Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Good Side


  Now that the weirdness of the last post is off my chest, it's time to share with you the really important things that happened while working on Mom's Afghan. It seems so strange to say that there are good things to tell you after an illness and death... But I truly did find goodness mixed in with all the bad parts.


  If you read the post "A Call for Prayers", you'll find a part where I mention not believing in angels, except for the ones that walk the earth. They may not have glowing halos or float on clouds, but they do shine light in our lives. I hadn't seen one in a while, until Mom's stay in the hospital.


  After the surgery was over and she was moved to the ICU, many different people came and went, but a few became solid fixtures. The first was my dad. He reminded me that if I don't point out my mistakes, nobody will ever notice them. At the same time, if I'm not happy with my work, I should fix it. It's a lesson that I can use in life as well as crochet.

granny square, crochet, Mom's Afghan


  The next was a nurse, Carla. She and I talked a lot while she was in charge of my mom's care, but one of the main subjects was crochet. As she explained about medications, ammonia levels, and liver damage, the subject would often go back to crocheting. She used to crochet, but says she doesn't have time for it anymore. Her mom still crochets, and she wanted to know a good place to buy yarn to send her. Just for that, she's an automatic angel in any crocheter's eyes, lol.


  But seriously, her honest explanations of what to expect were better than the doctors saying "let's keep our hopes up". Mixing the information with talks of crochet helped keep me distracted (in a good way), and either she knew it or she just really likes crochet. She asked what my favorite stitch was, and in the moment, I couldn't think of one. She told me her favorite was the shell stitch. When I decided to deviate from the simple granny square pattern, I added a split-shell stitch. A different nurse was in charge of Mom by that time, but Carla continued to pop in and ask if she had woke up yet. And with a simple conversation about stitches, she became a permanent part of the afghan.

granny square, split-shell stitch, crochet, Mom's Afghan


  While Dad and I were on a coffee break and I was joining squares, a cafeteria worker stopped to ask what I was making. He explained that he had just purchased a knitted set from a lady upstairs, for his granddaughter's first layette. He told me "There's nothing better than handmade for those special little babies". In this world where the value of handcrafted items is often forgotten, he has no idea how much his words can brighten a crocheter's day.

crochet, joining squares, granny squares, Mom's Afghan


  And for some strange reason, he inspired me. An idea began to form and I just couldn't shake it... I've never donated anything for babies because of contamination issues: Although I don't let my cats in or on my yarn, if you live with cats, you know their fur magically deposits itself everywhere. And with the Other Half's concrete career... I swear, some days he looks like Pigpen walking through the door. Not only could the dust trigger asthma, it can be caustic and irritating to the skin, too. Yes, I wash items to be donated, but I just don't want to take the risk with extra-sensitive little ones. 


  So, what if I were to buy the yarn, take it to the hospital, and make a blanket?Then leave the blanket there for some new little one. It would still need to be laundered, but I bet I could find somebody there that would be willing to help out. This hospital is full of volunteers, and all I need to do is find the right one. Perhaps I should offer crochet lessons in return for laundry service? Or maybe the hospital would make sure it gets laundered anyways... Well, the plan has started, and all I have to do is start asking questions.


  The day they removed Mom from the ventilator, the Other Half dropped me off so he could get his friend to fix the brakes. (Oh, that's a fun one that got missed; it stopped stopping because the fluid was squirting out.) Long story short: Friend fell asleep instead, and the Other Half came up to the hospital for the first and only time. I could tell he was uncomfortable, it was time to feed the cats and nobody was home, plus it was rainy that day, in a car with faulty brakes. We decided to leave early.


 I was upset over leaving, but it was a smart decision. After a short argument over who should drive my car (lol), I got in and turned the key. Buzzzzzzzz... Click. Cuss words. I get out and open the hood to check the terminals, because they come loose regularly and this happens all the time. Not. Loose. As the Other Half gets out to help, I think "Hmm... It was raining when he got here". Walk around, turn off the headlight switch. I ask him to get the jump box, but he tells me he never put it back in the car. Cuss words again.


  I have jumper cables, but there's a car parked on the same side as my battery. From across the lot: "Ya'll need help?" Some blue-collar boys are hanging around their big jacked-up trucks. Yeah, but... "No problem", he tells us. After digging in the toolbox of what he said was his dad's truck, he pulls another truck over and produces the longest jumper cables I've ever seen in my life. A minute later, I'm up and running again, and he's refusing any money for his help. "I can't take that, I just hope somebody would do the same for me" he said. Sure would, if I could even pick up your giant jumper cables.


  Sometimes, you just can't repay people in kind. But who knows? Maybe some day the guy will have a kid there, and a blanket I make will go home with them. The world works in funny ways.


  I was taught a lesson while discussing crochet with many random people: Unless they're interested in learning, don't bother to correct them over whether it's knit or crochet. One woman even called it quilting. The point is, people will tell you their stories more freely if you just shut up and listen, instead of worrying about terms. I heard so many memories of somebody's mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, or neighbor crocheting, knitting, or "quilting". People don't want a lesson in what you're doing, unless they're asking for it. They just want to tell you that you remind them of their grandma. Rather, you're making them remember Grandma. Say thank you.


  On a related subject to that, I was told repeatedly that I'm too young to be crocheting. Those are the people I took the time to correct. You would be surprised at how fast someone will get interested when you tell them "it's been the hottest new craft for the past few years, since the fashion industry picked it up". Now you don't look like Grandma anymore.


  I was told that one last time by the hospice nurse, Rachel. But she said it in fun, not like an insult. She also told me that she "knit", but she made a hooking motion when she said it, so I think she might have meant crochet. She was of foreign descent, and I think some cultures do call crochet "knitting", or it doesn't translate properly... Anyways, I didn't bother to correct her, and she told me of a jacket she made for a little one in her family. It was made of tiny squares sewn together, and she was so happy with how it came out. I was so happy to have a distraction from Mom's labored breathing.


  The final days in hospice were a welcome difference from the hospital. A private room, free coffee, and soft-spoken people that called my mom "sweetheart", "honey", and "dear heart". Even a couch that I could spread the now-joined afghan out on, only for my dad and me to decide that it looked funny that way. I had joined the blanket in two parts, thinking that it would make a cool design. We both agreed that it looked like two blankets sewn together.

crochet, seams, granny squares, fail


  I planned to unravel the seams and do it right, as the seams of my life unraveled. I got the call the next morning: Get to hospice now. In a rush, I ran out the door without my project, and I wish I had it for her last quiet moments while I was screaming in my head. But when I finally got home that day, I spread it out and set to ripping the seams. It had some therapeutic quality, to be taking something apart instead of falling apart myself.

crochet, fail, joining granny squares, frogging


  It's been seven days now, and I'm still working on putting it back together. Funny how crochet can make a great analogy for life... Even though Mom will never get to use her afghan, she has been a big part of it. And during her most responsive day off the ventilator, she did say it was "verrrrry pretty" as I held it up for her to see. The people that became memories during her last days will probably never know how much they inspired my crochet, but nothing is as important as those last words from Mom.


  Crochet can be a part of an old memory, make a new memory, or be a memory in itself. Mom's Afghan is all of them. Before you ask for the pattern, know that I'm not ready to release it yet. If I can pitch it to the right place, I'd love to publish it in a magazine, along with an article to raise awareness about alcoholism. Her death came too soon (only 65), and didn't need to happen. If her afghan can help stop that from happening to someone else, then it will become so much more than just a memory.



12 comments:

  1. Hello Jenny,
    this is a very touching and wonderful post. And I know exactly how you feel about cats (where on earth do those heaps of fur come from as they are not allowed into the studio) and husbands (mine is a plumber and heating installer --> heating oil = URGH!).
    Take care!
    Marjan
    P.S.: I like your Afgan very much, it looks very appeasing and comforting to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy to hear your opinion of the afghan, Marjan! The colors were specifically chosen for comfort, but they were Mom's favorites, too.

      Delete
  2. Sweetie I'm so sorry to hear about your mom! You've had a rough year! It will take time to feel more like normal! Your mom would have loved the afghan you made her with all the care and thought you put into it! I agree there are ANGELS all around us just loving caring people with lots of feeling and heart! Hang in there and take every day one day at a time baby steps! Now for your spaceship car sounds like it needs a few kicks here and there LOL, THAT IS MY CURE FOR FIXING THINGS THAT WON'T WORK PROPERLY! It works sometimes but it also relieves your stress! If you ever need to chat I'm here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advice all around, Amanda. Now as for the car: I don't know if kicking it would fix it, but it sure sounds like fun :)

      Delete
  3. So sorry for your loss. I used crochet too, when I waited for my dad to join his loved ones on the other side. I had made hand warmers for his always cold hands and he'd requested more of a closed mitten style. He never did get to use one. And even as we awaited the inevitable I sat in the corner of his room, working on it... probably as my last shred of hope in tangible form. Take it day by day now and let crochet be your friend. Each stitch a memory or a prayer.
    http://ladieann.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Linda, and I'm sorry for your loss, too. I'm sure your dad appreciated your work, even if he never used the mittens.

      Delete
  4. Nurses were our saving grace when my husband's mother was dying. The doctors all seem determined to keep the family's hopes up.....that they could fix her. Even when she had sunk into a coma and her vital signs kept going further and further down. I quit listening to the doctors and started asking the nurses instead. Her chief doctor came in one day and told us that he was going to do this, that and the other thing and we should see some improvement in a day or so. After he left, the rest of the family left the ICU room to make calls, get coffee, go to the restroom. I stayed in the room. One of the older nurses came in that I had talked to a number of times. I asked her what she thought about what the doctor had said. And she told me that she felt that I needed to prepare my family, that my mother in-law was not coming back to us. I told her that I felt like my mother in-law had already gone and we were just keeping her body going with the machines. She smiled sadly and said that doctors don't like to admit defeat. She and the other nurses taking care of her all felt she had already gone.

    I talked to my husband that night. We talked to his father the next morning. We all talked to his brother that afternoon. We made the decision to take her off of life support the next morning. Her body didn't even try to take another breath. It was gut wrenchingly hard to make that decision. But I bless the nurses that were honest and forthright about her condition and didn't give us false hope. The doctors attempts to keep her body going could have gone on for a much longer time with the end result being the same. Except the emotional toll on the family would have been much, much higher. My brother in-law was already going off the deep end. Another week or two would have pushed him over the edge.

    I'm glad that you and your father had wonderful nurses as a support system. And I'm so sorry that your mama is gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kim. I heard a similar thing from nurses, "doctors never want to give up hope". I feel better knowing that we gave her every chance we could, but I still sadly wonder if the doctors don't drag it out just for extra money. The nurses never told us directly that it was over, but they said things like "you're too young to lose your mom" and "she's too young to die".

      I think you made a smart, although difficult decision for your MIL. Waiting longer for the inevitable is torture. It sounds a bit cold, but I feel it's easier to make peace when you know they're already gone.

      Delete
  5. A beautiful blanket !!!! Good job !
    Have a nice weekend !
    Anna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Anna. Hope you have a nice weekend, too.

      Delete
  6. My Grandfather died from alcoholism and I suspect the same for my eldest brother. It seems alcoholism is talked about it as it's own disease when generally it's a symptom of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed often encapsulated in the term 'driven to drink'. What if one day when symptoms present themselves doctors didn't just say 'cut down on your drinking' but offered alternatives for dealing with the bigger issues? I'm sorry that's a bit off topic on your beautiful afghan. I'm sure your dad is going to treasure it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't apologize, because you have a wonderful point. My mom was always ridden with anxiety, and I think she may have used alcohol as a way to cope. I know how she felt, because I have to struggle with anxiety, too... But I saw early in life that alcohol (and even medication) wasn't the answer for me. Learning how to deal with it and fix problems was my answer. Not everybody has the mindset to cope with their own troubles like that, and they need a doctor's help.

      I think alcoholism can stem from many things. 1) Call it upbringing or genetics, I don't know which it really is, or maybe it can be both. It seems to run in families sometimes. 2) People use drinking to deal with pain. 3) Some just like to "party" too much... And so many more reasons. Even after a doctor told her to stop, she continued to drink for another 4 years, until it was too late. If only they could have given her a treatment and a reason to stop, she may have focused on more than just the word "alcoholic". But even when I recommended she talk to a doctor about anxiety, she only said "that's what wine is for". Maybe it just went on for too long. Or maybe there's just no help for some people.

      Delete

Okay, I took up enough space - Now it's your turn!
I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback.