Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of the death of my Husband Doug, who died at the age of 30 of a pulmonary embolism.
5 years seems like a long time and I think it deserves some sort of commemoration. So today I'm posting an essay I wrote in June 2005, 6 months after Doug's death, about grief and knitting and how the two affected each other. Tomorrow I am hoping to be able to post a follow up - about how far I've come, in knitting and in life (as I suspect the two can no longer be separated!). The follow up essay is not finished yet - it's written, but needs some serious editing so I can't promise it will be ready, but I'll try.
Today's essay is almost exactly as I wrote it in 2005, edited only for spelling. If you have read any of my blog, or know me from Ravelry, it will be clear that I've changed a lot since then. But I guess that's tomorrow's story.
Knitting a New Life
The love of my life died last November. It was sudden, one moment he was there and the next he was gone.
I didn't knit for two weeks afterwards. When I did pick it up, I realised just how hard it is to knit when your hands are shaking.
As anyone who is even partially serious about their knitting will know, your craft becomes a part of who you are. And regardless of whether our significant others love it, tolerate it or hate it, we're not going to stop. But it's better if they love it. Doug loved my knitting. He was there when I started, he watched the construction of the first revolting scarf, with holes and dropped stitches and inadvertent short rows. He shared my preference for simple clean lines and supported my passion for knitting children's clothes and toys and giving them away, and he even shared my dislike of cables and fair-isle. He tolerated my stash, and hated my aversion to finishing, but he loved the fact that I knitted, and he loved the finished articles, especially the Clown toys and raglan jumpers for children. There's something amazing and addictive about having someone there who you can rely on to ooh and ahh over whatever you're working on. And having someone who thinks you're a genius the first time you successfully complete a task every other knitter on the planet does in their sleep.
The only items I've ever completed for myself are hats and scarves. And nearly a jumper. It's a really basic turtleneck and I've knitted all the pieces except the neck itself. I got to the point where I realised that the stepped bind-off shoulders weren't the best way to do it and I really should short-row. And that's where I stopped. It became my "I really should finish" project. Doug mentioned it every time I contemplated buying yarn, or started a new project. A part of me will always regret that he never saw me wear it. As I write it's still sitting in a bag in my craft room. I really should finish it.
I had been intending tempting the wrath of the sweater curse. One day I would have knitted a sweater for Doug, but he was attempting to lose weight, so I hadn't started yet. I had completed a hat for him though - a beautiful, soft, pure-wool, knit-in-the-round, 2x2 rib creation in the jet black he requested. In the nature of these things, I finished it in Spring, which in Sydney is way too hot for knitted hats. Apart from briefly trying it on, he never got to wear it. Actually, I don't know what I'm going to do with it now. He had a big head, so it is way, way, way too big for me. I can't bear to send it to the frog-pond though.
The first project I finished after he died was heartbreaking. Other people's praise didn't have the same value his did. Other people weren't quite as excited by it as he would have been. Like everything else I'd ever knitted, he'd been there from its inception, he'd watched it grow, and now it was complete, I couldn't share it with him.
On top of the loss of emotional support, there's the money part. I am now in the most scary financial situation I have ever been in. We'd lived in our house for 18 months. The mortgage was a stretch on two good salaries. Doug only had minimal life insurance, which hasn't paid out yet. I can't afford clothes, or take-away food or a coffee, let alone yarn. It sure is great for stash reduction. I think everyone in my life will be getting knitted or baked gifts for the next couple of years. But look on the bright side, Alexia. Can't afford clothes? What a wonderful excuse to finish that jumper! Maybe now you'll use that grey cotton/acrylic blend that's been sitting in the cupboard for 3 years.
And way off on the horizon is the possibility of a new partner. He's a long way off, but I can hope that he's there somewhere, sometime. Someone to hold me and cherish me and make me feel like the most wonderful, beautiful woman in the world again. But how will he feel about my knitting? Do I have to train a whole new person not to talk when I'm counting? Should I make up bumper stickers that say "Love me, love my stash"? Will he want me to knit him a sweater? Aah, as long as he's just hypothetical, I guess I can aim high, dream in Technicolor as my Dad would say. His father's family will own a woolen mill and his mother's family a needle manufacturer. He will think I'm a genius even if I never knit another cable. He will give me handpainted yarn with flowers and chocolates for Valentines Day. He will bake chocolate cakes while I knit. And he won't ever ask me to knit socks.
But for now, my knitting is one of the things keeping me sane. My attention span is the shortest I can ever remember it being, so I'm not attempting anything even remotely complicated, but having something to do with my hands seems to help my mind to be still. I can meditate in the simple, comfortable rhythm of knit stitch after knit stitch, letting my fingers fly, building something beautiful (for myself, this time) the same way I'm building my new life, stitch by stitch by stitch.