The Red Sweater

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time” ~ Banksy

He had been dreading the visit for some days now. As he walked through the park with his daughter he thought of different ways he could bail out. He could suddenly remember an urgent business appointment. He could feign a sneeze, a slight temperature and cancel on the basis that he was a potential health hazard. If only his phone would ring, damn he should have arranged for his secretary to ring him, calling him back the the office with some pseudo emergency. It was too late, the gates of the park were approaching and beyond, the care home where his mother had been resident for some time. Slowly this vibrant, funny and independent woman was losing herself to the dark and relentless onslaught of dementia. His weekly visits had become more and more bleak as she forgot various aspects of their life and relationship, their history, and finally a few weeks ago during his last visit, she could not recall who he was and was convinced that her son never visited. His daughter, expecting her first child, always accompanied him. She spoke gently to her grandmother of simple things; the view from the window, the weather. She showed her pictures of her unborn child and discussed what names they liked best. She never pressured her grandmother to remember, she just held her hand, chatted, brushed her hair or read from a magazine she would buy on the way there. As they approached the exit to the park he saw her. She sat alone on the park bench and she was knitting a red sweater, small, for a baby. She looked up at him and smiled, for a moment he thought he saw a flicker of recognition in her eyes.

She loved her grandmother dearly. She was heartbroken that she would never know her son, but she was determined to stay strong, for all of them. She knew her dad was struggling, she’d witnessed the pain in his eyes as he tried to get his mother to recognise him. When she first visited with him, she had been shocked by how frantic her grandmother would become at her dads persistent questioning, questioning that usually ended with him storming from the room, full of fury and frustration. She learned to alleviate the tension and calm her grandmother. She would send dad off to get coffee and they would just sit and chat about every day things. She discovered that her grandmother would watch the birds from the window, she could name the breeds and recognise individual birds and would give them names based on their characteristics like Cheeky, Skittish and Greedyboy. It was a memory that as yet had not been touched by this grim disease, a wonderful oasis in a slowly encroaching desert. One day her grandmother had reached out her hand and placed it on her growing bump. She had smiled and told her how she had child of her own, but he never came to visit. Her dad had sighed, got up and left. This had been his last visit. She had to persuade her dad to come with her today. He had not been for three weeks and she was determined that he would not give up on his mother. She had begged and pleaded as only a daughter can, and finally he had relented. As they walked through the park she reached for his hand giving it a gentle squeeze. He looked at her and smiled, but his eyes were sad. As they neared the entrance to the home, she saw her grandmother sitting on the bench near the exit to the park. She was busy knitting a red sweater that she knew to be for her unborn son. They had picked out a pattern together last week when they had flicked through the pages of a magazine. She never imagined that her grandmother would actually take up her needles and begin to knit.

It’s bright today, I’ll go out. I need real light to see the stitches, its too dark in here. I wonder if the girl will come. I like the way she brushes my hair, like my mother used to when I was young. I think this is for her. I think its for her boy…..my boy?…my boy. I think I’m knitting this for my boy. Red was always his favourite colour. He wanted to be a fireman, I remember…my boy. Here, this bench will do. I can watch the birds from here. I’ll sit here a while and knit this sweater for my boy. He’ll be here soon…

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The Spider and The Fly

“Why are you so happy?” said the spider to the fly,

“Always buzzing here and buzzing there, no apparent reason why”

“I’m happy cos the sky is blue and so far I’ve avoided you!

Now tell me why are you so sad? What make you sit so still? Do you meditate on life, or just wait for your next kill?”

“I’m sad because my only friend got squashed beneath a shoe. I’m sad because I need a meal and planned on eating you.”

The fly was unconcerned with this and turned to face the sun. He buzzed amongst the flower beds, determined to have fun

“I think I’ll reconsider this lonely life of mine, life is certainly too short to sit all day and whine”

And so she span a brand new web, amongst the pretty flower beds,

catching rays amongst it’s threads,

Lost and Found.

The only thing I had of my mothers when she died was a ring. It was gold, and set with garnets and was given to her by my father as an eternity ring. I wore it occasionally and people would often comment on it, but it wasn’t really my style. I prefer silver and less stones. Although not often publicly affectionate, they loved each other very much and I had lost a special token of that love. What concerned me, what caused me the most remorse, was that I didn’t realise I had lost it for some time, I couldn’t remember the last time I had it or how it could have been lost. I felt that I could not have loved her enough.

She stopped wearing the ring a long time ago; in fact I can’t remember her ever wearing it. It got too small for her finger and I guess she couldn’t afford to have the necessary adjustments made, but it was the only possession I had of hers after she died, the only corporeal object I had to connect me to her, at least that’s what I thought until I discovered her diaries

She began to write a diary following the death of my father. They explored her feelings of loss, guilt, depression and despair. They expressed concern for her children, love for her grandchildren but mostly an overarching, aching, insatiable desire to be with her husband again. 11 years after her death they are still a tough read because they expose a side to my mother that she rarely showed to her family. If the ring represented her earthly body; solid, beautiful and precious, the diaries were surely her soul laid bare.

How I wish she had shared those feelings with me, written so honestly and openly in the pages of her diary. I could have given her comfort, told her that I understood, reassured her that those terrible, difficult and lonely decisions she had to make when Dad was dying were the right decisions.

On reflection, I lost a ring but I discovered something more precious. Writing can be cathartic, can provide immediate release from negativity and darkness, but sharing your feelings with those who love you, this is how to heal.

The Letter

It was clear that it was too late for her. However much she had meant to him, she had burnt those bridges. Bridges made of paper.

It was type written, as if he didn’t trust his hand not to shake and give away the emotion. The words were cool, well thought out. A methodical goodbye.

He left no forwarding address, no number. Cutting the umbilical all over again, but this time there was no joy.

He signed off with no expression of love, no softness, no chink in the armour.

The letter was the only thing we found on her when the body was brought in. A Jane Doe found in a back alley, all curled up in childs pose, syringe still embedded. Eyes wide, searching for him.