Grisamore ‘Bubba Chair’ is remembered on Father’s Day
I think of my father whenever I catch a sideways glance at his red-handled hammer, the one he used to build backyard fences and mountain cabins.
The smell of Mennen Skin Bracer takes me back, too. He splashed the green aftershave on his face every morning. He even used it to clean his glasses.
I can almost see my dad’s reflection in his old shoeshine box, still stuffed with brushes, buffing cloth and the lingering scent of Kiwi polish. When I was 2, my mother took my photograph shining my dad’s shoes. His feet were propped on the box, and I was looking up at him with admiration. I chose that photo for the cover of one of my books.
There are sentimental reminders of my father spread across the tops of tables and the bottoms of drawers. A 1938 copy of his “Sea Scout Manual,” from when he lived in Riverside, California, is on my book shelf. I also have the Bible he carried with him to Vietnam. My sisters and I made “creepy crawler” bugs and mailed them halfway around the world to him. A rubber caterpillar ended up on top of on his Bible in the hot barracks. You still can see the imprint on the back cover.
This is my 13th Father’s Day without my dad, who was promoted to heaven in 2006. I miss him. I still hear his voice in my head. There are times when I want to ask him something, and it makes me sad he’s no longer around to give me advice and encouragement.
When you lose a parent, one way to fill the hole in your heart is by surrounding yourself with the memories that connected you.
We have a unique chair at our house. It is 74 inches long and resembles more of an oversized shoe insole than a recliner.
We call it the Bubba Chair. My father’s 12 grandchildren all called him Bubba. He didn’t look like a Bubba. He didn’t act like a Bubba. He grew up in the Midwest., not the Deep South. But the grandchildren started calling him that, and the name stuck.
My father loved his chair. He bought it in the early 1960s. He paid $150 for it at a furniture store on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta.
It was made of Naugahyde. My mother thought it was ugly. I once described it as a cross between George Jetson’s spaceship recliner and a shampoo chair at the beauty salon.
A lever on the right side will raise your feet 26 inches off the floor. Once upon a time, the chair vibrated. You could plug it in and adjust the black knob for your own version of one of those “magic fingers” beds we used to feed quarters in motel rooms.
My mother still laughs when she recalls what the salesman said in his sales pitch: “It comes with a vibbbb-urrr-ay-tor!!!!”
For years, I assumed it was an early model of a La-Z-Boy. I was wrong. It was manufactured by the Contour Chair Company. (Art Linkletter once did television commercials for Contour.) Maybe it was like a piece of home for my dad. The factory was in St. Louis, where he graduated from medical school at Washington University in June 1952.
The chair is a sentimental journey, and I’ve taken many a nap in it. It is where I pulled my first tooth. I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons, reclining so far back the base was like a summit to be scaled. My sisters and I climbed all over it. It was like having a jungle gym in the den.
My mother knitted a blanket for the chair. It was a checkerboard pattern of orange, brown and beige. When my father was watching TV or snoozing, my sisters often would crawl beneath his elevated feet, camping at the fabric foothills of a snoring mountain.
When my parents moved to Macon in 2002, the chair almost didn’t make the trip with them. In fact, it didn’t. They were downsizing, and there wasn’t going to be enough room in the new house.
It was only the front porch away from being carried off by the Goodwill truck when one of my sisters rescued it. She had it re-covered and kept it for a few years before passing it along to me.
The vibbbb-urrr-ay-tor no longer works. Its umbilical cord was cut somewhere along the way. It has been placed in different rooms and moved up and down the stairs many times over the past 14 years. It isn’t easy finding the right fit for a piece of furniture the shape of a Nike Swoosh.
The chair is now on its fourth generation of Grisamores. Our three grandchildren crawl in it to read, watch TV, get comfortable or take a nap, like kicking back in the sling of a hammock. Sometimes, they fuss over who gets to sit in it. They slide down its orange belly and raise the lever up and down like a teeter-totter.
It still is the Bubba Chair, named after a man they never knew but whose fingerprints are embedded in its legacy.
“He was my father,’’ I tell them, knowing they are too young to understand. “Yes, Gris had a father. People called him Gris, too. Move over and let me sit there with you.’’
Happy Father’s Day.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon and is the author of nine books. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.