Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking

Beware the Ides of March. On this day last year, I walked into a bookstore and bought a book. Seems like an ordinary occurrence, right? How many times have people gone through that particular motion. Thousands? Millions? Thousands of Millions? I even knew the book I wanted, "The Year of Magical Thinking," by Joan Didion. The story of a widows process of grieving after the death of her husband. Somewhat of a downer, but I had heard amazing things about it and I wanted to read it. As I hand the cashier my credit card, my cell phone rings, a hip reggae beat that made me smile when I heard it. Answering the phone while I smile apologetically at the cashier swiping my card and pivot slightly to answer the phone. That phone call, that day, began my year of magical thinking.

120 miles away my grandfather, affectionately referred to by everyone as Papa, had been admitted to the hospital again. His blood had been breaking down as a result of advanced psoriasis for over a year and he had been receiving frequent blood transfusions. On this day they informed us that the transfusions couldn't keep up forever, as we were approaching the point where he didn't possess enough of his own blood to keep his body from rejecting the transfusions. I felt this deep sense of dread, the end was in sight.

Papa had always been my human equivalent of the Northern star, the light by which I charted my course. He embodied the values of fortitude, kindness, and faith. I always tried my best to emulate those values, to be the person that was worthy to be loved by such a man. I knew I had to find a way to say goodbye, something more than just those words. I cast about (literally hundreds of projects cast on during this period). What I wanted was a blanket, something to keep him warm in the way he had always made me feel warm. However, I knew I didn't have the time. One day while sitting in front of the hospital with Jamie we hatched a plan. To ask other blog readers to contribute squares for "Papa's Quilt" and an online community was born.

The response was swift and overwhelming. I had something to focus on, I treated this project like a life raft. I clung to it as if represented the only hope of salvation. However, time is never a friend. Papa died a few short weeks after the inception of this plan. The squares continued to arrive during the funeral and for weeks after. Jamie kept them all faithfully, waiting until the time was right to ask me about their fate. Around the New Year she gently reminded me of their existence and I asked to see them. One by one I ran my hand over the wool which represented the time, caring, and compassion of people I had never met and I cried.

I didn't realize until I unpacked those soft woolly squares that I hadn't let myself grieve. I had "moved on" at a speed of about a million miles an hour. Filling every available minute so that I wouldn't have to contemplate a life without my guiding light. I found myself nearly unable to knit, as my mind tends to wander once I have committed a pattern to memory. Spinning, absolutely out of the question. I was living a non-existence, letting life pass me by as quickly as it would.

Months after I first rediscovered the squares I have done little more with them than caress them and let them bring me comfort. Each stitch feels like an embrace and by examining them and reading your words I have begun to remember why I started this project, to say goodbye to the man who had raised me, guided me, and inspired me.

The squares deserve to come together, and I feel ready to tackle that task now. I wanted to acknowledge every person who committed the time, effort, energy, compassion, wool, sweat, and needles to this project. I know that I wouldn't have survived this year without your kindness. Thank you, you can never know how much you mean to me.

1 comment:

Wool Winder said...

Christine,
This is a beautiful post. Papa's blanket will be a special remembrance of his love and guidance in your life. I hope it will strengthen you as you put it together.
Tracy