Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No Greater Love

One year ago today, my family gathered in a waiting room at St Paul's Hospital while my sister lay on a gurney in OR. She was nervous, nauseated, and blinking back tears of fear, waiting for the anaesthesiologist to put her to sleep.

Dr Gourlay spent the next three hours removing her left kidney, while my husband was being prepped for surgery. We stood in a tight little knot - my mother, my sister's husband, my husband's parents, brother and sister - and watched the swinging door until the surgeon came through with the anaesthesiologist and the two surgical interns to tell us that Gwen's surgery was successful and they could proceed with the next step.

I said goodbye to my husband, and he went through those same doors, pale and shaking. We waited another three hours until beautiful, wonderful, celestial Dr Gourlay came through again to tell us that all was well - not only was Mr HalfSoledBoots successfully slashed, repaired, and closed back up, but the transplanted kidney had started working before he was even awake.

I spent the next seven days in an agony of sympathy as my husband recovered rapidly, hardly used his morphine, and regained colour he had been slowly losing for years as PKD ravaged his body - meanwhile my sister, two rooms down, suffered terrible pain and shock in the aftermath of surgery, as her body struggled to overcome the trauma of losing an organ.

I've been emotional lately. I've had lots of unexplainable and staggeringly uncharacteristic crying episodes, various aches and pains, and the complexion of a 16 year old pizza delivery boy. It was only yesterday that I realized why these things are happening...it's the anniversary of some of my darkest days. I have come back around to that place on the spiral of my life when I feared the worst for both my husband and my sister. I didn't know who to pull for - I remember making a joke to the surgeon at one point: "we've discussed it, and if you only have enough bandaids for one person, save Gwen."

Within ten days of the surgery, Mr HSBoots was at 65% function. Within a few months, Gwen was over 90%...her remaining kidney had increased its function to compensate for the missing one. Now, at one year, everyone is healthy, everyone is happy, and my life has changed in ways I never imagined it would. It came on so slowly that I didn't realize how sick he was until he wasn't anymore.

We changed our will so that if the children are not in a position to benefit from our estate when we die, Gwen gets everything. We bought her quite a few thank-you presents, paid her travel and accommodation expenses, bought her some spa treatments before the transplant, and at Christmas she made out like a bandit. And yet? we'll never do enough for her. There's no thanking a person for this gift.

Gwen, you changed everything. Along with your kidney you gave my children back their father, you gave me back my husband, you gave Sandra and David back their son.

God bless you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Meh Meh

Olga tagged me to do this "seven random things about me" meme.

If my elementary school teachers are to be believed, I don't normally play well with others. However, I will be a good sport and dredge something up to titillate and inspire you.

1- I am psychic. I often have either prophetic or concurrent dreams. (i.e., I dream about things and then find out later they really happened while I was dreaming them...actually, maybe I am telekinetic?)

2- The strongest pulse in my body is right above my navel. It's visible to the naked eye when I am lying on my back.

3- I love writing with blue, medium ball point pens on brown ruled looseleaf paper...what we used to call "foolscap".

4- I learned how to draw several cartoon animals very well, from Mr Dressup.

5- I think body piercings are about the sexiest things ever.

6- My special power is Super Strength. I am like an ox. Or a Clydesdale.

7- I am still nursing my 3 year old.

8- I have a degree in Classical Studies - now known as "Greek and Roman Studies".

9- I can't count to 7.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Ogee Tunic
Cast on:
February 1, 2007
Bound off: May 7, 2007 (so, apparently it didn't take literally forever.)
Pattern: Norah Gaughan's, from Knitting Nature
Tension: Oh, ALL RIGHT, I'll get out of my comfy bed and go measure........sleeve shows 25 sts and 38 rows to 4 inches. Back shows 25X34. Pattern called for 23X32. Now I understand why this sweater is too short. YES I SWATCHED.
Yarn: 12-ish skeins Sjuntorp Elite 100% Egyptian cotton 50g/125m colour #5 (dark electric blue? light royal blue? something like that.)
Yarn Source: Needle & Arts Centre 2003 January clearance, $40 for a 20-ball bag (meaning this sweater rings in at a measly $24).
Needle: Susan Bates Quicksilver 3.25mm circular
Modifications: lengthened the sleeve a bit - too much as it turns out. Wish I had lengthened the body an equal amount. (I would have, but I didn't realize I was knitting like a spastic fruit fly.) Substituted 100% cotton for the 100% wool called for. Sewed up the bottom 2.5 inches of the V-neck so I would not be flashing my luscious cleavage at all and sundry. You're welcome.
Notes: I like the feel of this sweater more than I like the look of it. When I check the mirror, it looks great...when I see a picture, I'm not so sure. It has taken me a while to post the FO because I wasn't happy with any of the photos. This doesn't particularly matter to me - it's enormously comfortable to wear because of its A-line shape, so I will wear it whether it looks good or not. The bottom hem is very loose - I think this sweater would flatter a classically pear-shaped body beautifully.

I had one moment of extreme irritation with the pattern writing. Gaughan notes "You may want to knit the Front first in case you need to make any adjustments to the length of the Back as you work." So I am merrily knitting the front, and I get all the way to the neck shaping only to read: "When piece measures same as for Back to shoulder, shape shoulders as for Back."

But.....I hadn't KNIT the Back yet, ACCORDING TO YOUR INSTRUCTIONS. A small thing, but no less annoying.

One other aside about the pattern - if you are knitting this (or, indeed, anything from this book) be sure to check the errata first. There are errors in every chapter. This particular design contained three, one of which is a wrong-way cross in a cable chart.

Working with this mercerized cotton yarn was hair-raising. I did get used to the splittiness after a while, and a needle adjustment took care of most of it. However, I still had to kind of massage the stitch over the tip of the needle, which gave me sore fingers after a while. As with all cottons, I found that this one showed gauge inconsistencies mercilessly, so I ended up developing a new way of purling to eliminate the problem. I now purl with the working yarn wrapped once around my little finger, to keep it just a tetch tighter.

Although I got used to the yarn eventually, when I was finished the sweater I went to Knit Night and handed the remaining 7 balls of this accursed stuff to my friend Kate, who loves cotton with an illicit passion. Fill yer boots, K.

When sewing up and weaving in ends, I had a few decisions to make about the cotton. The bundled yarn kept splaying at the cut end, and poking through the knitting. Also, for all its strength (just TRY to break this yarn without scissors), it really didn't like being used for sewing. It would fray and break after a short bit of seaming. I could have switched to DMC, but I just persevered, using short-ish strands of yarn. This resulted in way too bloody many ends to weave. To prevent the yarn from coming un-woven and poking through to the right side, I applied "Fray Check" or "Fray Stop" or whatever, to all the ends as I wove them in.

Step 1: weave the end through.
Step 2: pull on the yarn end so that the seam gathers a bit:

Step 3: apply Fray Check to the 1/2" - 1" of yarn that you have pulled out of the seam:

Step 4: pull the seam tight again, smoothing the gathers and drawing the yarn tail back inside, where the Fray Check will dry and glue that sucker in place:

Step 5: let the Fray Check dry, put the sweater on, and hope for the best.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My theory is...

My mom and I took the kids to the park today, and I left them there for a few minutes while I ran over to the yarn store to grab some Sirdar Snuggly DK for my friend's newest baby. On my way back, I saw a shop I had been wanting to go into for a couple of weeks but hadn't made it there during opening hours - the name of the shop is "Lavish Vixen". Sounds great, huh?

I walked up to the door and, to my dismay, saw that the shop was empty and was being gutted. I asked the two guys working inside what had happened - they said "I dunno - the chick just walked away from it. There's a pizza place going in here now."

I was heading back to the car when the fellow called out, "Hey, d'you want to check if there's anything you'd like? We just chucked all the stuff she left behind into the next empty store."

Here's what I got today, for NOTHING.

A $45 zip-front hoodie with a cell-phone pocket, two ribbed cotton nightshirts, fifteen kids' t-shirts of various colours, 6 kids' black sweatshirts, and six large Ziploc bags crammed full of various stretchy cotton unmentionables.

I must have been awful good so far in my life, because I've had some seriously sweet karma this year.

Oh, and by the way - if you're the former owner of Lavish Vixen, you should be aware that the construction dudes are giving away all the stock you left in your place when you skedaddled. If you care.

And thanks for making sure I will never have to buy hot pants again for, like, ten years. Good luck in all your future endeavours!

PS: Yes, I checked whether they were sure she wasn't wanting this stuff. The guys assured me she was long gone, and the leftovers were headed to the dumpster. This stuff was all jumbled up with old phone books, busted picture frames, etc.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fathers and Sons, and Silver Dollars.

About a month ago, while unable to sleep one night, I absently clicked "Next Blog" about forty times, trying to find something interesting. In this way, I stumbled upon a new blog entitled "Part of the Deal". The author was a young man in the US who had decided to chronicle the lingering death, from congestive heart failure, of his father. The dying man is close to 80 years of age and has been sent home from hospital to await the end, cared for by his family.

The blog had no comments, no links, no sidebar items, no "About Me". There was only the title, a short tagline, and about 15 or 20 posts, all bearing the label "Passing away". The current post began "I think I have had the last conversation I'll ever have with my father." I checked the date - the post was barely 10 hours old. I scanned down the page, trying to get a short form of the story I was reading. When I grasped what was going on, I felt a fearful tightening of my throat...I didn't know if I wanted to read on. The author was enduring an agonizing struggle between love and resentment, contempt and pity. One post was entitled "What Makes a Good Father?" and it detailed a bit of the history of the dying man and his relationship with his sons.

He had taught his children to use their tangible successes as a barometer of their worth. He had a system where he would reward his sons with a silver dollar for any job he felt they did well. The system started when they were only children, doing paper routes and chores, and continued into adulthood. They might earn a silver dollar for winning a state championship in track, excelling in college, or being promoted while overseas on a tour of duty.

His son had received three silver dollars in his whole life.

The father had abused his children throughout their lives. The son described him as "old school". They were hit with belts, they were shouted at, told they were worthless. Along with the persistent abuse came something even worse: a chilling and complete lack of affection.

With no reassurance of love from their father, no perception of worth in his eyes, and no hope that they could redeem themselves in his sight, the sons turned away from their dad. He would speak to them only to berate them for what he called their failures - scholarships they had not received, jobs they had failed to get, money they neglected to earn.

Now, years later, the author of this blog has made the decision to move back in to his parents' house to care for his dad. He is sleeping on the couch, talking to doctors, changing his dad's sheets, feeding him, administering his medication. He is listening to the absent ramblings of this fading shell of a man, tucking blankets around the wasted hands he feared for years. The old man spends many of his hours reflecting on his life...or perhaps on the life he thinks he had. One afternoon he closed his eyes and as he fell into a doze he mumbled, "I've been a good dad. At least I have that...I've been a good dad."

The son struggles with what to say - how to respond to this lie. He can't honestly say "Yes Dad, you've been a good father to us." The hurt and resentment his dad created in him won't allow forgiveness easily...but despite everything, the son still loves his dad and can't bring himself to say the truth to his father: that he was a terrible dad. That, because of him, the son's childhood was full of fear and disappointment, guilt and insecurity. The most the son can do is to minister silently to his dad's needs, and hopefully bring himself, before the end, to forgive his father.

I debated for a long time before leaving the first and only comment on the blog. I didn't know if the author really wanted readers - if he wanted sympathy, input, advice, anything. I ended up simply telling him that I, a total stranger, was thinking of his family during this difficult time, and that I was glad to see the past they had lived through hadn't stopped him from being with his dad during his death. That was all I could think to say.

For the next several posts the author recorded his father's slow and certain march toward death. One morning they found his dad wandering in the hall outside his bedroom, pulling his IV pole. He said that there had been a man in his room, smiling at him and beckoning him to follow. He had gotten out of bed and followed the man into the hallway, but by the time he made his way there, the man was gone and couldn't be found. The father was irritable and upset when the family manoeuvred him back into bed. "I'm supposed to be following him! I have to go somewhere!"

I have checked this blog regularly, in the daily expectation that death has come for the old man. I both dread and hope to see that he has passed away. I dread the final parting and the pain that it will cause to the son, but I can't help but think that it will be a relief to him, to be able to resume his own life and responsibilities.

The other day I clicked over to the blog, only to find a 404 message - "the requested URL was not found on this server". The author has deleted his blog. He never posted a final message, or mentioned whether or not his father has finally gone, nor whether he was able to forgive him.

It's strange how the vast and impersonal internet - this cold and bright collection of off and on, the quietly blinking cursor - can bring someone into your life, so that your thoughts are occupied with their history and your heart with their emotions. It's equally strange that the stories told to you can simply disappear, leaving no trace. I will think about this nameless family for a long time - keeping them in my thoughts, hoping that the son is able to make his peace with his father before it is too late. I will wish them healing and happiness, and rest for the tortured father, though I suppose I'll never know the end of the story.

I just hope they take care of each other.

Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Long After the Thrill of Livin' is Gone

Remember this?

In exactly one month's time it has become this:

My euonymous is thriving as well, despite being on the appy list at the Abominable Quadruped Tapas Bar. Note the nibbled branches. Those bastards are not supposed to like euonymous but I believe they will force it down if it means pissing me off. We have history.

Speaking of deer, I only managed to keep one package of bulbs from them this year. Lesson learned: put the deer fencing up before your carefully-chosen tulips become lunch.

And I am within spitting distance of finishing Ogee. I had a bad day today, full of unpleasantly gritty emotion, so I got a lot of knitting done as I paced around listening to my ambient "Waterscapes" CD and trying to stem the flood of mournful tears.

This picture is a few hours old, so add four inches to it and you've got a sleeve that is almost at the armholes. Yay me!

Must hit the pillow now. All the aforementioned emotion tired me out...hence the early bedtime. (Please note the time of this post and also the sarcastic inflection of that last sentence.)

PS: I had meant something special for this one, but I am simply creative-d out. This is my 100th post. Congratulate me if you will...although commiseration might be more appropriate.