I recently had a conversation with a lovely knitter who's been cranking out projects at an prodigious rate. She said she'd been spending a lot of time recently with her parent who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. It can be very stressful to know that someone to whom you looked up for guidance and support is now struggling to remember the conversation you had yesterday, and knitting is certainly a way we can calm ourselves as we deal with this new reality. But it's more than that.
Alzheimer patients cannot really be left alone. They will forget where they are, wander off, and get lost. They will forget that they turned the burner on, or that the pan is hot, or a host of things that put themselves and others in real danger. Unable to help or contribute any longer, they often find our busy-ness upsetting. They feel that they should be helping, but really cannot. Sitting, while others are doing, can cause Alzheimer patients significant anxiety. The best thing is to just sit with them. Which is very hard, especially for those of us who are at our best when we are doing and accomplishing.
Sitting and sitting--having the same conversation we had yesterday, or an hour ago, is very wearing on the most patient and loving of us. If we pick up a book or start in on a task, our loved one recognizes that we are not engaged, and might say, “Well, I should let you read/work/make a cal.” It’s not helpful. What they need is the feeling that we are fully present.
I wrote about this a few years ago, recounting the time I spent in the hospital with my mother as she came to grips with her own imminent death. It allowed me to be still and listen. It allowed me to be patient. It allowed me to be fully present. Sometimes, that’s all a person wants or needs.
It doesn’t have to be a drastic situation to require us to be fully present. Sometimes a person going through a hard time may not need to talk, but just doesn’t want to be alone. Knitting brings the gift of companionable silence. We can be emotionally and intellectually available as long as necessary. And heaven knows there are enough things upsetting enough people in the world right now. If you can bring your knitting and be available to sit and listen, or just sit with someone in need, that is the greatest gift of all.
Sometimes to create something beautiful isn't making about a tangible thing, but rather about creating a beautiful space -- an experience or memory we create with our presence--that is as much an heirloom as anything we could ever make with our hands.
I look forward to seeing you in the shop soon.