It’s the best news I’ve received in a long, long time. Come mid-April, the battle will resume over Grampa’s Chair.

In the Before Times, it went like this: Moments into a visit from our two grandsons, Gus, the older, would get that mischievous look in his eye and bolt toward the living room. There, he’d plop into the green leather recliner from which, for as far back as he can remember, Grampa has always presided.

“This is MY chair!” he’d proclaim, giggling at his own audacity as he reached for the armrests and held on tight.

“No, no, no!” I’d boom as I entered the room. “That is Grampa’s Chair!”

“MY chair!”

Back and forth we’d go – Grampa pretending to sit while Gus pushed back hard, protecting his conquest with upraised little feet. I’d twist this way and that until somehow, I was in the chair and Gus, howling in giddy protest, suddenly found himself perched on my lap.

Then I’d get up for something, only to return and find Juneau staking his own claim while his older brother egged him on.

“MY chay-uh!” Juneau would announce, laughing so hard he could barely speak.

And so it would go, our little slice of heaven on earth.

It’s been more than a year since Gus, who turns 5 next week, and Juneau, who turned 3 in November, set foot inside our home. Third grandson Calvin, born last May, has yet to cross our threshold.

Soon that will all change. My wife, Andrea, and I got our Moderna shots last week – thank you, Martin’s Point Health Care – and will receive our second doses on March 31.

According to new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines released Monday, that means we’ll be good to go for indoor visits with the grandkids and their parents on … let me check my calendar here … anytime after April 14.

A little bit about that chair. As comfortable as a cloud, it was bestowed on my father by Babson College, where he taught for decades, upon his retirement in the spring of 2005. Rather than honor him with one of those stiff, wooden models, he suggested, why not a soft recliner, something in which he could lean back and rest his weary bones?

Five brutal months later, Dad died of fast-moving bladder cancer – they discovered it on the day of his last class. His chair, barely used, came home with me.

I’ve pretty much lived in it ever since. I write in it. I read in it. I watch TV in it. When I grappled with my own cancer a few years back, I recuperated in it, missing my father like never before.

Then the grandsons came along.

To be sure, Andrea and I have been luckier than many grandparents. We’ve joined the little guys regularly for chilly beach walks, sledding expeditions and other outdoor rendezvous, but always with masks on and always spread way too far apart. Looking is small consolation when the doctors and scientists advise you not to touch.

Our one indulgence before saying goodbye: Gus and Juneau wrap their arms around our knees and squeeze tight, while we pat them on their knit-capped heads. We call them “leg hugs.”

Our home, meanwhile, has been too quiet a place. We got a puppy, Ozzie, a year ago and as entertaining as he can be, it’s just not the same as roughhousing with a fearless toddler.

A while back – I can’t remember exactly when – Ozzie shredded the chair leather where the back meets the seat and decorated the entire living room with clumps of white, polyester upholstery stuffing. “Sorry, Dad,” I muttered as I grumpily pieced it all back together and covered it with matching green duct tape I’d found on the internet.

I’m sitting in Grampa’s Chair as I type these words. I’m trying to count how many times Gus and Juneau have asked, standing out in the driveway giving us our leg hugs, “Why can’t we go inside?”

Deep down, they understand – inasmuch as a child can grasp any of this. It’s because of “the sickness,” the term my son and daughter-in-law artfully coined a year ago to help simplify a calamity that, month after agonizing month, has proven anything but simple.

Look across any age group, any demographic, and the pandemic scars run the gamut from the inconvenient to the truly unbearable. It’s hard to feel sorry for oneself while COVID-19 patients die in terrifying isolation and their families mourn not in the arms of one another and their communities, but via disembodied Zoom memorials and the sleepless nights that follow.

In the end, to one degree or another, it’s all about loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of one’s own health. Loss of a job. Loss of a normal education. Loss of another’s touch.

And, in the case of doting grandparents, loss of precious time. We know we won’t be around forever and thus the erasure of an entire year (and counting) feels like nothing short of thievery when viewed through the prism of our progeny.

Ah but now, from the comfort of what was once Dad’s chair, I can see what looks like the beginning of the end. This cross we all bear, to resurrect one of my mother’s oft-used metaphors, grows a little lighter as each day grows a little longer.

Calvin, who’s just starting to walk, soon will strut his stuff across our pumpkin-pine floorboards for the first time. A fourth grandchild, now gestating in sweet oblivion, is due in October.

And on the third weekend of April, we’ll throw open our porch door and once again welcome in Gus and Juneau for a long-overdue sleepover.

Grampa’s Chair, duct tape and all, is ready.

So is Grampa.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.