“The End” by Kings of Leon from Come Around Sundown
The leather desk chair—the throne the kids used to call it—sat in the corner of the storage unit. It was unmistakable even though I had not seen it in years. Even partially under a drop cloth and surrounded by boxes and books and, probably, boxes of books. Uncle Glen’s throne.
Callie wasn’t around it happened. She was abroad studying in Spain and her dad assured her, then urged, then insisted it was best if she stayed. And so she did, galivanting in Europe for two more months, missing the wake, the funeral, the reading of the will.
Uncle Glen was, she had to admit, not her favorite Uncle. Actually, he wasn’t even her uncle at all. He was her mom’s uncle. And he wasn’t her mom’s favorite either.
He was, well, to keep it clean, he was a jerk. Mean, short with the kids, prone to letting everyone know exactly what he thought of their life decisions and, needless to say, being quite unimpressed with them.
But the chair? Callie loved the chair.
It smelled on well-loved and looked out for leather and the faint smell of Glen’s aftershave. Even after years of wear and tear, it was still soft and comfortable, the kind of chair you could sit straight up in and do work or slump comfortably in and read a book. At least, that’s how Callie remembered it. It had been years since she had seen it, sat in it. Not since…god…not since the family reunions stopped.
Due to a quark of geography and pure square footage, Glen’s house became the de facto gathering place for the family. So, year after year, Callie and her family made the trek to his house for a few days. And Callie, for whom the whirling chaos of so many relatives was too much, the house offered the office and the chair, away from the bustle and the “you remember me, I’m your blah blah blah.”
Glen would peek in now and then and grumble at her not to break it or warn her that he’d need to do work later and she better not think she’d get to keep the seat then. But he never seemed to come back to do that work and he always seemed to “forget” a plate of food that she then snacked on until one of her parents found her and dragged her back into the fray.
It was at the reunion when Callie was 11 when her mom and dad told her, and everyone else, about the cancer. Callie had been so upset and so scared she had to get away. So she ran away and then snuck back, slipping into Glen’s office and curling up in the chair, weeping and shaking.
Glen found her, as usual. But this time, he didn’t say a word. He just sat on the floor next to her and rested his hand on her. He didn’t say it was all going to be ok, he didn’t insist mom would beat it. He just sat and let her feel his hand and, once, just once, whisper, “Sorry…damn….so sorry.”
That was the last reunion they attended. Mom’s health went down in a hurry and she was in a coma less than 8 months later. Dad followed Mom’s Living Will and despite it being her wishes, her family never forgave him. Every year, he told Callie she was welcome to go to the reunion and every year she turned it down in solidarity.
And so, she saw her mom’s family maybe two or three times in the subsequent 9 years and Glen, iconoclast that he was, was always nowhere near such events.
But he apparently had not forgotten her. Thus, the chair. The throne. Hers in the Will.
She pushed aside the refuse of his life—trying not to spend too much time pondering the reality that it was no longer “his” stuff but rather just…stuff—until she reached Uncle Glen’s chair. Her chair, more accurately.
Pulling back the drop cloth, she was stunned to see it look almost as great as it did in her memory. She had imagined it broken down and shoddy, a visual match to the last photos she had seen of Glen. Instead, it was just as buttery as ever, the brass rivets just as shiny. A white envelope fluttered to the ground.
Freeing a note from its confines, Callie opened the simple piece of torn in quarters notebook paper.
“There are those of us who appreciate a chair as a place of relief and escape. I trust you remain one and remember how to use this guy.
Callie gingerly dragged it forward a bit and then sat down, nestling herself between the two arms. It still “fit.” She breathed in deeply and caught a whiff—just a whiff, vague and insubstantial—of that aftershave and closed her eyes. It felt a bit like coming home.