Maybe every generation goes through this time of life but we at BoomerCafé have noticed that many of us are thinking about and sharing stories of our own vulnerability and the passing of loved ones. Wendy Reichental, a regular BoomerCafé contributor, has written about losing her mother, and now offers this story that grief is a journey.
Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. ~ Ann Hood, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief
Grief is never linear, like my knitting, it’s disjointed!
I read with interest the semiautobiographical and bestselling novel “The Knitting Circle” by Ann Hood, and soon to be an HBO original movie based on the book starring Katherine Heigl. It’s a story about a mother and wife, who is dealing with the aftermath of the sudden death of her only child. As she struggles to make sense of this tragedy, she is encouraged by her mother of whom she already has a challenging relationship with, to take up knitting as a means of potential therapy and comfort.
She reluctantly joins a knitting group and slowly this circle of women start revealing their own personal stories and a thread of hope, healing and friendship gets strewn together. This book inspired me to find a local knitting group so I could experience this same sense of camaraderie and solace in the face of my own unrelenting grief over the loss of my mom.
Before I knew it, I was introducing myself before a small group of woolly enthusiasts and felt this strange urgency to tell them while I was there to improve my limited knitting abilities, what I really came for, was to glean some lessons on life. I like many other boomers, unfortunately are facing this sort of reality, the loss of one of our parent, or both. I am only 50 and yet still feel so infantile when it comes to such topics as aging and death. I know intellectually these are inevitable events, but in my heart, I’m a scared child who just wants her mom to tell her everything will be alright.
The wool pack I just met, comprised of two men, who looked to be in their 30s, four women who looked to be in their early 60s and one woman who could not have been more than 20, no stereotypical image of a granny knitting on a rocking chair here! Everyone was busy chatting and tending to their crafts, their knitting needles moving up and down in the air in a synchronized knitting fashion. Clearly, knitting has become all the rage now, with not only knitting groups meeting up in swanky cafés, but with an online tight knit community called Ravelry, drawing in yarn and fiber fans of all ages.
It took all my courage to bring out the bag that contained my mom’s wools and last unfinished project before she passed away. In this bag, which belonged to my mom, I took out what would have been a sweater; the two sleeves hiding unhinged at the bottom of the bag, her knitting needles still in place in the remaining ball of wool, the only knot, was deep in my stomach. The leader of the group invited me to sit next to her and using my mom’s wool expertly positioned my hands around the knitting needles, and started me off on my first easy project, a scarf.
My mom loved to crochet and knit. She always told me when she had something to work on, it kept her mind mercifully distracted from depressing or worrisome thoughts, and it even made her forget her physical pain stemming from a hip fracture and severe osteoporosis. I so admired watching her weave her magic so effortlessly and produce within hours a soft acrylic poncho with long bright dangling fringes, or a slightly misshaped colourful crochet hat with earflaps and huge pompoms, now suddenly so in vogue and retro, but back when I was in high school and had to wear them, not so much!
As I was learning how to knit one purl two, I shared with the group that I decided to take up knitting because I saw how much joy it provided my mom, how she revelled in the anticipation of how something would turn out, and just simply how when she was in her knitting zone, she seemed so genuinely at peace. I knew my mom was happiest when she was able to relax outside under a shade tree on her favourite lounge chair, surrounded by nothing more than a gentle summer breeze and her special bag of knitting needles, crochet hooks and of course her myriad of marvellous wools.
I recall and hold dear the many cherished times spent with my mom and try to adhere to the pearls of wisdom once echoed by the renown knitting aficionado and pioneer of her time Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ), who said “Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit, either.” Words to embrace as I unravel and cast off another row of stitches from my knitting needle, my scarf should be completed by winter (not sure which year though!) but somehow I feel rather compelled to knit on! I know my mom would want me to.