Monday, February 25, 2013

Never Saw it Coming

It's been awhile since either Christy or I have posted.  Two weekends ago, on February 9th, 2013, our beloved father, David Wilson, died suddenly at the age of 67.  He collapsed at home, after spending a lovely day with our Mum at their home in the country.  It was a beautiful, bright and crisp winter day.  He'd gone to work that morning, at the farm supply store where he managed the office.  It had been a quiet day---he loved when he had time to chat with all the farmers and the other customers who came in.  Then he came home and had a nice lunch with my mother.  The night before we'd had quite a storm, so he went out after lunch and worked on the tractor---another of his favourite pastimes, no matter the chore---and he moved the snow, creating enough room cars to park and get in and out of their long driveway.  He even plowed a walking path for my mother from the house to the smaller barn further back on the property, so that she could take the dogs for a walk each day.  When he was done, he and my mother had a cup of tea by the fireplace in the living room.  They read for awhile, and then my dad dozed on the sofa with one of the dogs (my little boston terrier, who was visiting them).  

  After his rest, as he did everyday, my father got into some exercise clothes and went on the treadmill.  He was very conscientious about his physical fitness---daily he recorded how far he walked, how many minutes he walked, and how many calories the treadmill said he'd burned.  He even used a heart rate monitor to be extra cautious that he was not over-exerting himself, despite that he had never in his life had a reason to worry about his heart.  His blood pressure and cholesterol levels had been well controlled for years, and he'd never had so much as a twinge of discomfort.  He was on the treadmill for 37 minutes and 5 seconds, walked 1.82 miles, and burned 165 calories that February 9th, all of which he recorded, as he did each day.  These would be the last words he'd ever write.  He came off the treadmill, walked out toward the hallway, carefully put down his pen and pad of paper on the bench next to him and then he died.  For my father, mercifully death was quick, and we imagine painless.  It came swiftly and quietly, and when my mother found him, his arms were outstretched, accepting, and peaceful.  

Since that day my mother and my 4 siblings and I have been reeling with shock and bereft with grief.  We miss him, and the emotion seems to rise and fall in waves, like a tide coming in and out. Because his death was so sudden, at times I have felt overwhelmed with memories and sadness that I will never see my father again, yet at other times I've had a powerful denial, that my dad is actually just out at work, or in his den, or out cutting wood in the forest (which he loved to do).  At other moments, there is just numbness and a persistent blue feeling, and I've had little motivation to do much of anything, including knitting.  

The first night, I found myself trying to remember what I'd ever knit for my father.  Then in his bedroom, I found the sweater I'd made him about 10 years ago.  It was 100% merino wool, worsted weight in a sandy beige -- a classic raglan sleeve pullover with a rollneck collar, and rolled edge sleeves and hem.  It was a J.Crew copycat, of their classic rollneck sweater, which at the time was a staple in their winter catalog.  Dad wore it very well, and it looked like he'd worn it recently, since it was laid out close to the top of a pile of worn clothing on his dresser.  I examined it closely.  Moths had eaten a couple of small holes in it, so I took it home to repair.  My mother told me to keep it, and to wrap myself up in it when I need to.  It was such a comfort to find it.

There was another knit I found in his room that gave me enormous comfort for the few days right afterward.  Though not handmade, it was a sturdy dark teal-green cardigan with a shawl collar, front pockets and leather buttons.  I remember him wearing it countless times while he read in his den -- the kind of thing he would advise us to put on if we complained of feeling cold around the house in the winter.  I wore it constantly for a good 4 days, and it felt good. 

My family and I all gathered together.  We helped each other get through the first difficult days, the wake and the funeral.  We laughed and cried and ate and drank.  We each struggled to begin to accept this new normal, and we each expressed how incredibly lucky we are to have been given the gift of this big loving family -- thank you Dad. 

So since then some things have been difficult.  Making sense of anything has been difficult, though we've been sifting through every aspect of these events, searching for meaning.  Writing has been difficult, though I think I'm getting past that, having had the privilege, along with my brother Michael and my sister Emma, of eulogizing my father when we celebrated his life at his funeral.  And surprisingly to me, the idea of knitting was difficult during the first week or so.  Usually such a familiar and comforting thing, I couldn't seem to focus.  The entire exercise seemed oddly pointless.  Fortunately, it gently came back to me, and in a matter of a day or two, I'd finished Bronwyn's mittens, and made a hat for Emma.  I was seeking out new projects, and on the weekend I visited my lovely friends at Espace Tricot, and indulged in yarn and warm chats. 
My Dad and me, Summer 1975.
In the tremendous gap created when we lost my dad, it has been the little things that have begun to fill in the space.  The love we all felt for and from him, the closeness we've gained from going through this together, and the small comforts -- my dad's favourite books, photos, music, and clothing, his humour, his idiosyncracies -- have all helped us start this process of moving forward, as a family, and of honouring his memory by living fully: doing what we love with the people we love, every day.  For my sister Christy and me, this includes knitting, and I'm so very grateful for it.  

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