Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Knitting, Love and Cancer

I haven't blogged much in the last week or so. My dad, who is 84 and has been in wonderful health until about six months ago, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia on January 3. They were at their winter place in Florida, but my sister and her husband were visiting at the time. We needed to get them home -- which happened on Saturday.

However, his condition took a turn and I spent from 3 p.m. Monday until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday at the emergency room of a major university medical center (MUC) -- where he was admitted. He was in very grave condition and remains in the hospital. (A word about places like MUC -- not its real name -- the oncology staff, both docs and nurses, are true angels. I am convinced there is a special place in heaven for all those who work on that floor.)

What do you do when you're sitting with your mother and father, who have been married almost 63 years, in the ER all afternoon and evening? Both are scared and not used to big city hospitals. You're placed near the trauma entrance and bay, so you see the gun shot and accident victims coming in. You take along that skein of Colinette Jitterbug (see my ravelry stash for a photo) and hand wind it into a ball. Then you cast it on US 1 needles and begin knitting a simple sock, because anything else requires too much concentration.

Why do you do this? Because your parents know you can't sit still without something occupying your hands. They have watched your craft through family gatherings for more than 40 years -- knitting, needlepoint, cross stitch. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, just plain visits. There is always something in your hands. If you don't bring something, they may think you're scared and worried, too. It is a sign of comfort to them that all is OK.

As I sat winding the yarn, I thought of the Yarn Harlot's touching story in her first book. Steph writes of a time she spent as a doula -- always knitting at least some socks for the new baby during labor. She wrote of the comfort the needles brought to both the laboring mother and herself, that everything was fine. Buy or borrow the book. Read the essay. Cry. As a mother, it was wonderfully touching to me when I first read it, but now -- it touches me in a different way. I am the one who sits and knits trying to hold things together for my family -- to be strong.

So, there I sit, as I watch my father sleep and breathe and listen to my mother mutter and mumble about all the things she has to do and how she wants him to eat some more -- one needle into the other -- round and round in stockinette. No cables. No lace. Nothing fancy. These socks will be like my father -- simple, plain, strong and durable.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Oh, dear. Knitting is a comfort in the hospital, isn't it?

I certainly will hope for the best for your dad.