By Karen Middleton
One of the big mysteries of the African plain has always been, “Where do elephants go to die?”
The elephants know. Being among the most intelligent and family friendly of the animal kingdom, they handle such matters discretely and afterward their relatives meet at the sacred place and grieve over their loved ones’ bones.
But America also has its own questions about the whereabouts of large, ungainly carcasses, namely that of the domestic recliner.
Unfortunately, most recliner owners are not as discrete as the African elephant. They tend to leave the remains of their old friends beside a road for total strangers to cluck about and avert their eyes in disgust.
In many cases the declining years of the reclining chair are spent only partially sheltered from the elements. When it loses its charm as a front porch accoutrement, it often meets its date with destiny beside a winding country road.
I was reminded of this sad culmination to a life of service this past weekend when a friend and I ventured off the beaten path in Jackson County. But I’m not singling out Jackson County as the recliner graveyard of North Alabama; I’ve witnessed this practice more times than I can count in our own Limestone County.
Oh, the shame of it.
With Super Bowl still fresh in our minds, think back on all this piece of furniture has given. Even referring to it as “a piece of furniture” is a bit cold, considering how deeply involved this old friend and its owner have been.
Not only does the recliner tenderly cradle its owner while he quaffs beverages and bellows encouragement or disparagement during football games, but it must put up with having beverages and guacamole leaked down its crevices, even into the very bowels of its mechanisms.
And it’s not just on Super Bowl Sunday; this kind of thing goes on all year. The relationship between a recliner and its owner is so close that it almost always supersedes the intimacy of marriage.
It has often been said that over years a husband and wife grow to resemble one another. It’s the same with recliners and their owners. Observe how the anatomy of each changes over time. Where the owner increasingly bulges out, the recliner increasingly caves in. It becomes more and more obvious that the two were meant for each other.
Consider the nightly conjugal visits an owner makes to his favorite recliner. Amid a scene lit by just the mellow glow from a television screen, the two exchange unspeakable intimacies. The faithful recliner holds its master in a loving embrace, muffles his exhausts with nary a groan and never punches him in the ribs when he snores too loudly.
All of this, and when the owner has used up a recliner it’s like they never knew one another. He can kick it to the curb without a moment’s thought.
Sometimes, the lucky recliner is sent to an upholsterer to live again with a new suit of clothes. But more often after shivering and sweltering on the front porch for a couple of seasons it is carted off on the back of the city’s flatbed truck or else loaded into the bed of the owner’s pickup and driven down that road of no return.
It is said that elephants never forget. Too bad humans with their notoriously faulty memories leave it to others to sort through the bones of their castoffs.
Mark Twain wrote long before the advent of recliners, “Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.”