Finding respite in a comfortable couch and an overstuffed chair

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by Helen Baldwin |

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Because my husband, Randy, and I had neither furniture nor money when we got married, we lived in furnished apartments for the first couple of years. We purchased the furniture in one of our last apartments for a ridiculously low price. When we bought our first house, my parents donated furniture I’d grown up with.

Randy and I gradually inherited more from my folks. My maternal grandfather had either salvaged most of it from a dilapidated family farmhouse or rescued it from a ditch on the property. Whatever he found, he expertly put back together before refinishing it.

All of the pieces were beautiful and held significant sentimental value, especially to my late mother. The pieces are old but sturdy, with plenty of beloved stories behind them. My alert mother even thought to write out some of those stories for us to pass on!

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An early favorite piece that Randy and I inherited was my maternal grandparents’ sofa. Covered in a green brocade fabric, it sat in their formal living room (in the house with those menacing French doors I mentioned in a previous column). I loved Grandmom and Pa, and I cherished having their sofa. Perhaps due to a quest to keep visitors from lingering, however, it was not comfortable.

When Randy and I moved to Columbia, South Carolina, for teaching jobs, we had the sofa recovered. The Dutch blue fabric dotted with tiny pink and cream flowers coordinated nicely with the wallpaper in our cute new home.

Alas, the stylish sofa was still uncomfortable.

A comfy couch comes in handy

A few years and two children (Matthew and Katie) later, our family moved to the mountains of North Carolina. By then, we’d purchased a dirty beige tweed couch and a matching overstuffed chair from former neighbors. The two pieces weren’t particularly attractive, but the price was right, and both were comfortable.

On July 7, 1997, I was sitting on the comfy couch with our sleeping newborn, Jeffrey, while Matthew and Katie played in the front yard with our dogs, Nellie and Duffy. Immediately after a sickening thud, the kids screamed that Duffy had been hit by the mailman’s vehicle. Randy rushed him to the vet, but he didn’t make it.

The kids and I cuddled on the comfy couch and discussed Duffy’s death, God, and heaven. If there were any signs that the impromptu conversation served as a rehearsal for something way beyond our comprehension, I missed them all.

The Jeffrey Chair: Comfortable and comforting

After Jeffrey’s birth in May 1997, he and I hogged the comfy overstuffed chair. It fit me perfectly, with plenty of room for a soft pillow on my lap for our tiny prince.

Fast forward to Sunday, July 13, 1997, six days after Duffy’s death. My physician brother, Paul, examined Jeffrey to investigate his abdominal breathing. There was ample cause for concern: a dull-sounding lung and no reflexes. We were referred the following day by our pediatrician to a neurologist at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

On July 14, one week after the discussion with Matthew and Katie regarding unexpected death, Jeffrey was diagnosed with SMA type 1. In our collective stupor, Randy and I tried to process the neurologist’s comment that Jeffrey wouldn’t see his fourth birthday.

After spending a grueling night and the next morning at the hospital for testing, we returned home. I sank into the comfy couch to utter some kind of optimistic pep talk to my folks and Jeffrey’s adoring siblings (as Randy reburied Duffy’s partially unearthed body). That was my first realization that God was in control, as he mercifully provided me with whatever words I needed.

Jeffrey and I spent so much time in the overstuffed chair, we dubbed it the Jeffrey Chair. When SMA progressed to the point that he wasn’t comfortable anywhere else, he remained perched in someone’s lap (mostly mine) in the chair. Jeffrey stayed in his spot for suctioning and later when morphine was added to the regimen.

The Jeffrey Chair was where our little guy took his final breath at 10:43 p.m. on Nov. 4, 1997. The stunningly clear night boasted perhaps the brightest stars I’d ever seen. One even twinkled.

Finding comfort in a new couch

Randy and I eventually found new homes for the aging comfy couch and the Jeffrey Chair, splurging on a comfy recliner couch with a pull-down table. I’ve snuggled with our grandchildren, Clara and James, on my recliner side. I spent a precious few hours on the couch with our beloved dog, Honey, the day before she recently joined the Rainbow Bridge brigade.

As the couch has been wearing down, and since we prematurely ditched our backup ragged couch, we had no comfortable seating. The Monday before Thanksgiving, Randy and I ventured to a local furniture shop to snag the only recliner couch in the area with a pull-down table.

It’s very possible that our very comfy couch will outlast Randy, me, or both. Here’s hoping it’ll spark plenty of memories for the ones who inherit it.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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