Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Mourning Hat.

The day my paternal grandfather died, I decided that I was going to honor him by learning something new. I took out my double pointed knitting needles and a ball of brown yarn that was pretty close in shade to what he wore often. I decided that I was going to make a hat and do so in the colors that I associate with my grandfather.

I wasn't entirely sure where to begin. I knew that I wanted to knit something for my grandmother. As trite as it seemed, I wanted to somehow give my grandmother something of my grandfather that would keep her warm and comfortable, much like his hugs had always done for me. I picked knitting because of how many, many memories I have of my grandmother knitting for myself, my brothers, and my cousins. Alzheimers is stealing things away from her, but perhaps this little knitted hat would help retain something for her.

I found a video on that gave terribly simple directions. I sat down with my needles and watched the video three times. A simple i-cord didn't look to terribly intimidating. I told myself that if I could do the i-cord, I could do the rest of the hat. Evening the day my grandfather died, I had reached the point where I was alternating between knitting 5 stitches with an increase every 6th stitch and knitting all stitches.

The day of the memorial service, I thought about bringing the yarn and knitting needles with me. My sons had decided that my hat in the beginning was a spider and insisted on trying to play with it. Torn between the desire to make my 'spider' bigger and the realization that my teary eyes would have difficulty seeing the stitches, I went with my default anxiety project (a crochet granny square). I struggled that day with a great many things.

The part of the day that was the hardest, however, was the sight of my grandfather in that box. I couldn't bring myself to walk up to the box. I looked at his corpse from a distance and I just couldn't shake the feeling that they messed up the makeup. I realized that they were trying to make him look relatively lifelike, as to reduce the distress of the other mourners. All they accomplished, it seemed, was to make his body look like a wax caricature of the man I had seen just a few weeks before hand.

When I got home, I put the hat away. Working on it was upsetting. I struggled with how to explain to my boys that Grandpa-Grandpa wasn't going to be at his house anymore. Strangely, it was I who had the hard time grasping that when we went and visited. I found myself listening for him in the office and looking for him at the dining room table. After we got home from that visit, I got the hat out again.

I've been working on it as we slog forward into the holidays. It is beginning to look like a real hat now. The brown yarn ran out, so I used some dark blue. Because I think of the caps that he wore and how most of them were some variant of dark blue. I also have some safety orange in there. His hooded jacket, with the stains from grease and dirt from working on farm equipment, is that color. I'm going to put in a section of a harvest gold color because one of the sweater vests he wore most frequently is that color.

It isn't much. I'm not entirely sure that Grandma will recall the meaning behind the hat. That's ok, though. I'm making it as much for myself as I am making it for her.

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