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 days.  He walked through the park with his daughter thinking of  ways he could bail out. He could remember an urgent business appointment. He could feign a sneeze, a 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 call him back the the office with some pseudo emergency. It was too late, they approached the park gates and the care home that stood beyond 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 grew bleak as she forgot  aspects of their life and relationship, their history, and most recently, who he was to her, 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 did not press her grandmother to remember, she held her hand and chatted, brushed her hair or read from a magazine. As they approached the exit to the park he saw her. She sat on the park bench knitting a red sweater for a baby. She looked up and smiled, he thought he saw recognition in her eyes.

She loved her grandmother dearly and was heartbroken she would never know her son, but she was determined to stay strong, for all of them.  Her dad was struggling.  She was witness to pain and frustration as he tried to get his mother to recognise him, was shocked by how frantic her grandmother  became at his persistent questioning that would end with him storming upset from the room.  She learned to alleviate the tension and calm her grandmother.  Dad got sent for coffee leaving them to sit and chat about every day things. She discovered that her grandmother would watch birds and could tell her the breeds. She named her favourites  Cheeky, Skittish and Greedyboy. It was a memory as yet untouched by this grim disease, an oasis in a slowly encroaching desert. One day her grandmother had placed her hand on her bump and told her how she had child but he never visited. Her dad had got up and left. It had been his last visit and several weeks had passed. She had to persuade her dad to come with her today, had begged and pleaded as only a daughter can. As they walked through the park she gave his hand a squeeze.  Her grandmother sat on the bench near the exit to the park. She was busy knitting a red sweater for her unborn son. They had picked out a pattern last week when they had flicked through 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….. or my boy?… yes my boy. 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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