Unraveling

Not exactly scarf weather

RIGHT: Hematoma Scarf (14 days)
LEFT: Anemia Scarf (4 days)

The day after MIM’s birthday, though I had yet to get him a present, I sent him to the craft store to buy me yarn. I was on my back in bed with my suddenly severely swollen leg elevated on a stack of pillows. “Just buy me something soft and puffy, like Kathryn’s sample yarn,” I instructed, handing him the small ball Kathryn had left the night before after she’d taught me how to knit.

MIM looked as consternated as when he had to buy my feminine protection products 20 years earlier. “Just buy four balls of the most expensive yarn in the store,” I continued. “Not acrylic. Something that looks like it came from a happy llama that eats organic grass.” I had almost died (I’m not sure whether this is an exaggeration or not, but I certainly came close enough for justifiable hyperbole as I internally bled out three pints of my own blood into, more or less, my own butt—which is to say, I was for once literally a pain in the ass) and had no time for learning to knit with cheap, fake fiber.

MIM proudly returned with four balls of 98% acrylic yarn, I noted as I read the label out loud. His shoulders sagged. “Really? It was the most expensive yarn I could find, except it was in the sale bin, and with the coupon you found, it was another 50% off. It’s soft and puffy, just like Kathryn’s.”

“It’s perfect,” I said. “This means I can wash and dry it. Plus, it matches the couch and the cat.”

It’s true. It was perfect. He’d run himself past the point of exhaustion caring for me for the past two weeks, I’d forgotten his birthday, and he’d run off to a craft store to buy something totally unnecessary for me after he’d chased medicines down at five different pharmacies (one in a different county); transported me to and from the Emergency Room three times; advocated for me with medical personal and managed my meds; gave me twice daily injections into my stomach; maintained calm even while I screamed at him to give me more f&cking drugs; slept in the hospital with me; accompanied me to surgery centers, hospitals, and clinics; ran up and down the stairs to deliver food and tea to me; cleaned up after me in ways I don’t need to go into here; and bought and built a bed so that my mother could move in to help care for me. Like I was going to get picky about his yarn choice? It was perfect in every way.

Kathryn said that when she began knitting, keeping her mother company at the nursing home, she would knit, knit, knit, then unravel, unravel, unravel, and start all over again. The nurses would laugh with her for her silliness. But I wanted something to show for my time and didn’t give a fig about perfection. I wanted concrete results, something tangible to hold for my efforts. I’d had enough of every aspect of my life unraveling around me, thank you very much.

On MIM’s birthday, Kathryn had shown me how to cast on and how to knit, but when she moved on to purl, I said, “Stop right there. That’s all I need.”

So I began to knit. And I couldn’t stop. I knit, knit, knit. Sometimes I knitted while lying down, my foot raised above my heart. Knit, knit, knit. I knitted in cars, waiting rooms, ferries, benches, couches, and beds. Knit, knit, knit.

Dropped stitches, in case you need somewhere to put your pencil

At first I unraveled a bit and started over, but soon I’d made enough headway with a “scarf” that I didn’t want to lose my progress, so I continued on past the holes and expanding/contracting shape. I’d started with 28 stitches. Sometimes I counted that I was down to 25. Sometimes up to 31. No matter. I kept going. Knit, knit, knit.

I didn’t want to do anything else: no reading, writing, movie watching. I wasn’t cooking or cleaning or even doing much bathing. Not even combing my hair or brushing my teeth was getting much attention. I announced that I would never write again. This was my future as far as I could see it: knitting one stitch, over and over again. I had no desire except the next knit stitch. Zen, or Depression, which I saw as entirely interchangeable. Who the hell cared? Just hand me my knitting.

Out in the world with Mom, out of sweatpants, still in hip brace and down to one crutch and one compression sock

After two weeks of daily, obsessive knitting, I was feeling better, good enough that my parents had been able to return home after a few days of nice visiting when I was finally out of the dark woods of medical scares. I finished the first ball of yarn and considered the project “finished”: the ugliest scarf in the history of scarves. Since it matched the cat, I gave it to her. She remains unimpressed, but I think she’ll change her tune come winter.

I started another scarf with the same yarn. “It’s your birthday scarf. Just tell me when you think it’s long enough,” I told MIM. Every now and then I’d check in with him, and he’d drape it around himself, needles and all, and say, “Not yet.” He remained a champion by regularly trying on a scarf during a record-breaking heatwave.

After four days and almost two balls of yarn, a comparison of the two scarves illustrated that while I might not have become a better knitter, I was a much swifter knitter.

MIM decreed it “long enough.” I think he was fearing for my sanity rather than judging the actual scarf.

Just about when I finished his scarf, a new doctor, a hematologist, informed me that I was severely anemic. It made sense that I’d been so for the last three weeks, after losing a third of the blood in my body. My inertia made sense, too. And it hadn’t been for nothing: I’d never before practiced a new craft with such dedication. When else in my middle years would I have taken the time to focus on an entirely unnecessary (unless nuclear winter hits soon) folk art much better done by machines?

So MIM got a one-of-a-kind (let’s hope the world never sees another like it), handmade scarf. MIM never wears scarves, but that’s beside the point. He said he thought it was really neat that I was trying something new.

And I did end up taking him out for that Shrimp Po-Boy, too.

And, for better or worse, I also started writing again.

LEFT: Anemia Scarf
Right: Hematoma Scarf

Eighteen Days of Knitting

 

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