Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Small Graces

This title, this thought, these small graces have been nagging at me and I’m not even sure what they want. I just keep thinking about the idea of ‘small graces’. I think I know what they mean (what I mean) when I think about them but I’m not at all sure how to make what I think I mean mean something (if you know what I mean).

I’m not talking about “there but for the grace of god” or grace before meals or a state of grace or ballerina-type grace or even my small dog Grace (though she is rather small and is Grace)

Small dog Grace

I am talking about the kind of grace we associate with people who light up a room without being conscious of it or accept an award with just the right words or always know what to say to ease tension or the people who are Jacqueline Kennedy or that pilot (Sully) who landed his plane on the Hudson River (the definition of grace under pressure I’m thinking). That kind of grace but in small doses. Little things that bring grace to our lives. People who’s grace make us feel better. Actions that give us a moment of admiration in the middle of a normal old run of the mill day.

(I know, I know-blah-blah, blather-blather. I did tell you I was struggling here.)

Let’s try this:

The first time ‘Small Graces” popped itself into my consciousness I was at work. I work with a young RN (Nakia, you know who you are). Nakia is always willing to help out and is unfailingly polite but one afternoon it occurred to me that Nakia ALWAYS does something that not everyone does (even polite people, well mannered people - or me). When one says ‘Thank you’ to Nakia she always says ‘You’re welcome’. She doesn’t say ‘sure thing’ or ‘you bet’ or (my go-to) ‘no problem.’ No, she says: ‘You’re welcome’ and every time she says it I feel good. She brings a bit of grace to my day. When I recognized it, that day, I stopped what I was doing, went back down the hall and told her what a lovely thing her “You’re welcome’ was.

I’m trying to remember to say ‘you’re welcome’ now. Trying to pay Nakia’s small grace forward. Trying not to toss off my classic ‘No problem.’ (I realized that ‘no problem’ was indeed a toss-off when one day, in response to it, my daughter said: “Well, but I still get to thank you.”) How graceless am I? ‘No problem’ I say, making the THANK YOU somehow less important. Other people should get to feel the same warm fuzzy I feel when Nakia says: “You’re welcome” so I’m working on it.

Many people bring these graces to my life.

My darling daughter, who facing a basket and a half of adversity this last year, still laughs herself silly over the weird side-effects her newest medication has thereby giving us all leave to laugh with her at “stroke tongue.”

My WORDS WITH FRIENDS friend James who never forgets whose turn it is to start the next game.

My friend Mary who fears losing her house but makes hilarious plans to live on a park bench with all of her belongings and her parrot Stanley. (Don’t worry-we won’t none of us let Mary live on a park bench. She has way too much stuff.)

Nancy from WeBook who always takes the time to give feed back.

My son-in-law, Joe, who doesn’t complain that I stopped keeping up with networking technology (or almost any computer technology) and leave it all to him.

My sister who drove across town (a lot of geography in the Midwest) coz I broke my foot and wanted chocolate chip cookies.

My husband who unfailingly holds the door open for everyone (even when my less-than-patient-self is thinking: “Oh COME ON!!! It’s freezing AND we’re late!”).

My dad who, as post-polio advanced, simply furnished every room in his house with stools so he could always sit down.

My mom who, when we were part of the little red-headed horde that left her little time for herself, would sometimes keep one of us home from school for a day simply because we were “blue” and needed to be with just her.

...and this place, this cyber-place, where I can think my thoughts and cast them out onto distant ears where time and distance slips away and people from all over the world offer laughter and comfort and friendship all at my fingertips, here for the reading.
(I know, getting sappy again - better wind this up)

Actually, I have no wind-up, no conclusion, no summation. These are some of the people that bring grace and joy and poise and civility to my life. I’m finished. I just wanted to talk about this and now I have.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Missing My Dad and the Comfort of Yarn

I’ve been missing my dad lately. Really missing him. Palpably, consciously missing him. I just want to talk to him. I want to talk to him more than any combination of words and extraneous punctuation can possibly express. It’s better now but it wasn’t then...a few days ago the missing and the desire to just talk to him (just effing talk to him about this stuff, this crazy consuming stuff, all this STUFF) became a physical sensation, a lump sitting just under my solar plexus threatening to immobilize with teary reflections and throat clenching need. So (as I often do) I took a really hot shower and (while making brain soup in the delicious steam) I remembered the yarn (I do some of my best remembering in the shower).

To explain the yarn and I need to talk about Christmas and my dad and Christmas. My dad loved Christmas (my dad was Christmas). Christmas was near death and life renewed and joy and giving and wonder and salvation for my dad and he loved it. In the last years of his life he couldn’t get around very well to shop but he was a terror with a computer and a credit card. He shopped for everyone he knew (and many he didn’t know). He loved the gift hunting almost as much as he loved the giving and he loved a challenge. The thrill of the chase. A Victorian pill box, an out of print-not-especially-valuable-but-treasured-children’s book, an obscure Zydeco Band’s self produced CD or a knitting loom. He loved finding things.

One year I had been doing a lot of knitting and crocheting for a program at the Labor and Delivery Unit on which my daughter worked. Hats and booties and blankets for preemies and for babies who might not make it through the night but got their very own layette nonetheless. My dad was taken with this program and with the teeny-tiny hats and feet and arranged to have all manner of baby yarn arriving at my door with abundant regularity. During this time I wondered at him if perhaps there was such a thing as a knitting loom (or whatever the inventor might have called it) and he was off to find the beast (don’t get me wrong-I pretty much knew he would be-it was the kind of thing he loved to find). Christmas came and there it was: an Amish Knitting Loom. Hand crafted and signed by the Amish man who made it. I can only imagine what it takes to find an Amish man who makes handcrafted knitting looms using only on-line sources. I know my dad maintained an email correspondence with the woman who put him touch with the source for the loom.

Included with the loom were two skeins of hand spun yarn. Beautiful creamy wool spun with angora. Carefully wound with tightly twisted lengths leading to lovely thick sections of light as air wisps of angora. This yarn, my dad said, was to be something special for my very own self and this was the yarn I remembered in the shower.

I had never used that special, lovely yarn. I haven’t knitted much since my dad died (what with one thing and another). The loom looks at me occasionally (but not with malice or accusation-it knows I’ll be back) from atop a bookshelf and the yarn-it got packed away...somewhere.

It took me a while (a semi-desperate search through under-bed and top-of-closet boxes) but I found it. Still wrapped in tissue in a plastic bag. Two skeins of creamy white looped upon themselves in the traditional way waiting I guess, (for Laura Ingalls to hold out across extended hands while Ma winds careful balls for knitting and Pa plays his fiddle by the firelight or) for me for that night that I missed my dad so terribly.

I sat on the bed and looped the lovely confection around my knees (Laura wasn’t available to do her part) and set to the rhythm of winding the loose ball of yarn ready for use.

I’d love to tell you that I sat in contemplative silence and ruminated and reflected on the mystery of life and death and memory but I didn’t. I turned on the TV and relaxed into the pillow at my back and the steady task of the yarn and I didn’t miss my dad so vey much. I’d still love to talk to him but I felt much better. I still do.

I’ve still got the second skein to wind.  

I think I’ll make a hat-a jaunty beret.