Thursday, March 12, 2009

More sad news

Yet another dear spirit has left the world.  My little Auntie Marguerite passed away two mornings ago after losing her brief struggle with a brain tumor.  I was in Kelowna last week for a funeral (bit of a theme here) and visited her in her hospice room on a couple of her "good" days.  She recognized me right away, and although very quiet, was in good spirits. It was hard to believe the prognosis but now, less than a week later, she’s gone.

She was a tiny woman, tinier as the years progressed, but one underestimated her at their peril. With eight lively children, and my uncle the ferryboat captain away from home for long periods, she probably couldn't afford to lose the upper hand. Many a time I saw a towering son quake before her wrath and have had reason to quake myself. I often wondered how she kept it together but she was part of the last generation of women who were never in doubt about their destiny.  Home and family came first.  She devoted herself to it whole-heartedly and still had time to be generous to her community and extended family. 

And there has been yet another death in the family.  I was in the Okanagan last week to attend the funeral I mentioned earlier, of my Auntie Emilie's husband Victor who died quite unexpectedly of heart failure. Emilie is the eldest of my dad’s siblings while Marguerite was the youngest. 

My attachment to these elderly aunties in spite of only sporadic contact over the past few years has taken me a bit by surprise but I think it has something to do with my childhood.  I grew up on a farm next to Mission Creek in the south end of Kelowna, not far from Okanagan Lake.  It was a truly a "family farm".  My grandparents lived in the main farmhouse and my respective aunties with their husbands and large families occupied two newer houses set close to the road, models of modern (1950's) convenience.  Our patched together house was up the lane toward the barn tucked in amid weeping willows.  I say “patched together” since our house started life as a hired hand’s cottage and was constantly being added on to when farm chores and outside work allowed my father the time for home other words, hardly ever.  

As kids, we didn't give a hoot that our house was modest at best. My brother and sister and I and the tribe of cousins lived our lives mostly outdoors, searching out new kittens in the barn, roaming the fields and woods on horseback, spending hours at the lake on hot summer days.  We hung out on the creek bank fishing or cracking rocks to see the shiny bits, built forts and explored the one bit of bush left wild at the back of the farm.  We traipsed in and out of all four houses as if they were our own, my mother and the aunties praising, scolding, settling arguments, teaching and feeding us indiscriminately.

After the sale of the farm and my escape first to university and then to marry and live on the west coast, we saw less of each other aside from brief exchanges at 50th anniversary and landmark birthday parties.  The cousins similarly scattered and in this long-lived family, we were lucky enough to not often have the marshalling effect of  funerals.  With the events of this spring, and the advanced years of the generation ahead of us, that is about to change. 

If there is any upside to all this, it is the opportunity to get to know my cousins again.  In some cases, it's been 30 years and more since I last saw them yet the connection is still there: a dormant familiarity that springs back to life upon re-acquaintance.  And it probably doesn't hurt that the years apart have knocked our sharper corners off, increased our tolerance so we don't piss each other off like we used to.   

Between deaths in the family and losing my little dog, there have been a lot of tears lately and I hardly know anymore what I'm crying about - the tears arrive and I just go with it. What set me off yesterday was the enthusiastic greeting from my friend's dog Sophie when I arrived at her place for our twice-weekly walk.  Last evening there was no discernible trigger - one minute I was fine and the next I was weeping. 

Tough times but once again, knitting and spinning have come to the rescue.  My Gnarled Oakwoods shawl is growing apace and I'm into the vine patterned centre panel.  Soon I'll be putting the first half aside and starting the second half although it makes me want to tear my hair out to think that I'm less than halfway.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes but the lace patterning seems to hide them quite effectively.  With any luck, the oopsies won't show once it's blocked…either that or I’ll be redoing the entire first half. Shoot me now! 

Because of the difficulty keeping track of where I am in the pattern, I've put aside the index cards I made up for the first section and taken Sarah's suggestion to work from the chart. Not one for waiting about for an internet shipment, I  jury-rigged a chart tamer from a metal tray and some adhesive magnetic strips used for making fridge magnets and it works brilliantly. On some short pieces of  tape, I drew little arrows on the paper covering and I move them about to indicate the direction of the row and the start of the repeat for each row.  I place the main strip above the row I'm working on so I can check on the preceding rows without having to move the strip and lose my place.  Cheap and cheerful!

Fast and dirty chart tamer

My merino/alpaca/soy silk spinning project is complete and I intend to knit a mitered square blankie to show off the various colour combinations.  I’ve felt cold so often this winter that I want a nice throw for the couch that I can wrap myself up in when I’m chilly.  And even big kids need a soft cozy blankie when they feel blue.  Look for photos of the yarn and a pattern preview in my next post.

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