20 January 2000

Ma's been sick. Pneumonia. But she's on the mend now. I had to spend four nights-- and most of the days, too-- at her house. I sat and watched TV and videos while I listened. I didn't get much sleep. You can't when you're "on the listen."

Her illness didn't seem serious at first. At first, she just said she was tired. That was Friday night. I picked up supper; we ate. Then we watched some TV. She dozed on the sofa all evening. I woke her up when I was ready to leave, and she went to bed. But she told me to call her Saturday because she wanted me to take her shopping.

When I called, she answered the phone. I asked if she still wanted to go shopping. She said she did, so I told her I'd be over in about an hour. But, when I went to pick her up, she didn't answer the door. I let myself in and found she was still in bed and she didn't even remember telling me she wanted to go shopping. I asked her if anything was wrong, but she said no, she was just tired.

While I sat, I learned to knit. Ma taught me the rudiments years ago, but I was never good at it. In fact, I had an odd way of doing it that nobody could explain. The pieces I knitted always looked a bit odd--neatly done, but odd. Because of that I never knit more rows than it took me to get discouraged. Not many.

But I had a chance to watch Ma do a quick sweater vest for Lauren just before Christmas. Watching her, I decided that I'd give knitting another try. So, last week, before she got sick, I had Ma demonstrate the basics again. Casting on stitches, knit, purl. I didn't get around to trying it though until Ma got sick. Then, because I didn't have anything to do but listen for Ma and watch TV and worry, I started knitting. Ma's knitting bag was in the living room and I grabbed a small ball of yarn and the needles she'd been using and had at it.

I practiced. I used a small ball of a dark persimmony color. I'd knit all evening, varying the stitches, trying different combinations until I ran out of yarn. Then I'd have a look at what I'd done. I'd note the mistakes, the unevennesses. Then I'd rip it all out and start again. I thought of Penelope.

By the third night I'd got pretty good, so I changed yarn-- a large ball of heathery blue-- and made myself a scarf. When I had knitted a sufficient length, I contemplated my effort. I thought the stitches were satisfyingly even, and I had managed a nice bit of seed stitch at each end which lent an interesting texture. I was pleased-- even though the scarf had a tendency to curl itself into a tube.

But I couldn't finish it. I didn't remember how to cast off. And Ma wasn't feeling too good...

That was the longest night. I wondered if I'd ever get the scarf finished... or if my scarf would end up in the knitting bag, still on the needle, uncompleted.


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