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.

Creepy Crochet

  Well, this is me trying to get back to blogging, and it's weird. I wanted my first post after the past few weeks to be light and uplifting, but I'm just not there yet. Instead of creating some fake-happy load of nonsense, I decided to share a bit of Mom's Afghan while spewing out a few strange events that have happened, as well as some things I realized during my time away from the blog. I have so much to say about the days that lead to her passing, and most of it has a positive side. This post isn't about any of that. It's about lessons learned, dark parking lots, and possibly a haunting. Ready?

  During the three weeks beside my mom's hospital bed, I had a lot of time to think (and crochet), and I realized how much time blogging has taken away from my crocheting. I really do need to take more breaks from the blog-o-sphere to reconnect with my work.

  Turning your hobby into a career can make you or break you. Crocheting has become stressful for me because I'm always worried about recording my stitches and fixing mistakes... Which is all a side-effect of blogging and writing patterns. The first part of Mom's afghan started with simple granny squares. It made me realize, as stupid as it sounds, that I can crochet so much faster (and I don't have to think so hard) when all I have to do is crochet.

crochet, granny squares,

  Reading those thoughts might make you think I'm going to give the whole thing up, but I simply need to find a better way to manage what I do. The problem with that is, something always goes wrong with my ideas. Here's a few examples:

  • Stop writing! I use old-fashioned pencil and paper, then type everything up afterwards. I like having a hard copy of my patterns, but the Lost Crochet Files series proves how that can go wrong, too... Plus, stopping to write interrupts crocheting. I tried to fix this problem by recording audio while I speak my stitches, so I could listen to the file and type it out later. I did a test-playback and things were fine, but when I went back to transcribe my work, the whole thing was a garbled mess of static.

  • Spend money to make money: I have one camera, one battery, one cell phone and battery, one SD card... You get the point, right? I'm broke and I get by on the basics. But I have two coffee pots, because I spend so much time waiting on things to recharge. A new battery is half the price of the better camera that I would like to get, so I need to make a decision over whether to upgrade or not.

  • Go somewhere. I'm not kidding, I'm becoming a hermit. I hardly leave my house. And now that the dog is gone, I barely go outside. Twenty-one days of going to a hospital to crochet taught me that getting out can offer a fresh perspective to your work... And if nothing else, it at least taught me that I'm allergic to something in my house. I didn't suffer any of my uncontrollable sneezing fits while away from home. But, here I am, stuck again. The Other Half's (grr, stupid piece of) truck is sitting in the yard, and my car is getting full of concrete. 

  Logic says okay, fix those things. But that's where we have to go to Weird Land for an explanation... Just like with "The Troll", I don't really have an explanation. The lights flicker, then my phone and camera batteries drain simultaneously.  I know I'm not crazy, because I've been checked out and deemed safe for society, and other people witness these things, too. Stuff flies off of shelves here, and people say my house is haunted. I kind of laugh it off, but I'm starting to wonder if they don't have a point...

  Before you dial 1-800-NUT-CASE, know that I believe in science and an an explanation for everything. But I also believe that science hasn't explained everything yet. So, what is it? Solar flares? Electromagnetic waves? What is the garbled static in my audio that I've been told sounds like demons growling? The Other Half got freaked out so much that he made me delete it. And I can confess that listening to it raised my own hair. I should do some more recordings and upload them so other people can hear it... Besides all that, I have perfect shoots with stuff like this next picture in the middle... That shadow in the corner wasn't there when I took the photo:

  So... Yeah. If my friends are right, then I don't know how much a new battery would help me unless I get outta here. But I guess I should spend the money and find out, before I call an exorcist. And now, I do think it's time to move on from that subject, while a few of you still take me seriously. But the rest is just a whole other load of creepy...

  During one of the days that Mom's numbers were declining, I stayed later than usual, crocheting in a dim corner of her ICU room. A nurse came in: A big, tall, strong-featured guy with a deep voice... He told me that he had heard angels singing and received a message from God, and that's what lead him to where he is today. The funny thing is, I knew each one of my mom's nurses, and saw them all more than once. That was the first and only time I saw that guy. That is more strange to me than the stuff that happens in my house.

I had three other weird things happen at the hospital, but on the other side of the creepy spectrum:

  Leaving mom's room late one night, I took the nearest stairway. Nobody was behind me. After turning the first landing, I heard the door above open and shut. Then - Step... step... step... Stop... Step, step, step, stop again. I'm on the second-floor landing, and I look up. Some weird-looking dude is looking down at me.

Okay, I ran.

  Let me explain that this hospital seems to have it all backwards... Security goes home at night. The main entrance closes, and you have to enter through the emergency side. I'm parked at the main entrance. I run out the door that locks behind you, with no way to get back in. In the dark, because all the lights are covered by trees. And I'm parked all the way at the other side of the empty lot, because it was full when I got there. But I could see my car from the ICU above, and had checked to make sure it was all clear before I started down the stairs. I mean, I'm not stupid, you know?

  So, I run out the now-locked-behind-me door, halfway across the lot, and nobody's behind me but I'm still freaked out. That's when I double-freaked out, because parked directly across from my car is an all-black car with tinted windows so dark, they have to be illegal. You can't even see the dash of the car. Then I realized, that car wasn't there a minute ago, I didn't pass anybody on my way in, and why would they park there when the whole lot is empty? I just stopped, like an idiot, and stood there in the empty parking lot, trying to figure out what to do as horror movie scenes flashed through my head instead.

  I heard the squeaky hinges of the hospital's side-door open behind me, and I made the split-second decision to finish my run. I got out of there unharmed, but never stopped checking my mirrors the whole way home. In hindsight, maybe I'm not as smart as I think, because I never even thought to pull out my phone... Just "keys and run". I'll never know if Creepy Dude in the stairwell was connected to the black car, or if that was even him walking through the parking lot. I just know it scared me enough to make me start leaving Mom's side a little earlier in the evenings.

  I count that as two creepy situations, because I don't think Creepy Dude had enough time to make it up to the ICU from the parking lot. Whoever parked the car there did it while I was coming down the stairs, and the other guy was already behind me. And maybe the whole situation was just nothing, and I was freaked out for no reason. Unless... Are there weird people out there that get their kicks from scaring people late at night in hospitals? Maybe it's somebody's idea of a joke. If so, I don't think it's funny.

  The third, final, and most creepiest thing that happened took place once again in the parking lot. Most nights, I was still one of few vehicles left in the dark, empty, security-free lot. I got more paranoid, and started skirting widely around my car before walking up to it. I scanned the lot. I checked for flat tires. I peeked in the backseat before unlocking the door. I... Almost came out of my skin when a man stood up from the other side of my car!

  The passenger side was facing the building, and I never saw anybody while I was walking to or around the car. The front was the only place I didn't check, but this guy stands up from the the back of the passenger side, as if he was crouched next to my gas cap. The only thing I can figure is that he had crept around from the front when he heard me coming. But why? What are these weirdos doing? He just stood up, back turned to me, and walked away without saying a word or looking back. I thought of asking "hey, what are you doing?", but I decided to shut up, let him go, and get outta there.

  After that, I started moving my car closer to the building when my dad would leave in the evenings. I hated doing that, because I'm the tough girl, you know? I don't want to feel like some damsel in distress, having to move my car or be walked out just because it's dark outside... Nothing even happened to me, other than a scare. But really, I guess there's no harm in being smarter even if you are tough.

  Besides, I couldn't run as fast with my project growing in my bag. Five skeins and a small afghan became I-don't-know-how-many skeins and a full-sized blanket. Some days when we went down for a coffee break, my dad would take my bag in the elevator so I didn't have to carry it down the stairs. And as I continued to crochet in the cafeteria, people stopped to talk about it.

  Nurses came in to the ICU room and asked questions or shared stories about crochet. Doctors commented on my crochet. My dad and I talked about crochet, and he gave me a few opinions that were considered during the creation of Mom's Afghan, which will now be given to Dad, anyways.

  No more creepy happenings occurred at the hospital, but they did continue at home while trying to snap some pictures of the project. The whole mess has bothered me enough that I wanted to get it off my chest, and save the good side for another post... Because even through my mom's death, I was shown a GOOD side of the world that I haven't seen in a while. It all seems to belong in its own post, where its light can shine. I promise I'll share soon, free of ghost stories.  

Happy Crocheting!

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