Last Writes

The copy of Harper’s has a full-page ad for a Sleep Chair, one of those big recliners that also rises to the occasion when an invalid needs to be stood up and carried by a caretaker to a wheelchair or a bed, in a procedure I learned when my mother was in a rehab hospital. I have a cheap version of that chair in my living room, a real eyesore, bought at a big-box store when my mom was paralyzed from a stroke. There was an earlier one here, bought for my father when he too needed to be moved in and out of it. He liked to sleep in it, my mother hated it.

The fabric in the new one is not as rough and it has a massage option that vibrates up and down the body and which my mother hated even more than the rough-fabric chair this one replaced. These stand-up chairs are the last stations. After them comes 24-hour bed and then death. I don’t sit in this one very much, preferring the one next to it that doesn’t stand up, just as ugly but more comfortable for me because it rocks. I’m the child of a rocking-chair culture. I think of getting a proper rocking chair but don’t get around to it. This ugly thing will do.

The Harper’s ad is a reminder that we who read it are old, waiting to die. My mother didn’t read it or even knew of its existence; Spanish was her reading language. My father preferred Spanish but did read English, but he too did not know of Harper’s existence. I do. I like it. It’s intelligent and literate, like The New Yorker, which I also read because I’m old enough to sit in a reclining chair next to another I can move to when I have a stroke or break my hip, the one that comes before bed and death.

I should subscribe to edgier publications, like the magazines I thumb through at the periodicals stands of good bookstores. Maybe in French, which I can barely read. A design magazine, what language it’s in wouldn’t matter, so might as well pick something in Dutch or Japanese. But I don’t, though I like design. Something edgy, yes. God knows I’ve tried to be edgy, hip, cool, def, flash, fly, knowing all the time that if you have to try you ain’t it. No swing. Don’t mean a thing. So now that no one comes here except family and locals, almost none of whom would know the magazines on my coffee table, and if they were to read them they’d be horrified by their politics, now that I’m Simon of the Panhandle, a double-wide standing for a proper pillar, now I can read without pretense. Harper’s. The New Yorker. TLS. On the reclining chairs. On the way out.