one’s illness, you treasure simple moments like these in a new way. I’m grateful to the good Lord for daily life, a precious gift to unwrap. I can’t possibly get everything in that I would like to pack into twenty-four hours. Much is still to be done in this life.
Lately Brian hasn’t mentioned the chairs being uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the cushions. Or maybe it’s the company.
Now that it’s fall, the Midwestern evenings are increasingly cool and crisp. Comfortable rocking sessions will gradually become fewer. Soon I’ll remove the cushions and for a few months, the chairs will stay put. But these chairs are built to last and aren’t likely to drift into the landscaping when winter winds whip.
Soon, it will be time to come off our rockers. We’ll dream of spring.
Until then, the chairs will save our seats.