Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Plastic Chair

My stepfather had a brilliant mind and a somewhat difficult personality.  He was Old School--didn't believe that girls were capable of much and didn't want them to be--so he made a point of getting me out of the way whenever there were repairs to be made or things to be done.  I heard it often enough, "Keep out of that!  You might get dirty."  So I obeyed, kept cleanly to my corner, and, as the old saying goes, minded my own knitting.

As he slipped deeper into the dementia that would ultimately claim him, he regretted this and apologized.  He realized the error most keenly on a winter day when there was a problem with our well pump and there was no one available to help but me.  (I've written about the pump house before--it's one of my least favorite places on earth:  The Bane of My Existence.)  The only person who was aware of what needed to be done was the person who couldn't remember how to do it,  and he was unable to explain.  The only person who had the strength and the willpower to do the work was incapable and had neither knowledge nor experience to draw from. 

It was a dreadfully disheartening day.  Dad had trouble standing for long, so I brought a plastic lawn chair where he could sit and attempt to direct operations.  It took many hours but somehow we got done what we were trying to do.  We were both so exhausted by the effort that we left things where they were.  Fifteen years later, the bucket of tools still sits inside the door of the pump house and the plastic chair still waits under the trees.

The plastic of the chair has become brittle over the years but it has had its share of sitters:  my various feral cats have loved that chair, most especially Blot.  (He was white with black spots, so the name was inevitable.)  Blot stayed in the chair every day for hours bathing in the dappled sunshine, just watching the kitchen window across the yard and dreaming of when kitty-dinner would be served.  He was a very skittish creature, thin and dirty and obviously mistreated, when he showed up at my house.  After several years he had become a friendlier cat with a glossy coat.  He was happy and well-loved.  But one night, he passed on near that plastic chair--a bird of prey (most likely an owl) tried to carry him off and failed, dropping Blot who surely must have died instantly.  I haven't had any feral cats the past few years; I truly miss them and their hissy ways.

On various occasions, well-meaning folks have suggested that I throw away the rotten old chair.  They say it looks unsightly and unsafe.  And they are right.  But I won't do it.  

This morning, it was unusually cool for high summer in South Mississippi--only 72 degrees--so I opened the kitchen window to freshen the air in the house.  As I stood there looking out and breathing in, I saw that the chair had an occupant:  a beautiful red cardinal who sat on the edge of the seat singing his heart out in the morning sun. 

That plastic chair can stay right where it is. 

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