Learning to Knit


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Waking in my hospital bed, I came around to the sound of nurses’ voices and the good morning mutterings of the other patients. A TV with the news report brought me further awake and I reflected upon how the world sounded like it hadn’t changed much since yesterday but things for me had.

The keyhole operation had been a success and I should have an easy recover. I was grateful for that because if the doctor had had to open things up, it would have taken an age to heal. He had said I would be out of hospital in a few days then I was on home bed rest for a week. I didn’t mind that, there was plenty of stuff I could do at home but hospital was different.

I don’t know what it was but time seemed to run differently, like it was four hours behind everywhere else here, though when you looked at a clock time tricked you into seeing the correct time so you wouldn’t think any different about it. This was an odd theory of mine but it had helped distracted me for the previous two days.

A nurse appeared to check on me. She asked a bunch of questions which my tried and not all together brain struggled to answer. She looked at my stitches and spoke about having a shower but not getting my lower stomach wet which seemed impossible to me.

I was glad of the shower and change into comfy PJ’s instead of the starched hospital gowned. Once back in bed, breakfast came around and I had porridge with strawberry jam and sugar.

It was only after that I notice that my next door neighbour on the right had been changed. At some point since going in for surgery and sleeping through the night, Lily Dixon, a young woman with blonde hair who’s appendix had been removed had gone and an old woman had taken her place.

I felt a little sad about that because Lily had been a chatter box and it had been nice to listen to her taking about all kinds of things. Now, this new woman had white hair, a pale wrinkled face and was wearing a blue flower nightie. She looked to be in her seventies or eighties and she was busy knitting something.

‘Hello,’ I said, ‘you weren’t here yesterday.’

‘I came in the evening,’ she replied, ‘moved from another ward. They needed the bed up there. I should have been discharged but things are still not right.’

‘I was probably asleep. I’m Lauren Rhodes.’

‘Mary Brian,’ the woman spoke.

‘What are you making there?’

‘Some baby stuff for the premature unit on the other side of the hospital,’ Mary answered.

‘Wish I could do something like that. It would help to pass the time, it always seems to go so slowly in here,’ I sighed.

‘I’ve some spare needles and lots of wool,’ Mary spoke, ‘I can teach you. I have taught my own children and grandchildren. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.’

‘Okay, why not?’ I said.

Mary finished what she was doing, set her knitting aside and pulled a bag up onto her lap. She took two wooden needles and a soft ball of sky blue wool. She got out of her and bed moved her chair closer towards my bed.

‘Are you okay? Shall I get a nurse?’ I asked, worriedly.

‘I’m fine. Do me some good. Now take the needles,’ Mary responded and give me the thin wooden points.

She found the end of the wool and passed me that too. I liked the feel of the wool, it was soft but not fluffy.

Slowly, Mary instructed me on what to do. It was difficult to get the loops and the needles through them at first. I would also drop or just miss one, sometimes I knitted together or and added in a stitch. My first square looked like a mess of knots.

‘Maybe, I’m not ready,’ I said frustratedly.

‘It takes practise. We shall keep going after lunch.’

I had gotten a little bit further by the end of the day. Learning to knit had tried me further and so I slept well enough. In the morning, I was determined to keep trying. The knitting was a good focus for me and it helped to pass the time.

By that evening, my square looked more like it should and I was really pleased.

‘Keeping going,’ said Mary and I nodded.

The next morning, Mary was discharged and I felt miserable.

‘Here,’ I said, passing the needles and wool back to her as she packed her things up.

‘Oh. Why don’t you keep them, dear?’ Mary replied.

‘What? I can’t!’ I cried.

‘It’s fine. I have plenty,’ Mary said waving me away, ‘here have some more balls of wool too. I get them from the charity shop I volunteer at, though I have plenty at home,’ she laughed.

‘Thanks,’ I replied with a smile.

‘Oh and here, take my number so you can let me know how it goes.’

‘Of course!’

Mary left and for awhile I sat feeling deflated then I picked up the needles and started trying to knit again. It took me a good few days to get the knitting right but I found it a nice hobby when I was at home on bed rest.

There was a calmness to the running of the wool through your fingers and the clicking of the needles. I could watch TV and my hands would be busy which helped me not fret over my progress or my mistakes.

A week or so later, I phoned Mary and she was delighted to hear from me. We meet for a cup of tea and became best friends joined by knitting.

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