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Recliners Go Back A Long Way

Two weekends ago, I was over at my brother Ben’s house dog sitting. Sophie is part French Bulldog, part Tasmanian Devil. Teddy is the most laid back long-haired Dachshund you’ll ever meet. If not for Sophie’s constant running and general chaos, Teddy would gladly just sit still in the corner and do his dust-mop impression.

Now, add twin 2-year-old girls into the equation, and you can see why my sister-in-law Erinn’s housekeeping chores never end, and why the wine cabinet requires continuous restocking.

After the initial hurly-burly of doggie high-fives and slobber kisses, the three of us — the dogs and I, that is — settled down for a long weekend of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show highlights.

I surveyed the room for a place to sit that was relatively safeguarded from dog pouncing. I found none. Every sofa, loveseat and side chair was teeming with the litter of family life. Dog toys. Child toys. Blankets. Sippy cups. Pillows. The room was speckled in a kaleidoscope of colorful plastic fallout from the week’s — or even the last hour’s relentless activity.

Every cushion and chair was inconveniently unavailable for sitting. Then out of the corner of my eye, something big and brown caught my attention.

This chair had a conspicuousness to it, as if clutter itself held it in esteem. An invisible stanchion held both human and canine whelps at bey, much like velvet ropes hold back the rush of onlookers of the Mona Lisa.

It was obvious. This chair is off limits.

I slipped quietly into its warm leather embrace, and only then did I understand. This was our father’s recliner, passed down to Ben upon Dad’s death.

The chair was a Father’s Day present from Ben and his brother David. The boys scrimped and saved their lawn mowing and babysitting money, and with a little help from their Mom and step-mom, and me and my blood brother, Todd, they finally had enough dough saved up to buy the chair.

A friend of mine worked for one of the local furniture retailers, and with the benefit of the “friends and family” discount, we had arranged for a brand new Flexsteel oversized recliner, with power gliding assist and power headrest, to be delivered on the day before Father’s Day.

Three days before Father’s Day, Dad purchased a leather recliner from Macy’s.

Dad was always messing up Father’s Day gift giving. Plan to give him the newly released best-selling book, and we’d learn he purchased the book last week, and was already on Chapter Four.

One year, Mother and Todd and I spent two hours selecting a top-of-the-line charcoal grill for Dad. The nice, patient store clerk loaded the huge box into the trunk, after showing us how to assemble it when we got home. We pulled into the driveway, and Dad greeted us with a broad smile.

“Wait until you see the new gas grill I just bought for us!” he beamed.

He purchased a new set of golf clubs two weeks before Father’s Day. He bought a new fishing rod. Car wash coupons for his car? He’d buy custom floor mats. New ratchet for his tool box? He’d buy a 121-piece ratchet and socket set.

This wasn’t even his only preemptive recliner purchase.

Todd and I lined up a new recliner years ago, only to have Dad buy a brand new La-Z-Boy the week before Father’s Day. It was on sale . . . a Father’s Day sale, we pointed out.

Dad’s buying habits made us nuts. I remember Freud once said that “Psychiatry is the art of teaching people how to stand on their own feet while lying on couches.” I think it holds for recliners, too.

It took me years to realize that all this wasn’t coincidence. At heart, our Dad couldn’t bring himself to welcome his sons buying for him. He didn’t want his boys spending their money. He was the provider, and it was difficult for him to accept otherwise.

Leaning back in the soft leather chair in my brother’s house, watching the dogs peacefully asleep on the carpeted floor, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of father Ben will turn out to be for his two girls. My guess is that he’ll be just like our Dad.

I think most fathers are inclined to be that way.

– John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media