afghans: lap shelter

Just as the family gathered around the dinner table to celebrate Mother’s 80th birthday, Marilla phoned.   My parent’s zesty caregiver had left the house an hour before, had driven the long road home, and had walked through the door just as her husband, ailing in bed, breathed his last.  No one had imagined this.  I held the phone, stricken with the quiet suddenness of death, while around me hummed the revelry given to a day of birth.

That was last year.

On my visits in the months since, I watched Marilla adjusting to life alone.  Her face is made for joy, her eyes for laughing; so that her grief eeked out slowly, reluctantly.  One day, she showed me a large comforting throw that she had ordered with Burpo’s image covering the whole of it, blanketing her as she falls asleep on her living room sofa, as she dreams him back into the empty night.

Between the tube feedings, extra loads of wash, the oxygen set-up, and washing the dishes, Marilla grabs a seat at my parent’s kitchen table and turns yarn into softly opening flowers – petals that drape over one’s cold legs or curl around a napping child.  She makes her own comforting throws, cooking up wild colorways with her crochet needles – bright blues and orange and exclamations of gold.  For her nine children, or twins at her church, or for sale to her admirers, needles click late into the night.

My mother joins her at the kitchen table.  They talk about grandchildren, the empty house, the tangled needs of the day.  They lean in toward one another, weathering the season, sheltering in the presence of the other.

This past Saturday, one year later, the family gathered for Mother’s birthday lunch around the table on the deck; Marilla now among us.  After platefuls of barbeque and slaw, Marilla fetched a gift bag bursting with deep purple and pink, wrapped in long ribbons of affection, and spread an afghan of her own making over my mother’s cold knees; which spread absolute delight across my mother’s face.

Going into winter, these two women wrap themselves in the comfort of threads and in the warmth of one another.  Knowing, as they do, the suddenness of change. The solace of the kitchen table. The sisterhood of birth and death.

~ by Susan on 10/14/2011.

One Response to “afghans: lap shelter”

  1. An incredible story, incredibly rendered.

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