The truth of you
Subletting the illegal basement apartment

The Prayer Blanket

Annies prototype horizontal

Annie's prototype. Not exactly this pattern because it won't hold its shape; but you get the general idea, I think. Also, it is NOT going to be green. If it had a cable pattern, I suppose it could be green. Hmmm. *ah - for all you knitters out there - Yes, this thing WAS BLOCKED. I blocked the living shit out of it. My bad on the pattern, but it's just a prototype. :) 

Once, a very long time ago, I sat in an ICU room at Hartford Hospital with a very sick, unconscious man. I'd known him almost my entire life. He was my father's best friend; the sort of friend for whom we walk through walls. Despite his best efforts, the Lion was dying anyway. 

I drove 70 miles north a few evenings a week, just to be with him. The Lion, not my dad. My dad is in Northern Vermont, which is a much, much longer drive. I don't know that our visits overlapped much. 

So I sat quietly by the window and taught myself to knit. My hands had the memory of a cable cast on and a single stitch: Knit. I had odd bits of yarn from a kit I purchased, somehow believing I could read a pattern. Being limited to knitting what amounts to a fifteen inch wide garter stitch pattern, I just knit, and knit, and knit; row after row. At about five feet I remembered how to bind off, and so I did. I cast on another set of stitches and repeated the process. I knit and knit and knit. I got pretty good at it and decided I could sew the rectangular pieces together and make a blanket. It wouldn't be very big, but still. A blanket is a blanket.

One day a nurse asked what I was making. I thought, this thing I'm doing, it's indefensible. I should just hide it. Instead, I told her I was knitting an ICU blanket; a thing that should be made while sitting with a person in need of this sort of thing. She said she'd never heard of that (well, I did just make it up, but you don't need to know that, ma'am), but that it sounded wonderful. I agreed. 

I was terribly afraid she'd find out I was a knitting fraud and turn me in to the knitting police. I made that up as well, but I was mortified to be caught pretending to do what real knitters can do. 

Eventually the Lion woke up and was moved to another facility and eventually he got to go home. I never gave him the blanket. It was a messy thing. No one wants a messy thing like that in their homes. I stuffed it into the back of a hall closet and forgot about it.

In the meantime, I learned to knit. I learned to read a pattern. I learned new stitches and one day I almost knit a sweater. I got stuck at the sleeves and stuffed that thing in the closet along with the ICU blanket (later, it came out and I finished the damn thing). 

One day the Lion, died as we knew he would. We just didn't know when. The Lion's memorial service was a bit unconventional; but so was the Lion. His ashes were in a pocket of my father's jumpsuit. My father made his last jump ever that weekend. He carried the Lion's ashes to 9,000 feet, exited the plane, and opened the pocket. The Lion filled the airspace; I imagine he filled the airspace with the same power of presence he'd been filling it since the mid-sixties. If ever anyone's ashes should be given to the sky in that particular airspace, it would be the Lion's.

587 words to explain two men. It's important.

When Christmas came, I didn't know what to give my father. I never know what to give my father. I swear to God, I get it wrong every damn year. Every year, except this one year. I took the ICU blanket out of the closet and wrote a very long letter about the Lion, and my dad, and the ICU, and love. My dad opened the package, looked at the blanket, and read the letter.

My dad was crying. I've only ever seen my dad cry a handful of times in my whole life. 

Later he said it wasn't the blanket so much as the letter that mattered. I understand that but I'm not sure it's entirely true. This was many years ago and that blanket is probably long gone, but it doesn't matter. The fact of it matters. 

The fact of it matters. The intent, which was not so much to make a viable thing as to move my hands and meditate and pray, my own heathen sort of prayer, and to BE present with the man in the ICU bed. He did not know I was there, but I was there anyway. The fact of that matters. 

About eleven years ago, I drove from Southern Connecticut to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. My friend had lost wife way too soon to be losing a wife. I recall him telling me that the only reason he dragged himself out of bed in the morning was to take care of those 'pesky kids'. He's done well by those 'pesky kids' but he still misses his wife. Sometimes his grief flows from his pores and I am glad he can let it find its way out, a little bit at a time. 

On the way back from Old Orchard Beach, I stopped in Rochester, New Hampshire to see my aunt. She is my father's little sister. She is the only aunt I've got and she is beloved. For her, I would walk through walls. My stop was brief. We went to church and sat side by side and I stood up and sat down according to direction, and read with my aunt, and sang badly (me, not her) with my aunt. 

At the end of the service, a blanket was passed through the congregation. The blanket was made for someone in the congregation who was suffering. Maybe dying; I don't remember, but I understood the purpose of the thing and the ritual implicitly. Hand to hand, this blanket was touched by the entire community. Hand to hand, prayer to prayer. When it was my turn to hold the blanket and think healing thoughts, I was overwhelmed. 

It's like magic, but that's not the right word, I thought. Here is an inanimate object which has become so loaded with power, with love, with hope that it radiates comfort. My heart broke and I cried.   

Many years later, Sunday before last, actually, I realized this is a thing. This knit business and hand business and prayer thing all mixed together. It's called a Prayer Shawl and it is no different, not really, than an ICU blanket. 

My heart, for you to wear. The love of your community, for you to wear. 

I am overwhelmed. 

I called the Pastor this morning. He was out but I explained what I needed to the woman who answered the phone. She knew my aunt. I expect most people know my aunt. In this time of COVID, even if the church doors are still open (they will close soon if they have not yet), a thing cannot be passed hand to hand through the congregation. I suppose we could call that a super spreader, technically. But a thing can be blessed. A thing can be filled with love and prayer. 

I will fill this thing with love and care and then I will ship it off to Pastor Jeff, who will hold it up and say the right blessing. The woman who answered the phone said, he will know the right blessing because he knows your aunt and her circumstances. 

He will bless the blanket and then deliver it with what I've written and I think this is one of those times when 'good enough', is most assuredly, good enough.