March 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

I just finished my Intolerable Cruelty skirt, and I love the way it turned out. Except…there are a few rows near the end which are worked at a much — visibly — looser tension than the rest of the skirt. This is unusual for me. I have incredibly steady gauge. I can switch from flat to round to DPNs, from picking to throwing, from wooden needles to aluminum, working while calm/excited/angry/tired, all with barely a stutter. On the rare occasions when I have gone off tension, I have immediately ripped back and reknit. This time, though, I know why those stitches are off…those rows were knitted during my last visit with my father…as I sat with my stepmother at the hospital and we watched him sleep…as we joked and laughed and planned what we would do when he got home…as I avoided watching the nurses do things that made my squeamish stomach roil a little.

I made most of the skirt — all but the first and last few inches — while I was visiting my dad, first back in January and then again just a few weeks ago. It’s mostly stockinette stitch, which was perfect to work on while we chatted and watched TV and read and just enjoyed each other’s company.

I hadn’t seen my dad in a couple of years…travel had gotten so expensive, and the kids were too young to drag across the country, and my stepmom needed to stay local so she could take care of her parents. Then last November I made my annual Veteran’s Day call, and he told me he hadn’t been feeling great and was waiting for some test results. When the results finally came, it was bad: Stage IV pancreatic cancer, which had already spread to his liver. Despite the diagnosis, though, he was optimistic. He was in good health otherwise and his doctor was starting him on an aggressive chemo regimen. I knew my stepmom and stepsisters were there to take care of him, which made me feel somewhat better, but I needed to go see him, too.

I flew down in January, and we spent a great week together. He cooked chili for me, and spaghetti, and took me shopping for boots. He was tired, and thin, but otherwise much as he’d always been, cracking jokes and teasing and full of fun and life and laughter. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed spending time with my dad and my stepmom and stepsisters until I was there…when I lived down there, we all got together once or twice a week for a meal and to hang out a bit and always had a great time. Dad and I didn’t talk a lot on the phone after I moved up here — maybe once a month or so, whenever one of us felt the urge to make sure the other was doing okay — and when we did chat, it wasn’t ever for long. We just weren’t great at talking on the phone. I always knew, though — as I had from the time I was a little girl — that if ever I needed anything all I had to do was say so and he would make sure I was taken care of. No matter what I did or how big I screwed up (and believe me, I’ve screwed up pretty big a time or two) I knew my daddy loved me and would do whatever was in his power to help me. Just as importantly, I knew I could count on him to let me do what I felt I needed to do…he was always there, supporting and available, but never imposing.

I’d only been back up here for a couple of weeks when he went into the hospital — he couldn’t stay hydrated (I’ll spare you the details). They had trouble keeping him hydrated in the hospital, too, so I flew back down, just in case. I flew down on a Friday and was scheduled to fly out on Monday, but figured I’d stay if I needed to. He seemed to be improving, though — at one point he’d had a feeding tube (which he’d threatened to pull out and stick up someone’s ass, much to all of our amusement) and nothing at all by mouth, but by the time we left the hospital Sunday night they’d started giving him some solid food again. There had been some other issues, too, with his blood pressure and heart rate and respiration, but those also seemed to be stabilizing and improving.

By the time I got home Monday, things had turned around again and he was getting worse. Tuesday evening he seemed to have stabilized, but then his system just started shutting down. He passed away while I was in the air on my way back down Wednesday morning. My flight down had a connection in Houston, and on the way there, I looked out the window and saw the ring of a rainbow underneath us. It stayed with us for a good 15 minutes, maybe longer, and I thought, “Won’t that be odd, if he’s just passed?” (If you know me, you know I am not a particularly spiritual person, nor given to flights of fancy. So it was odd even that this occurred to me. But there it is.) When we landed, I had a message from my stepsister to call…he had passed at just about the time that rainbow appeared.

Those rows are visible reminders of my last conversations with my daddy. I wish more than anything that he was still here for me to ask advice from and laugh with and enjoy time with…but I’m glad he’s not in pain or discomfort anymore, and I’m so thankful I got to spend time with him, that I got to tell him I loved him, that I was lucky enough to have a wonderful father, that we got to spend some time doing some of our favorite things one last time. I miss him but even though it hurts that he’s gone, I smile when I remember him.

I can’t bear to rip those rows out, so I have left them. The skirt is beautiful, and fits beautifully, and I can almost hear my dad say, “That looks real nice, Laura. You did a good job on that. What’s up with those rows, though? You forget how to knit for a minute there?” in that great way he had of complimenting and teasing and making you laugh at yourself when you were taking yourself too seriously. My dad was a great guy, and a good man, and the best daddy a girl ever had.

If you want to read more about my dad, his obituary is online here. There will be pictures of the skirt on another day.

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