My Grahampa Graham (I'm spelling that the way I thought it was spelled when I was a kid) was a doctor. This was his chair. When I was growing up, my dad used it as a desk chair. It was stained a dark wine color, and there was gray vinyl padding covering the back.
In the early '80s my parents decided to get rid of the chair. Periodically, they would shed old stuff, and the chair's time had come. But I liked it; I thought it had historical value, or at least sentimental value. I had never known my grandfather, who died of pneumonia overworking himself during the war. He had told women they were pregnant while sitting in that chair; he had a maternity ward named after him in Syracuse; the chair was important. Besides, I was sure it would look good if I sanded and refinished it.
So I did, and it then accompanied me to each of my seven New York apartments, beginning in Brooklyn, where my childhood friend and first roommate painted a portrait of it (see below), and on to the dream house my husband and I are about to sell.
I can appreciate my parents' urge to give away the chair 30 years ago. I have read a lot of books about organizing and simple living (in lieu of organizing my stuff and living more simply), and one thing they say is, if you put something away for six months and don't miss it, just lose it: you don't need it.
I'd been noticing that I don't actually sit in Grahampa Graham's chair that much. Mostly, I throw a sweatshirt on it. It takes up floor space. Months go by and I don't so much as look at the chair or think about the man who sat in it. So I came to the conclusion that I should let it go. But before I did that, I emailed my siblings to tell them my plan, just in case any of them wanted it. One of my sisters thought she might, and she mentioned it to my dad.
As it turns out, my dad passionately wants the chair. Nearly 30 years without it, and he now wants it back. What do you think of that, professional organizers? Toward the end of his life, my dad finds himself needing to sit in his dad's chair. How fortunate that it's still in the family. So, my sisters and I are giving it to him for...you guessed it, Father's Day. A variation on the theme of regifting: passing heirlooms around from one family member to another. A lot of that goes on with us. When Dad is done with it, maybe I'll need it back again.
Sometimes it's hard to predict when, and how much, it will hurt to have given something away. I'm trying to be careful what I let go of right now, because after seven years of accumulation in a house with an attic so big my husband and I could have started a sofa collection, I'm ready to part with stuff impulsively, brutally, and, I have to remember, irrevocably.