Friday, June 18, 2010

Put Your Feet Up

For Father's Day, I thought of doing a feature on recliners. Here instead, are thoughts on the recliner that changed my life.

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it. (Clarence Buddington Keland)

There are a lot of other things my dad didn't tell us how to do. He didn't tell us not to smoke, or not to squander your money. He didn't tell us not to lose yourself in your job. He didn't tell us not to value things more than people and relationships. He didn't tell us not to overeat. He didn't tell us many things. He did not like to tell. He spoke very little, and when he did you can almost be sure it was either a simple question he would use to see if you're where you're generally supposed to "be," or it was one of his corny jokes. He seldom berated us, and when we made some poor choices, he did not fling it to our faces but we knew how disappointed he was, and that was more effective than any sermon he could ever belt out. The genius of his fatherhood it seems to me, is that he knew us so well that nothing we ever did really surprised him. It was like he already expected it. He spoke very little, but his actions said a lot. He had shown us what and what not to do, how to do it, and no more words needed to be said. He was quiet but not speechless. When he finished saying what needed to be said, he stopped talking. There are a lot of things he did not tell us how to do. He merely did it.

The time to relax is when you do not have the time for it. (Sydney J. Harris)
For a while now, the bulk of this silent interludes happened on his dad chair. He had a typical La-Z-Boy leather recliner, positioned in front of the TV. When he was not working, he spent a great deal of time on this chair. It was a place of comfort, a throne, a perch from where he sat to rest or to take it all in. My mom would sometimes complain that he spent too much time there, being too silent or taking a nap. I think that my dad was just too happy and content, confident and in awe of the way his wife handled things, that all he wanted was to sit on that chair where he could admire the way our lives were unfolding before him. 

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. (Robert Fulghum)
Raising a family is not only about growing children. Parents are raised too. Growing up is about watching what your parents do with their lives. My mom never seemed to stop moving. She was very physical; always working on something, making it clean, making it better, making it taste impeccable. She showed that not a minute of every day we've been given must be wasted, that every breath we take must be spent doing for the people we loved. My dad on the other hand, always seemed to be in pause and play mode. He works hard but never seems like he breaks a sweat. He was never ever too busy to be bothered by anybody in the family who needed his time. He always took his 15-minute breaks without fail (on his recliner). He showed that not a minute of every day we've been given must be wasted, that every breath we take must be spent doing what we loved. If my mom loves us by doing, my dad loves us being.

The quickest way for a parent to get a child's attention is to sit down and look comfortable. (Lane Olinghouse)

What makes the daddy chair so iconic? Countless living rooms in the world have it. They mostly come in brown or black, preferably overstuffed. Over the years, the stuffing memorizes the shape of daddy's girth and back, and becomes ever more comfortable. Its promise remains the same; at the end of a long day, you dissolve in it, push the back to recline, crank a lever to put your feet up, and watch the world (or the game) go by. It's the one thing that wives allows to be in the living room rather than chooses. The one thing that didn't match. It's like a magic chair; you slide into it, lean back, and the thing for your feet would pop up. It's a bastion of comfort. Dads sit on it at the end of the day and let their worries slip away.

Like a great recliner. The kids get bigger, the couch and the dad get older. The comfort factor remains the same.
In the home that I share with my husband and my kids, we do not have a recliner. Instead, we have an old, comfy couch in front of the TV in the family room, and on random nights when my husband would sit their with his feet up, that was a signal for the kids that says, "I'm home and I'm here." He is a big, tall guy, and when he sat like that, it was all the kids could do not to climb on him. And so they do, and stayed like that until it was time to move. He was a human recliner, big and warm and home at last. 

My dad shows me a lot about life just by sitting on his favorite chair. Oftentimes I find myself too caught up in the errands that needed to be ran, the chores that never seemed to get done. I find it hard to sit, lest I fall behind on my tasks. On the other hand, my husband does a lot for our kids just by sitting on the couch with them and sitting through their favorite cartoon. When fathers sit, they shows the kids that he is there, available to anybody with nothing better to do and nowhere else he would rather be.

Buy the fathers a chair. Or understand when they have to sit. Happy Father's Day.

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