Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is it summer yet?

It feels like it should be summer already, doesn't it? Older Daughter has been out of school for over a week now, and Younger Daughter is now done, too. On Wednesday, I finally finished the last really big deadline-driven job I had to do, and on Thursday, after cleaning the house up so we'd be ready for this weekend's visitors, I sat down outside on the back patio and knitted and knitted and knitted. It was absolutely wonderful, and it meant that by yesterday, I'd finished the wrap that I'm working on.

That's a bit of a tease, as I have no pictures yet. But it is done. I even wore it last night when we took Rick out to dinner for his birthday.

My day of knitting also gave me a chance to finally think more about our week up in the Bay Area. It's a funny thing, because I've had to tell people where I was, as a few work deadlines were postponed, and it always feels very dramatic to me to say that we were up there to be with Rick's grandmom while she was dying. I've been trying to figure out why that's so hard to say. I think there are a lot of reasons, but one of them may be that we tend to use verbs like "die" as, essentially, punctatives, verbs that describe a one-time contained action. Like "drop", or "fall", where there's very little time for an internal event structure, and the whole act is encompassed in the verb. But it turns out that, at least sometimes, dying isn't like that. It's a process, an -ing, not an -ed. It's momentous (but not momentaneous), and in many ways indescribable; I kept wishing (as I almost never do) that words like awe-ful and awe-some hadn't changed their meanings over time, because I felt that they might once have been useful in describing a process like die-ing. But simultaneously, because processes (as opposed to punctatives) by their very nature encompass many moments, some of those moments, rather than being awe-some, are instead mundane, quotidien, routine.

The girls finally said to me, almost shamefaced, that they knew this was really big, and they were sad a lot of the time, but that they were also bored. They wanted, in essence, a timetable, to know what and where and when. I told them that those feelings, all of them, are part of the inherent tension in situations like this; they're awesome (in that old sense), but also filled with moments that are, quite honestly, boring. Birth, I said, is also like that. It happens when and as it will, full of exciting moments like breaking water and pushing and new babies crying, but also boring moments like walking between contractions and waiting (and waiting), and the process of dying often works the same way, especially when it's a dying that comes like this, naturally, at the end of a long life (I know just how different it can be in cases of trauma and illness, and I am grateful beyond belief that this is the girls' first experience with death).

I told them that in some ways this was Grandmom's last and great gift, to give them a chance to learn that there are many experiences in life like this, whose schedules and directions are completely outside of our ability to shape, and that all we are in charge of is how we carry ourselves through that. In a world where we are so often taught that everything is under our control, it can come as a shock sometimes to realize how few of the biggest things really are, and it is our job to walk through them with as much grace as we can muster. It's been a hard lesson for me, and one which I have had to relearn (but which I am, gratefully, having to relearn less and less often), and our week with grandmom was one more reminder, one more opportunity to spend time in the process, being rather than doing.

It's a useful reminder to me as a mother, too, that growing up is most definitely an -ing, and that nothing in that process is certain except change. I got to spend some time this week with my young friend who is learning to knit, and who gave me a bit of a window into the changes that happen between twelve (Older Daughter's age), and fifteen (this new knitter's age). I've also known this young woman since she was seven, and talk about changes! I went to pick her up with everyone's suggestions for first knitting projects on a nice little list, in case it was needed, but it was not (as I should have known); she had her own plan, and it was a good one. She wanted to knit a headband. So off we went to my LYS, where we found her a lovely merino/bamboo blend yarn and some needles, and sat down outside to start knitting.
She's a natural. I taught her a cable cast on, figuring that by the time she got through that cast-on row, she'd be well on her way to knitting, and it worked like a charm. She picked up the knit stitch like she was born with knitting in her hands (I don't think her mother had a master -- and shouldn't that be mistress? -- knitter put knitting needles in her hand as an infant, but I'll have to ask). Interestingly, although I'm a thrower, holding my yarn in my right hand, she almost immediately arranged herself so that she was doing something more like picking, with the yarn in her left.
No, she's not left-handed (although I am), but as this works for her, I'm going to brush up on my Continental purling so I can at least show her how it looks. She did also learn to purl, and by the end of the hour, she'd come pretty far.
Aren't those stitches lovely and even? And she even looked like she was having fun.
I know I did. So, I hope we'll get to see each other for another lesson next week; if this continues, I may very well have brought another one over to the Dark Side. If nothing else, maybe knitting will be something that can carry her through some of her own life's processes, and she'll learn what so many of us knitters know: keep walking, and knit through everything.

21 comments:

Miss 376 said...

Lovely to see the look of pleasure on her face. As to summer, I wish it was here, went to a summer fayre today and have come back frozen, lol.

FUZZARELLY said...

I love how your girls could say that they were bored, and how you responded, saying that birth is the same.

I think that will stick in their minds forever.

Also? Happy to have a new knitter in our tribe.

Willow said...

Knit-ing is the same. It's a process much like birth-ing and die-ing. You have done an excellent job of expressing what we all feel in the die-ing process. Counting the breaths, the seconds between the breaths, the sips of water, the head turns to look in your eyes. Yes, I know...

Helen said...

I remember when the father of a friend of mine was dying, and her sister who was a hot shot lawyer couldn't come to terms with the unpredictability of it all and kept tasking the doctors in the style of, 'Did you or did you not say that he wouldn't last the week?' while they gently explained that they couldn't know. Her way of dealing with it, I suppose.

Lori said...

i absolutely love the photo of your daughter's and your grandmother's hands. it is an absolutely beautiful image, and it says so very much - as hands do.

EGunn said...

It is a great gift to be there in those last few days, even if they are boring. I missed most of that when my grandmother died, and it was so much harder to finish the mourning. Those moments of boredom are really just life's way of giving you time to adjust.

So glad the knitting lessons went well! It's so much fun to help a natural kick off.

Lynne said...

A beautifully expressed post, thank you.

Rachel said...

Your post made me realize something. When I worked in pharmaceutical marketing I was dealing with cardiovascular drugs and every time I read the diagnosis Sudden Cardiac Death it sounded weird to me, what do they mean sudden, isn't any death a quick happening? Now you made me realise it is not as weird after all, thank you.

Your young student really looks like she enjoyed herself, excellent :)

Gwen said...

Yes, exactly. We're all about processes, from the beginning to the end and around again. Sounds like you made some amazingly coherent and thoughtful responses to the girls.

(Ah, I see you're all out of school! Good.) (and nice new knitting!)

Alwen said...

How we carry ourselves, yes. I've been thinking about things like that lately, about not forgetting that I am making choices each time I respond.

KnitNana said...

I have only one question:

Would you be my mom?
*YOU* are the natural!

(I'll email you my other thoughts...)
((((Hugs))))

Mary Lou said...

Posts like this are the reason that 140 characters are not enough.

Stell said...

wise - when I read your post it comes across as wise, in the sense that you have had the time and wisdom to think about the situation and the clarity to explain it. Exactly life and death are boring at times, thank you, for putting in the perspective that the media has taken away.

Rachael said...

You have such a wonderful way of putting difficult things into words.

RobinH said...

I believe that summer may have been delivered to New England by mistake. We took delivery in April, and have been bewildered but enchanted by it ever since.

You have expressed beautifully one of the things that make dealing with a final illness so hard. I will be forever grateful I was able to spend some time with my own grandmother before she passed away, and I knew it even at the time- even though I was also bored stiff- she was too ill to really talk. Mainly I was there to be company, so she wouldn't have to be alone while we moved her from a hospital in Florida to a nursing home in South Carolina (where my aunt lived). She lived another couple of months, and I didn't see her again, but I know that at least she had family with her all the time, and knew how much she was loved.

elizabeth said...

Beautiful post! You are so eloquent. I loved the hands picture. It reminds me of visiting my grandmother as she was in the die-ing process and discovering that we have the same hands.

Diana said...

I love the photo of the elderly and youthful hands. That will be a treasure!

seashells said...

what a beautiful post.

Kim said...

What a beautiful way to explain the -ings in our lives to your girls.

twinsetjan said...

I love the fact that my knitting is a process that accompanies many other processes in my life. It rather ties them all together with a kind of constancy and stability for me. That can make the tougher ones easier.

Your girls are lucky to have a mom willing to put some thought into her answers.

Janet said...

Thanks for this post. A lot to think about. You are so articulate.