The Recliner

Gary Wosk

I didn’t want to let go of my recliner Marvin even though he was slowly falling apart.


That’s right, I gave my recliner a name and I didn’t care what anyone thought. I had a friend.


He’d been residing in the living room since my wife and I purchased him and another recliner just after we were married twenty-five years earlier.


His and her recliners. While I still have Marvin, it’s been a revolving door of recliners for her. No loyalty. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.


Selling or giving Marvin away would have been too emotionally painful for me.


And there was no reason to show Marvin the door. Even though the aging process was catching up with him he still worked well enough. If I pulled the lever on his side for a different position, and he didn’t move right away, I would gently repeat the motion. Patience. Respect. Tender loving care. That’s the way I wanted to be treated when I began to become creaky.

In the beginning, Marvin was just a recliner to me. We soon became friends though. Everything seemed better when I was seated in his company. In return, I promised to always keep him clean and never give him away.


When my wife, Gertrude, wasn’t around, I’d engage Marvin in a conversation. I know it sounds crazy.


“How are you today Marvin?” I’d ask.


“Oh, about the same,” he’d answer. “Just listening to the birds chirping away in the backyard. I believe there was a raccoon or opossum on the roof. The footsteps were too loud to be a squirrel. How was your day?”


“Well, work could have gone better. I wish my boss would take a long vacation.”


“Have a seat and tell me about it. By the way, please set the DVR tomorrow for The View. Robert de Niro is supposed to be on the show.”


Even though big brown swiveling Marvin wasn’t as sturdy as he used to be, he was still dependable. Parting with him would be very difficult. I couldn’t see myself offering him in a garage sale, leaving him out at the curb or donating him to a charity. Perhaps when the time came I could just move him into the garage and place a sheet over him. That’s what he requested.


The sight of his exposed foam and the feel of his coarser polyester fiber didn’t bother me. Just because someone has blemishes and a slightly musty odor doesn’t mean you throw him out into the cold.


My wife didn’t feel the same way about Marvin. His appearance embarrassed her whenever we had visitors. It was all in her head. No one ever mentioned his state of disrepair. She was jealous of the relationship I had with him and wanted him to go away.


“Isn’t it about time we bought a new recliner?” she’d ask occasionally. 


“Marvin has a lot of life left in him.”


“Maybe we should move your recliner into the extra bedroom.”


“No way. If we did that he’d really go downhill fast. He’d feel dejected. Not wanted. And please call him by his name. Marvin.”


“I will do no such thing. It’s only a recliner.”

“Marvin is not an ‘it. If only you were a little more open-minded, Marvin could be your friend too.”


To know Marvin was to love him. My dad, Glen, sure did.


Whenever my parents visited, he went straight for Marvin.


“He’s all yours,” I would remark. I liked seeing my dad happy.


The fatigued octogenarian would perk up after experiencing Marvin’s warm embrace. My mom, Harriet, wished that Dad was always in such high spirits.


“Is everyone in the mood for some Chinese food tonight?” he asked everyone within minutes of sitting down in Marvin.  “There’s a great new restaurant in Northridge that Mom and I discovered last week. It will be my treat.”


“Can we take Marvin home with us?” Mom inquired. “Your dad has discovered the fountain of youth. When’s he’s at home he just naps all afternoon in his recliner. It’s an ordinary recliner. Here, he becomes another man.


“I’m sorry Mom,” I answered her. “You know how I feel about Marvin.”


“Are you both planning to go away any time soon. We could house sit.”


“No plans yet,” I said.


“Then we’ll just have to come over more often then.”


My wife’s face turned ashen. “Oh, that would be fine,” she responded after clearing her throat.  


And Marvin was my son William’s favorite recliner too.


When I caught him in the recliner with his homework, I’d say, “Shouldn’t you be studying in your room where it’s much quieter? That’s why we bought you a beautiful new desk and wall unit.” 


He’d pat Marvin on the top of his back rest.


“I like it here Dad. I seem to get better grades when I sit in Marvin.” He was right.


The family beagles enjoyed Marvin as well. Jake and Molly would curl up in him, but not at the same time. They would growl at each other over who’s turn it was to occupy him. Sometimes they would try to push the other one off.


Occasionally I would find Gertrude sitting on Marvin when I came home. Her first instinct was to get up, mistakenly believing I wanted her to stay away from my friend.


“You don’t have to move,” I always said. “He’s yours too.”


“It’s okay, Howard I don’t want to get between you and Marvin,” she said resentfully. 


It was interesting that Marvin looked even more dilapidated after Gertrude sat in him. I couldn’t tell if the new tears I spotted were the result of the natural aging process or caused by her. I suspected the latter, but I had no proof and let it slide. I was already on thin ice with her because of my friendship with Marvin.  


She drew the line in the carpet one day while Marvin and I were dozing together.


“Wake up, Howard.”


“Okay,” I drowsily answered her. “What is it?”

“There’s a sale at La-Z-Boy on recliners.”


“That’s why you woke me and Marvin up? Let us sleep.”


“We need to get up and going. Everything is fifty percent off today.”  


“We don’t need a new recliner. Can we discuss this away from Marvin? This is the kind of talk that bothers him.”


“That’s ridiculous Howard, but if you insist.”


We retreated to our bedroom


“Your recliner is an eye-sore,” said Gertrude. She had hurt my feelings.


“It’s what’s inside Marvin that counts.” You can’t judge Marvin by the way he looks on the outside.”


She them suggested something I found to be ridiculous.


“Can we get Marvin reupholstered then? I could live with that.”

“You mean like a face lift? I don’t think so. We have to accept Marvin as he is.”


Gertrude then toughened her stance. She let me have it with both barrels.


“I’ve been very open-minded about your friendship with Marvin, but I’m giving you an ultimatum,” she said. “It’s Marvin or me. If he’s not out of this house soon, I’ll go live with my sister.”


That was an interesting proposal. Just me and Marvin. Two pals. I didn’t take her up on her offer because I would have missed her after a while.


“I just need a little more time.”


“You need more time to decide whether you love me or your recliner more?”


“No, that’s not it. You’ll always be the love of my life,” I said.


“Number one love of your life?”


“Yes, of course.”


“It doesn’t feel like it.”


“I would never choose Marvin over you. I just need a little more time to say goodbye to him.”


“For God’s sakes, Howard!”


“I’ll try selling Marvin on eBay when we get closer to Christmas,” I said without much conviction.


“That’s two months away. Wouldn’t it just be easier to sell it in a garage sale or put it out at the curb? I don’t think anyone who shops on eBay would be interested in a recliner that is on its last legs.” 


“I will say goodbye to Marvin in a dignified manner.”


When December rolled around, I hoped Gertrude had forgotten about our discussion concerning Marvin. I was wrong. When I returned home from running errands, he was missing. Gertrude was in the kitchen preparing dinner, acting as if everything was normal.


“Oh, no, Gertrude! What have you done with him?” I was hyperventilating.


“Calm down,” she told me. “You’re making yourself sick over nothing.”


“Nothing? Marvin is my friend. Did you get rid of him?”


“I had no choice. I couldn’t take your procrastinating any longer,” I said.


“What did you do with him? Is he at the dump?”


“I would never do anything like that. I’m not that heartless.”


“Then where is he?”


“Goodwill picked up your recliner,” she said.


I began pacing back and forth, not sure how I could go on without my friend.


“Should I call 9-1-1, Howard?”


“No, I need to lay down and do some breathing exercises.”


“Actually, the best way to get over this is to go with me now to La-Z-Boy. They’re having another sale.”


“Sorry, Gertrude, I’m not interested.”


“Oh, I see. Is this the beginning of the grieving process?”


“You know Marvin meant so much to me.”


“Howard. I did it for your own good. It’s just an inanimate object.”


“You had no right to give Marvin away like that. I didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye.”


“That’s just plain ridiculous. I’m leaving for La-Z-Boy with or without you.”


After she returned two hours later, she glowingly told me, “I’ve ordered a new recliner.”


“Congratulations,” I said without any inflection in my voice. 


“You’re going to love the new recliner.”


“It’s your recliner, not mine.”


“Okay, then, you can sit in my recliner for now on.”


“Not interested. I’ll sit on the couch.”


“Stop pouting, Howard.”


As I expected the new recliner was not another Marvin. It had electronic controls and memory foam, but that didn’t mean anything to me. To make matters worse, there wasn’t even enough room. It was shorter and narrower than my friend. And it wasn’t cushiony. I tried it out once and that was enough.


Staying in the living room was too emotionally painful for me, so I retreated to our bedroom. 


Finally, after weeks of intensive therapy, my mood was beginning to lighten up. I was starting to accept the fact that I would never see Marvin again. I even decided it would be okay to sit in Gertrude’s nondescript former recliner.


We were enjoying a pleasant Saturday afternoon when someone knocked on the front door.


“Hello, is this the Richardsons residence?” asked a middle-aged man with gray hair tied in a ponytail and weathered face.


“Yes, it is,” I answered. 


“I’m Denny with Goodwill. Special delivery.” He pointed to the recliner by his side. I didn’t’ recognize Marvin at first.


“Marvin! You’ve returned. It’s a miracle. And you’re reupholstered.”


Pointing to my friend, he asked, “You named your recliner Marvin?”


“That’s right.”


“You must have really liked your recliner, Mr. Richardson.”


“That’s an understatement,” interjected my crestfallen wife who was now standing by my side.


“He looks great,” I said. “Didn’t anyone want him?”


“Four families tried him out. They didn’t feel wanted by the recliner. I know that sounds strange.”


“Not as strange as you might think,” I responded.


I tried it out too and felt the same way. It didn’t want anyone except you to sit in him.”


“That’s right, Marvin was being loyal to me.” And by the way, Marvin is not an ‘it.’”


 “Uh, oh, not this again,” said Gertrude.


“Oh, sorry,” said Denny. “I meant Marvin.”


“Enabler!” accused my wife.


“I didn’t realize that you returned donated items,” I said.


“It’s a very rare occurrence, but Marvin was obviously home sick. It happens once-in-while with furniture.”


“Don’t tell me you’re another Howard?” said Gertrude. “You need to get your brain checked out too by a shrink.”


“I’ve been in the business for forty years. I know my furniture.”


“Take it back, please,” she pleaded with him.


“I’m sorry, but this is Marvin’s home,” replied Denny.


My wife let out a deep sigh.


“It will be okay,” I told her. “The next twenty-five years with Marvin are going to be great. With you too Gertrude.”


“Don’t be surprised if you find yourself out in the garage with a sheet over your head before Marvin.”


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