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One stitch at a time

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

I debated whether or not to write this post because while I have been very transparent about what my family and I have been experiencing with regards to my mother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis and now her convalescence at home during hospice, the actual experience has been quite private, and while there are some things that I will and have shared with you, I am, at heart, an intensely private person. I guard that privacy rather jealousy, and I generally chafe at those who think they know more about me and my life than they do. But, I am forging ahead with this post because I’ve already taken all of you on the highlights of this journey so far, and it seems like a disservice to not write about today when so many of you have experienced cancer, the process of watching someone in the end stages of cancer or any debilitating disease, or have been caretakers to someone who can no longer care for themselves.

Mom has experienced more pain from the cancer lately, and, based on the information provided to us by the wonderful people with LECOM’s VNA and from our hospice nurses, it appears that we are nearing the final stages of her journey.

I cannot adequately articulate the exquisite and profound pain and heartbreak of this moment. Mom is our everything. She’s the heart of our family. She makes everything run smoothly, and the past few months we have been doing a poor imitation of what she so effortlessly handled.

Mom’s the one who put post-it notes on the table so everyone knew which side dish went where at the holidays. Mom’s the one who made sure there were Klondike bars in the freezer in case Dad had a taste for them. She’s the one who remembered that I’m highly allergic to certain forms of red dye whenever anyone would bring over red velvet cupcakes. She’s the one who knows the names of David’s closest friends from grade school through college and his first few jobs. She’s the one who gave me a teddy bear with a small music box sewn into it’s little jumpsuit that plays “Over the Rainbow” because she used to sing it to me when I was little. She remembered all the antics my brother pulled when he was younger—like the time she was scolding us in the car for something and asked if there was anything we wanted to complain about, and while I wisely said nothing, David said, ”You do give those long speeches when we’re in trouble,”—and you can imagine the speech he got after that. She’s the one who would make sausage with my dad every year with the meat from a deer if he got one during the season or pork if he wasn’t so lucky.

Mom is the backbone of everything, and it’s so hard sitting with this knowledge, dreading the event that we’re waiting for.

There is a beautiful aspect to the past five and a half months. Our family has been focused on Mom. We’ve all spent a lot of time together. There is nothing left unsaid. I would give almost anything to have more time, to gather more photos and recordings, to reverse the clock, but I treasure what I have.

Those of you who have been through this, who are part of this unofficial club we never signed up for, know that the experience also strips away the unnecessary and extraneous. I’ve found that the people I have turned to and relied on are the ones I consider my closest and dearest friends. These are the people who deeply and truly know me, the ones who have been my soft place to land because they are the ones I have clung to, who know when not to intrude on the precious time I have with my mother, but also intuitively know when to check in because I feel like I’m about to shatter. I am so grateful to Ben, Ann G., Ann W., Mackenzie, Jason, Susan, Jan B., Mike, and Michael, because they are my rocks, and I will forever be grateful to them for their constancy.

To be fair, a lot of people don’t know how to react in the face of someone losing a loved one, especially if they haven’t experienced that kind of loss. I’ve had people pause for a second and then jump to “well, on to happier things…” or launch into something particularly trivial and then not understand why I don’t feel any investment. On one hand, I get it; they don’t know how to respond, but it also makes me really wonder about those people’s social skills.

So, in this state of raw grief and anticipation of more grief, I sit here and knit on my sock because that’s all I can manage at the moment. One little stitch at a time.

The yarn is lovely and soft. It’s malabrigo Sock, so it’s lusciously smooth and squishy. The toe and heel are Sweet Sparrow Nuthatch sock, which I really love. There’s a silkiness to the twist that makes Nuthatch glide from needle to needle. The colorwork is primarily done in DizzyWigFibers Sock, and I love the subtlety of the hues within the tonal colorway I’m using.

I generally don’t gravitate towards sock knitting, if we’re being honest. I prefer intricate lace shawls or sweaters with fun textures, colorwork, or cables. For a long time I actually didn’t care for making socks. Why would I want to put such pretty yarn on my feet where hardly anyone could see it? Over the past five months, though, socks have become a lifeline. They’re smaller and less involved than a sweater or a lacy shawl, and with my mind going in a million directions, even the most intricate sock is less effort than a simple cardigan right now. I’ve made eight and three quarters pairs of socks over the past five months. The three quarters are the pair I’m working on right now. They’ve grounded me and given me something to do with my antsy hands.

This part of the process is hard. And I wish like hell we didn’t have to go through it, but while we do, I’m still working on my sock. And when I finish that pair, I’ll probably start another pair. And then a pair after that. Because sometimes the next stitch is the only thing you can control.

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