After Jay died, an internal, immediate family investigation was launched about how the hell a child could die from falling back in a chair. The doctors had all submitted their reports saying that this was a freak accident. The detectives at the DA’s office were doing whatever they were doing (probably nothing, actually, but we didn’t know that. We, or I, imagined an intense round table discussion about whether to charge us with murder). But the adults involved, consisting of my husband, myself and my mother, had lengthy discussions on how this could happen. Nothing is worse than losing a child to an accident like this, in no small part because of the constant stories from other parents who have had this exact thing happen:
“Oh, dear God, what happened?!?!?!”
“He fell back in a chair.”
“Oh, Jesus. Our little Johnny, and our daughter Sabrina, and little old Chucky down the street,and my cousin Carol, and don’t forget our little nephew Jackson, and little Eleanor, oh lord was she cute, and tiny little old Malcolm…anyway, they all fell back in chairs right onto a stone floor and thank God they only suffered a bump on the head, each and every one of them.”
No one else’s kid seemed to die quite like this. Or at all.
At first we blamed the company that made the booster seat. We wondered if we should take legal action. But then we had thrown out the directions to the chair and didn’t know exactly whether there was a weight requirement for the chair, or something else that maybe we overlooked while fixing it to the dining chair. And the booster seat was thrown out so quickly that I’m not even sure anyone even knew the company that made it.
One day at my mother’s, I put a plastic shopping bag on the back of one of the dining chairs. After a few moments, the weight from the shopping bag tipped the chair back and it slapped against the laminate floor. The same slapping sound we heard when our son fell back. The lightweight wood, the low, airy wicker seat, the long narrow back–it fell backwards so easily. It was top heavy. As soon as it fell back then, I understood how it happened. My mother vowed to get rid of the chairs, but she couldn’t. She was so ridiculously ill. In and out of chemo treatments, there was no way she would have been able to go out and choose replacement chairs for the dining table.
She died two years ago, and up until now, we hadn’t even replaced those chairs. We own the house and are there often, eating meals sitting on the same chairs–one of which was responsible for our son’s death. Yesterday, my husband went on Craigslist and immediately found solid wood chairs, with the rear two legs at a backward slant. Sturdy. Stable. $100 for 4. We picked them up today.
We brought the chairs inside and put them around the table. My husband sat down on one.
“What do you think?” he said.
“I don’t know. Hold on. I gotta get rid of these bitches first.”
I picked up two of the old lightweight chairs and walked out the door. I wondered if I was carrying The Chair, the one that my son was sitting in. I didn’t know. My mother had switched the chairs around after he died because she didn’t want anyone to feel weird sitting in a any one chair. I know it sounds strange, but I can tell you it made perfect sense at the time. She knew which one it was, too, and she wouldn’t tell me for ages. But we had moved the chairs around even since then just by happenstance, so now no one knew anymore which one was It.
My husband followed soon after with the last two chairs. We opened up the big dumpster at the end of the condominium complex. We threw 3 of them in. Before the last one went in, my husband asked, “Do you want to smash one?”
“No, just toss it in,” I said. And then I picked one up and tried to smash it anyway. It bounced on the asphalt. Barely scratched. I tried it again. Same thing. Falls backward with any weight put on the back, but tough as shit. I put it in the dumpster, and hoped no one would see these four seemingly perfect chairs and take them into their own home.
We closed the dumpster lid and walked back to the condo. I sat down on the “new” wood chairs. They fit perfectly with our dining table. I was glad they were there. I know my mom would be happy those fucking chairs were gone. Me too, mama.